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John Smith and Pocahontas

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[Pocahontas] not only for feature, countenance, and proportion, much exceedeth any of the rest of his [Powhatan's] people: but for wit and spirit, the only Nonpariel of his Country.

John Smith, True Relations

May 21, 1607, John Smith set out on the James River to explore upstream.The Algonquians struck while they were gone and attacked colony. Most of the firearms were still packed and the other weapons the colonists had were not practical for this fight. Only one colonist was killed, however. The Indians were probably trying to send them a message. Relations between the Indians and colonists were dangerous.

Love and Hate in Jamestown:
John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Heart of a New Nation

cover
by David A. Price

informative new book on the colony of Jamestown

Smith went in search of Powhatan, the chief of the Algonquians, in 1607 along the Chickahominy River. A hunting party attacked the men he left at the boats and captured him. Smith amazed them with his compass, earning an audience with Powhatan at Werowocomoco, 12 miles from Jamestown. Smith later wrote that he was taken to Powhatan and sentenced to death. In his Generall Historie of Virginia published in 1624, Smith described his controversial rescue by the chief's daughter Pocahontas. Pocahontas was a nickname meaning "little playful girl, or favorite." Her real name was Matoaka.

"Having feasted him . . . A long consultation was held, but the conclusion was, two great stones were brought before Powhatan: then as many as could lay hands on him, dragged him to them, and thereon laid his head, and being ready with their clubs, to beate out his braines, Pocahontas the Kings dearest daughter, when no intreaty could prevaile, got his head in her armes, and laid her owne upon his to save him from death: whereat the Emperour [Powhatan] was contented he should live to make him hatchets, and her bells, beads, and copper . . ."

His claim that Pocahontas saved him when the others tried to beat his brains out with a rock is probably either invented or romanticized. It is possible that the Algonquians enacted an "execution and salvation" ritual to cement the agreement. This would not be unusual, and it is possible that Pocahontas, who was a young girl, participated in it.

Instead of an execution, a rough trading treaty was made - food for copper and iron.


Pocahontas, HistoryMaker

Captain John Smith's Generall Historie of Virginia

Part of The Virginia English Colony at Jamestown exhibit

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