"princess" who became friendly with the
Matoaka was born about 1595.
She was one of many daughters of Wahunsunacock,
the leader of an alliance of about 28 Powhatan
tribes in the Tidewater region of Virginia who is
more commonly known as Powhatan. Although she
likely had several names (a common practice among
many Native American tribes of the time), she was
most commonly known as Pocahontas, which means
Pocahontas encountered her
first Englishmen when they established Jamestown in
May of 1607, and she became a frequent visitor to
the settlement after meeting Captain John Smith in
December of that same year. Although the popular
story about Pocahontas preventing her father from
killing Smith is likely untrue, she did warn the
settlement about pending attacks and convince her
father to provide food for the colonists. After
Smith was seriously injured in a gunpowder
explosion and returned to England in October of
1609, the colonists told Pocahontas he was dead
and she stopped visiting soon after. It is
believed that she spent the next few years with
her own people, and that she married a man named
Kocoum about 1610.
In 1613, Captain Samuel Argall
found out where Pocahontas was living and decided
to kidnap and hold her until Powhatan agreed to
release some English settlers he was holding and
to return a cache of stolen weapons and tools.
Powhatan released his prisoners but did not
return all of the tools and weapons, so Argall
kept Pocahontas at Henrico while he negotiated
with Powhatan. The residents of Henrico treated
Pocahontas well, and it was there that she began
her conversion to Christianity. She also met and
fell in love with John Rolfe, who had introduced
tobacco as a cash crop into Virginia.
When negotiations between
Argall and Powhatan broke down, Argall began
attacking Native American villages in the area.
During one raid he allowed Pocahontas to meet
with some of her relatives, and during that visit
she announced her intention to marry John Rolfe.
Powhatan agreed to allow the mariage, and peace
was restored between Powhatan and the Englishmen.
Pocahontas was subsequently baptised (as
Rebecca), and she and Rolfe were married on April
Pocahontas and John had one
son, Thomas, and lived on his estate at Henrico
until the spring of 1616, when they and several
other Powhatan accompanied Governor Sir Thomas
Dale to London. Pocahontas and her son were
treated like royalty in England, and were
introduced to King James I
and to the elite of London society. She also had
a brief reunion with John Smith. The Rolfes had
been in England for about a year when John
decided it was time to return to Virginia. They
were sailing down the Thames River when
Pocahontas became seriously ill, forcing them to
stop at Gravesend, where she died in March 1617.
It is not known where she was buried, but a
monument to her was erected at St. George's
Church in Gravesend.
King James I
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