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What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?

There's one Native American woman that everyone knows. Maybe you've seen her in the movie Pocahontas, but do really know the story of Pocahontas? Yes, she was the daughter of the Chief of a Native American tribe.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
1614, Native American Princess Pocahontas (1595 - 1617) wearing traditional attire, at the time of her marriage to colonialist John Rolfe. Original Artwork: Painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris Three Lions/Getty Images

But the real story behind the Disney classic is much darker and tragic than what we've been told. It's time you learned about the real story of Pocahontas. It will certainly make you rethink Disney's version of the truth.

Her name wasn't Pocahontas

Here's the thing; what we've learned about Pocahontas through Disney isn't right. In fact, her name wasn't even Pocahontas. In 1956, a woman named Pocahontas and a man named Wahunsenaca had a daughter, Amonute.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
Illustration of Captain John Smith being saved by Pocahontas, 1931. Woodcut. GraphicaArtis/Getty Images

The father was Chief Powhatan, and he oversaw the Powhatan tribe with 30 lower-level chiefs under him. In total, the Chief cared for over 25,000 people. Though his daughter was called Amonute, she was later given the name Matoka, meaning "the flower between two streams." But her nickname was Pocahontas, after her mother.

Her mother's history is uncertain

Though we know a lot about her father through history books, not much is said about her mother. What we do know is that her mother shared the same energetic and playful energy as her daughter. In Powhatan culture, it was common for the Chief to have multiple wives.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
Chief Powhatan, otherwise known as Wahunsenacawh or Wahunsunacock, was the leader of the Powhatan, a powerful tribe of Virginia Indians, but is known more widely as the father of Pocahontas. Depicted here is the scene that greeted John Smith, the colonizer when he was delivered to Chief Powhatan as a prisoner. CP: c. June 17, 1545 c. 1618. Culture Club/Getty Images

Once one of his wives became pregnant, they would give birth and return the child to the Chief once it was strong enough. Once the wife bore a child, she was free to marry another man without having to return to the Chief. Historians aren't sure if she died at childbirth or chose not to visit her child after giving birth.

John Smith wasn't saved by Pocahontas

John Smith wasn't the most honest of people. Though the scene of Pocahontas protecting Smith from death is visible in many movies, that's not what happened. Smith and Pocahontas never fell in love or had some spicy affair.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
The colorized engraving shows an idealized view of Native American Pocahontas (1595 - 1617), daughter of Chief Powhatan (1547 - 1618) (sitting at left), cradles the head of captured colonial settler and soldier John Smith (1580 - 1631) in an effort to prevent her father from having him executed, Virginia, 1607. Kean Collection/Getty Images

It's believed that Smith lied about his encounter, as he also believed he saw mermaids (which were just manatees). Historians believed Smith lied about his encounter so that he could increase book sales. And his lie seemed to work pretty well for himself.

Smith and Pocahontas never had a relationship

In many movies, we see Smith and Pocahontas falling in love with each other, but that wasn't true in reality. Why? Because Pocahontas herself was between 9 and 11 years old when Smith visited the Powhatan tribe. He was 27-years-old at the time.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
A commemorative postcard from the 1907 Jamestown Exposition shows an idealized view of Native American Pocahontas (1595 - 1617), daughter of Chief Powhatan (1547 - 1618) (standing at second right), kneels next to captured colonial settler and soldier John Smith (1580 - 1631) and raises her hand in an effort to prevent her father from having him executed, Virginia, 1607. Kean Collection/Getty Images

He was quite a nuisance even outside of the Powhatan tribe as even back home, he would often break into people's houses and was even arrested for attempted murder. But if he made himself a hero in his book, then maybe his life would change for the better.

She had a vast array of skills

If there's one thing Pocahontas was, it was skillful. Powhatan girls knew how to take care of the house by the time they were thirteen years old. They could recognize plants, skin animals, and gardens. She probably even knew how to build a traditional "yehakin" house.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
1614, Native American Princess Pocahontas (1595 - 1617) wearing traditional attire, at the time of her marriage to colonialist John Rolfe. Original Artwork: Painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris Three Lions/Getty Images

Plus, she also had regular chores such as cooking, minding children, and cleaning. Native American tribes survived off the land, and women had a fair share of work to do while the men hunted and defended the village.

