The True Story of Pocahontas as NOT told by Disney


Pocahontas is remembered as the Native American Powhatan princess who saved the life of Englishman John Smith, married John Rolfe and fostered peace between English settlers and Native Americans. In 1995, Disney released an artistically beautiful animated film showing the supposed events that unfolded between John Smith and Pocahontas. Although Disney is known for creating fictional tales, many people believe that Disney’s account of the life of Pocahontas was a true reflection of past events: the love between Pocahontas and John Smith, the bravery Pocahontas showed when saving John Smith’s life, and the tragic ending when John Smith returned to England for medical treatment. However, this depiction is a far departure from the actual events that occurred, and from the real life of Pocahontas.

Pocahontas - Disney

Disney produced a romanticized and inaccurate portrayal of the life of Pocahontas. (

It is believed that Pocahontas was born around 1595 to a Powhatan chief. Her given name at birth was Matoaka, although she was sometimes called Amonute. “Pocahontas” was a derogatory nickname meaning “spoiled child” or “naughty one.” Matoaka’s tribe was a part of a group of about thirty Algonquian-speaking tribes located in Tidewater, Virginia. 

During Matoaka’s childhood, the English had arrived in the ‘New World’ and clashes between the  colonizers and the Native Americans were commonplace. In 1607, John Smith, an Admiral of New England and an English soldier and explorer, arrived in Virginia by ship, with a group of about 100 other settlers. One day, while exploring the Chickahominy River, John Smith was captured by one of Powhatan’s hunting parties. He was brought to Powhatan's home at Werowocomoco. The accounts of what happened next vary from source to source. In John Smith’s original writing, he told of having a large feast, after which he sat and spoke with Chief Powhatan. In a letter written to Queen Anne, John Smith told the story of Matoaka throwing herself across his body to protect him from execution at the hands of Powhatan. It is believed that John Smith was a pretentious man who told this lie to gain notoriety. In the Disney version, Matoaka/Pocahontas is depicted as a young woman when she saved John Smith, but by his accounts, she was only a 10-year-old child when these events occurred, and therefore highly unlikely that there was any romance between them.

John Smith Saved by Pocahontas

‘John Smith Saved by Pocahontas’ by Alonzo Chappel, circa 1865, based off his wood carving from 1861, currently on display in the Art Museum of Western Virginia. ( Wikimedia)

Matoaka often visited the settlement at Jamestown to help the settlers during times when food was in short supply. On 13 th April, 1613 AD, during one of these visits, Samuel Argall captured Matoaka to ransom her for some English prisoners held by her father. She was held hostage at Jamestown for over a year. During her captivity, tobacco planter John Rolfe took a ‘special interest’ in the attractive young prisoner, and he eventually conditioned her release upon her agreeing to marry him. Matoaka was baptized ‘Rebecca’ and in 1614, she was married John Rolfe - the first recorded marriage between a European and a Native American.

The Baptism of Pocahontas

The Baptism of Pocahontas by John Gadsby Chapman ( Wikimedia). Chapman depicts Pocahontas wearing white, being baptized Rebecca by Anglican minister Alexander Whiteaker in Jamestown, Virginia. She kneels, surrounded by family members and colonists. Her brother Nantequaus turns away from the ceremony.  The scene symbolizes the belief at the time that Native Americans should accept Christianity and other European ways.

Marriage of Matoaka to John Rolfe

Marriage of Matoaka to John Rolfe. From ‘Pocahontas: Her Life and Legend’ by William M. S. Rasmussen. ( Wikimedia). Their union is said to be the first recorded marriage between a European and a Native American.

Two years later, John Rolfe took Matoaka to England to use her in a propaganda campaign to support the colony of Virginia, propping her up as the symbol of hope for peace and good relations between the English and the Native Americans. ‘Rebecca’ was seen an example of a civilized ‘savage’ and Rolfe was praised for his accomplishment in bringing Christianity to the ‘heathen tribes’.

While in England, Matoaka ran into John Smith. She refused to speak with him, turning her head and fleeing from his presence – a far cry from the undying love between the two as portrayed in the Disney movie. In 1617, the Rolfe family boarded a ship to return to Virginia. However, Matoaka would not complete this journey home. She became gravely ill – theories range from smallpox, pneumonia, or tuberculosis, to her having been poisoned – and she was taken off the ship at Gravesend where she died on March 21, 1617. It is believed she was 21 years old when she died. Sadly, there were no fairy tale endings for Matoaka.

Statue of ‘Pocahontas’ in Historic Jamestowne

Statue of ‘Pocahontas’ in Historic Jamestowne, Virginia, USA. But does the commemorative statue honor her real life? ( Wikimedia)

The real story of ‘Pocahontas’ would make a greater movie than the one produced by Disney, as her tragic life

Featured image: Depiction of Pocahontas ( likoper / Adobe Stock)


Pocahontas – Biography. Available from:

The Pocahontas Myth – Available from:

The Real Story Of Pocahontas Is Much Darker Than The Disney Movie – Business Insider. Available from:

Pocahontas – Wikipedia. Available from:

By M R Reese


May she rest in peace.

My roots are deep and I was told that she was related, I never believed this to be true until I started researching and found that my family roots are Jamestown, Surry and surrounding tidewater towns.

Rolfe and Matoaka were my 11-great grandparents, but before that happened there are a couple of amazing stories. Rolfe was headed to Virginia with his wife and child in September, 1610 when their ship was destroyed by a hurricane and marooned on Bermuda. Many drowned, including Rolfe's wife and child. This particular storm was the inspiration for Shakespeare's 'Tempest'.

The following spring Rolfe and others cobbled together a couple of small boats from the wreckage of their ship and wood cut on Bermuda. They arrived successfully at Jamestown, whilst those who chose to stay behind were the first Bermudans.

In the autumn of 1611 Rolfe sailed to the Caribbean where -- at the profound risk of his life -- he purloined seeds from the sweet tobacco grown there by the Spaniards. In 1612 he grew it out on some ground he settled at what he called the 'Bermuda Hundred' in Virginia. Most of the crop was exported to England, and Virginia was on its way.

The local Powhattans and Mattaponi much preferred Rolfe's tobacco to the incredibly rough stuff they'd been growing and smoking for generations. Rolfe became a hero, and was offered the chief's daughter in marriage. Their only child, Thomas, was born 30 June 1615.

When 'Pocahontas' died in England 21 March 1617 John Rolfe left his infant son in the care of relatives in order to return to Virginia for tobacco planting. Thomas never left England again. John was apparently killed in a raid by his in-laws tribe in late 1621.

Matoaka's parents, BTW, were Winanuske NONANA and Wahunsonacock POWHATAN (1540-1618). Seven generations later their direct descendent, Thomas Jefferson (who also had far more recent Powhattan and Mattaponi blood -- to the extent that John Adams called his mother a "half breed" -- argued forcefully and successfully for the incorporation of some wise native approaches to governance into how the newly independent America would organize itself.

DeAegean's picture

Disney ruins all things, certainly brought forth by The Morning Star

Author seems to think Disney was trying to pull a fast one. More likely they wanted to sell movie tickets and videos.

Also, Author claims "Pocahontas is depicted as a young woman when she saved John Smith, but by his accounts, she was only a 10-year-old child when these events occurred, and therefore highly unlikely that there was any romance between them."

But then details her marriage to Rolfe...who is Smith's contemporary. So...what? This makes no sense to me.


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