The Abduction and Murder of Pocahontas

Good Morning or Afternoon or Evening!

For any of you who have been following my posts about the true story of Pocahontas — a true American heroine — this is the last in a series of three.  For anyone who has not been following the story, or who want to go back and read through the earlier posts so that this make more sense, here are the links:

Please note:  I will be away from home on the day this posts and I won’t even be close to a computer.  It will be days before I’m able to look at your posts, but I will do so as soon as I’m able.

As we have already learned, Pocahontas was too young to have a romance with John Smith.  We also learned that John Smith was adopted into Powhatan society.  In my last post I showed that she was abducted by the English and forced to live with them.  According to Pocahontas — who confided this to her sister — she was raped and was pregnant.  It is believed, however, that she was not married to the man who did this to her…Thomas.  Instead she was married to a man who could prove to be useful to the Colony if he could obtain secrets from the Powhatan people to turn those secrets to profit.  Note again, her son’s name was Thomas, not John.  Here below is the final installment of this story.

pocahont1“According to …sacred oral history, the Native people of the New World possessed the knowledge of how to cuure and process tobacco successfully.  The Spanish gained this knowledge from the Native communities they had subdued.”  THE TRUE STORY OF POCAHONTAS.  Eventually, because of Rolfe’s marriage to Pocahontas, the prists of the tribe gave him their secret in how to cure tobacco.  The result was that Rolfe’s tobacco — grown on Powhatan land and cultivated by the Powhatan priests — put the Spanish taste and flavor to shame.  At last!  He was a success.  The Colony was a success!  Suddenly refinancing the Virgina Company became a reality and the financial worries were finally over.  However, oral history also points out that the efforts of the Powhatan priests had the opposite effect of what they had hoped.  Instead of the English embracing the Powhatan people as brothers, it appeared that the new success unleashed an extraordinary rash of greed.  Tobacco became the gold of the New World.  More Powhatan lands were trespassed, more killing ensued.  More of the American Indian people became enslaved by the newly “successful” newcomers.

But back in the Colony, it was time to go back to England.  The infamous 350px-the_abduction_of_pocahontas1Captain Samuel Argall (who had abducted and kidnapped Pocahontas) captained the ship that was to take Rolfe, Pocahontas, their son and members of the Powhatan tribe to England.  The reasons for the trip were many:  finances were needed to refinance Jamestown, merchants needed to talk to the colonists, but perhaps the most important reason for going was that public approval was needed in order to secure the colony.   Pocahontas provided a means to “show” the English people that the people of Jamestown and the natives were on friendly terms.  Pocahontas’s sister, Mattachanna and her husband accompanied Pocahontas to England, as did several other Powhatan people.  It appeared that with so many of her own couuntrymen surrounding her that there would be safety in numbers.  Wisemen, however, advised Wahunsenaca not to let his daughter go, saying that she would never return.   But how could he stop it?  He considered a rescue too risky.  In the end, Pocahontas went to England.

It was in England that Pocahontas’s eyes were opened to the truth.  Up to that time Pocahontas was being used as a pawn might be used in a game of chess.  But Pocahontas was far from being a chess piece.  She was a flesh and blood heroine.  Anyway, it was here that she met John Smith again and learned that he was not dead.  Moreover she discovered that he had utterly betrayed her father and her people because he had taken a solemn oath to her people to represent them to the English and that he would bring the English under the power of the Powhatan.  She learned he had never intended to honor his word, that he had used her father and her people to simply get what he wanted.   Pocahontas was outraged and she vented her rage toward Smith at their meeting.  Understand, she was not angry because of any lost love or any young girl crush on the man.  Rather she had been alerted to the truth:   that this mad-man had betrayed her father and her people.  It is known that with horror, Pocahontas learned what John Smith’s true intentions had been toward her people — had always been: to take their lives, their lands and everything they held dear.  Pocahontas longed to go home and inform her father of all she had learned.  She intended to do exactly that.  Unfortunately, she let that be known to the wrong people. 

pocanson1The whole party set sail back to England in the spring of 1617 with Samuel Argall again as the captain of the ship.  That evening Pocahontas, Rolfe and Argall dined in the captain’s chamber.  “Pocahontas quickly became ill.  She returned to her quarter by herself, sick to her stomach, and vomited.  She told Mattachanna that the English must have put something in her food.  Mattachana and Uttamattamakin tried to care for Pocahontas in her sudden illness.  As Pocahontas began to convulse, Mattachanna went to get Rolfe.  When they returned, Pocahontas had died.”  — THE TRUE STORY OF POCAHONTAS.  They hadn’t even attained open sea yet.  They were still in the river.  Rolfe immediately asked to be taken to Gravesend, where he buried Pocahontas and left Thomas there for his English relatives to take.  Rolfe never saw him again.