Pocahontas probably had tattoos

No, not a common day tattoo like a rose or inspirational quote. Pocahontas was most likely tattooed all over her body. Women of high rank would have face tattoos, and since she was the Chief's daughter, she probably had them as well.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
Circa 1612, American native princess and folk hero Pocahontas. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

What's odd in most illustrations of her, she's shown without tattoos. This could be because the artist wanted to have her to have Western beauty standards or that she left her village prior to receiving facial tattoos. We'll never know.

She married a tribal man

In Powhatan culture, when the girl turns 14-years-old, she has a coming-of-age ceremony symbolizing her entry into womanhood. During the ceremony, the girl would decide her official name. In this case, she chose Pocahontas.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
Pocahontas. Portrait of the Native American chief's daughter, who saved John Smith, leader of the Virginia colonists, from being executed by her father, Powhatan, in 1607. Afterward, she married one of the English colonists, John Rolfe. She then traveled to England to visit the Court of King James I, but died soon afterward of smallpox. From an original drawing by A. K. Macdonald. From the John Player & Sons cigarette card series 'Famous Beauties', 1937. Print Collector/Getty Images

After that, she was married to a man called Kucom, a fellow Powhatan and a residing Chief's brother. When the two married, they moved to a village run by Kucom's brother. It wasn't long until she had a daughter of her own with Kucom and started her life as a mother.

She was taken as a prisoner by settlers

This is where her life started taking a tragic turn. Up until then, Pocahontas was living happily. But sadly, the male settlers were sexually deprived and started to kidnap and rape women and children. In England, rape wasn't overly punished, and at that time, DNA evidence didn't exist.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
Capture of Seminole Indian Chiefs in Florida by order of Jackson, 1816. Woodcut. Bettmann / Contributor

But Powhatan culture took rape very seriously and would punish the crime by death. After discovering what the settlers were doing, the Powhatan men wanted revenge. And the settlers knew they had to prepare and took Pocahontas as a hostage.

The settlers prepared for war

They knew their actions would lead to conflict between the Native Americans. So, Captain Samuel Argall decided to kidnap Pocahontas and keep her as a hostage. She was only 16-years-old at the time and was a new mother.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
Virginians Defending Themselves Against Indians', (1877). European settlers colonized the east coast of what is now the United States in the early 17th century. They fought with the local Native Americans and named the territory they claimed Virginia. From "Our Country: a Household History for All Readers, from the Discovery of America to the Present Time", Volume 1, by Benson J. Lossing. [Johnson & Miles, New York, 1877]. Artist Albert Bobbett. The Print Collector/Getty Images

The settlers told the Chief if they tried to retaliate, they would kill her. While kept hostage, her husband was killed in front of her by settlers. She slowly stopped eating. Settlers didn't want her to die, so they brought her sister to her. She told her sister she was raped multiple times. And sadly, she became pregnant while imprisoned.

Pocahontas was forced to convert to Christianity

The settlers didn't feel Pocahontas was a civilized person, so they decided to convert her to Christianity. They renamed her Rebecca and sent her to England. The minister told her she would live a better life in England while devoting her life to Christianity.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
1614, American Indian princess Pocahontas (1595 - 1617) is baptised with the name Rebecca, in Jamestown, before her marriage to John Rolfe. MPI/Getty Images

After she was baptized, the English settled down as they believed she was now a civilized person. For them, she was now a white English person. But that wasn't true, not for Pocahontas.

Her tribe tried to rescue her

Pocahontas's father had enough, and in 1614, he took a group of men and attempted to rescue her. Many of the men died in battle before the settlers would let him speak to her. It's believed she told him that she wanted to go to England and that he should let her go.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
1608, English colonist Captain John Smith takes Opechancanough, the King of Pamaunkee prisoner in Virginia. Smith claimed that the native American princess Pocahontas had saved him from being put to death by the chief the previous year. Original Artwork: An eng Hulton Archive/Getty Images

But many historians think she said this so that she could save her family and friends. She didn't want to see any more people lose their lives because of her. So she sacrificed herself for her people.

