27 April 2016
Most people have watched the 1995 Disney film, “Pocahuntas” and are familiar with the story of the Indian princess who teaches the English explorer, John Smith, about tolerance and acceptance and both eventually fall in love. That is Disney’s version of the story, not the true story. Disney’s version is romanticized for children’s TV. The true story of Pocahuntas has no songs and dances and, unfortunately, no happy ending either.
First, her name was not Pocahuntas. Her real name was Matoaka. “Pocahuntas” was a nickname meaning “naughty” or “spoilt”. One day, John Smith, an English soldier and explorer, was captured by the natives but Smith reported that Matoaka threw herself across him to prevent him from being executed. There isn’t any reason to believe this account, though, because John Smith was well known for telling lies to gain fame.
In Disney’s lovey-dovey version, Pocahuntas was a young woman but by Smith’s account, she was only 10 years old at the time, so there was probably no romantic attraction between them.
Once when Matoaka was captured by settlers at Jamestown to be held for ransom against the natives, she caught the eye of an Englishman named John Rolfe. She later married him and was baptized as ‘Rebecca’, being the first marriage between an Englishman and a Native.
John Rolfe took her with him to England where she became very ill and died at the age of 21. A far cry from the sunny story of Disney’s Pocahuntas.