Pocahontas traveled to England

While Pocahontas was held in captivity, the settlers from Jamestown were thinking of ways to rebuild their relationship with the Powhatan tribe. The royal family wanted to keep things peaceful between the settlers and natives.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
Circa 1616, American native Indian, Princess Pocahontas (1595 - 1617) in elaborate European dress. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

So, the settlers decided to take Pocahontas's sister and son to England to show them how she was being treated. In the meantime, they were training her for English society, training her to speak English so she could be presented to the public.

Pocahontas was married twice

After she was baptized, it didn't take too long until she was married off to a man named John Rolfe. Her son was given the name Thomas Rolfe. No one knew who the father was as she was raped multiple times while being kept hostage. But John Rolfe took the son as his own.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
Pocahontas. Portrait of the Native American chief's daughter who saved John Smith, leader of the Virginia colonists, from being executed by her father, Powhatan, in 1607. Afterwards, she married one of the English colonists, John Rolfe. She then travelled to England to visit the Court of King James I, but died soon afterwards of smallpox. The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

No one knows if she loved Rolfe or was forced into marriage. Though it's more likely, she was forced into marriage so she wouldn't have the child out of wedlock. At her wedding, Pocahontas wasn't allowed to see her father or any tribe members.

She was very popular

Pocahontas was a very beautiful young woman. She has dark hair, caramel skin, and everyone was in awe of her beauty. People in England became more curious about Native Americans and wanted to learn more about their culture. But what really made her popular was John Smith's stories about Pocahontas.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
1616, Matoaka or Pocahontas (c.1595 - 1617), the daughter of Native American chief Powhatan, after her conversion to Christianity and marriage to settler John Rolfe under the new name of Rebecca MPI/Getty Images

Their love story drew people in. Everyone believed she was a naturally born diplomat, and they even made a collective stamp with her face on it. Little did the people know about the truth behind her coming to England.

She died going back home

Pocahontas became a symbol of peace to the New World and begged her husband to let her go home. She spent five years in England and was now 21-years-old. She was given permission to leave and go back to Virginia. The same captain who held her captive sailed her back home. But sadly, while they were sailing, she began to vomit and soon died after the meal.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
Native American princess Pocahontas (1595 - 1617) in European dress but holding an arrow, circa 1612. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The men said that she died of consumption. It's believed that she was poisoned by Rolf and Argall. The rest of the Native Americans who were brought to England with Pocahontas weren't allowed to return home. Instead, they were sold to circuses.

Her people never forgot her

After she died, her body was not brought back to her tribe. Instead, she was buried in England. The state needed to keep Pocahontas' image alive, so they buried her to show the people she was a Christian woman. Her father was heartbroken by the news and soon died after his daughter.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
WASHINGTON - JULY 12: Dancers representing the Chickahominy, Mattaponi, Monican, Nansemond, Pamunkey, Rappahannock, and Upper Mattaponi Indians prepare to dance during a traditional departure ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian July 12, 2006, in Washington, DC. Fifty-five Virginia Indians from eight different tribes are leaving for a week-long cultural visit to England. Organized by the Federal Jamestown 400th Commemoration Commission and the British Jamestown 2007 Committee, the delegation will visit the resting place of Pocahontas and take part in a series of ceremonies and cultural events. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Even though her tribe requested her body, the state ignored them. Her gravesite became a tourist attraction and became even more popular after the Disney movie was released.

What happened to her son?

After Pocahontas died, her husband John Rolfe didn't want anything to do with her son Thomas. So, he gave the boy to his brother, Henry Rolfe. John Rolfe never treated Thomas as his own son and never paid any form of child support. But that wasn't all.

What Happened to the Real Pocahontas?
Pocahontas and Thomas Rolfe in the Sedgeford Portrait, reproduced in 1887. Pocahontas (c. 1595 – 21 March, 1617), daughter of Chief Powhatan, aided the English settlers at Jamestown, and her marriage to James Rolfe brought several years of peace between the settlers and the natives. Thomas Rolfe (30, January, 1615 – c. 1675) was their only son. Culture Club/Getty Images

Thomas wasn't allowed to visit America, as England was scared of what would happen. Sadly, Pocahontas's two children never met each other. And when he died, his gravestone simply said, "Son of Pocahontas."

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