aa_pocahonta_newworld_3_m1Upon returning to the New World, Mattachanna and her husband, the high priest, Uttamattamakin, reported to Chief Powhatan Wahunsenaca the events in England, including the murder of his daughter.  It is from this account that the oral history has been passed down from generation to generation.  But who killed her and why?  Again, from the book, THE TRUE STORY OF POCAHONTAS, “Rolfe and the Virginia Company associates ascertained that Pocahontas knew that Smith had lied to her father and that some English businessmen were behind a scheme to remove her father from his throne and take the land from the Powhatan people.  This justified the decision by the English colonists not to take Pocahontas back to her homeland…Certain people believed that Pocahontas would endanger the English settlement, especially because she had new insights into the political strategy of the English colonists to break down the Powhatan structure, so they plotted to murder her.” 

smlrolfe2jsmith1Again, from the book, THE TRUE STORY OF POCAHONTAS, “…Dale, Rolfe, and Whitaker had close ties to each other.  All three had major roles in what happened in Pocahontas’s life after she was abducted.  Dale eventually took custody of Pocahontas after Argall took her to Jamestown.  Whitaker maintained Pocahontas’s house arrest and surveillance.  All three sought to convert Pocahontas to Christianity.  Rolfe married Pocahontas. Dale provided a large tract of land for Rolfe to grow tobacco.  A Dale-Rolfe-Whitaker trio comprising agreements and pacts is not out of the realm of possibility, but … sacred oral history does not reveal who or how many persons were behind her murder.  We believe it is most likely that more than one person was involved.”

So ends my story of the abduction and murder of a true heroine.  A heroine because she tried to unite two different peoples.  A heroine because she endured much in an effort to help her people.  She did it with little complaint, though it goes without saying that she yearned for the company of her own people, her own little son and the husband of her heart, Kocoum.smlpocwn1 

 It’s not exactly the Disney or fairytale story that we’ve all been spoon-fed I’m afraid.  But it’s an honest view.  It shows the courage and persistence of a young woman who did all she could to help her father and her people.  And to this end, she is a true American heroine.

I believe that the purpose of history is to show what causes created what effects.  In an honest report of history, once can easily see what effects were created and thus use history as a real education.  As they say “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Of course one has to presuppose that your history is being told truthfully, and not rewritten versions of an event that will further along some small vested interest.  So what can we learn from this true story of a brave heroine?

I’ll give you my thoughts on the subject, and perhaps you can give me yours.  The mistakes that I see that Wahunsenaca (Pocahontas’s father) made were: 1) He didn’t get to know the Englishman’s views of ethics (or lack thereof), supposing instead that all peoples valued the same thing; 2) He sought to placate evil instead of confronting it and eradicating it when he had a chance of winning against it; and 3) One cannot easily placate greed and evil.  It seems to feed on itself.  To me such greed is vampire-like — one can never do enough.  It’s as though your good deeds disappear into a vacuum — a “ho-hum — what else can you do for me,” attitude.   The arrogance and snobbery of the criminally insane is beyond belief.  And as far as Pocahontas, herself, I’d say that one could learn that one shouldn’t say too much to those who have raped you.

Well, there you have it.  What do you think?  It’s doubtful Hollywood would make a movie of this story, though I wish that they would.  But this is the story that has been passed down from generation to generation amongst the Powhatan people and their various tribes, specifically the Mattaponi.  For further information, I would highly recommend the book, THE TRUE STORY OF POCAHONTAS by Dr. Linwood “Little Bear” Custalow and Angela L. Daniel “Silver Star.”  Read it for yourself and come to your own conclusions.  It is a story or oral tradition.  It is not a made-up story. 

So come on in and let me know your thoughts.  Is there anything you can think of that can be learned from this “history lesson”?  Because I’ll be away from home, it might take me a while to read all your comments, but believe me I will as soon as I’m able.  And don’t forget to purchase your copy of SENECA SURRENDER today.

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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10 thoughts on “The Abduction and Murder of Pocahontas”

  1. As always, you say it so eloquently and informatively. I agree with all your conclusions. Maybe if as children we learned the truth instead of altered stories, we could have learned from the past. By the time most of us figure it out, it’s too late. I am so skeptical of everything anymore. The world depends on our young people to change it but you can’t change what you don’t know. Thanks for your insightfulness!

  2. Thank you again Karen for this story. I really enjoyed reading about the life of Pocahontas. It is such a sad story, but one that should be told. We are given so much misinformation about the Native Americans, it is such a breath of fresh air to hear the truth. BTW-Just got done reading Seneca Surrender…LOVED IT! Keep up the great work. 🙂

  3. What it makes me wonder is, how true is the history we learn today?
    And how can we change the way history is told. It’s a truism that history is written by the winners.
    I suppose the first order should be, study on your own. Don’t trust just school and text books. Find out for yourself. Try and read from all angles.


  4. Thanks for telling Pocahontas’s true story Karen. I compare this version with the one we were told in grade school, and the disney film. Just wish someone would make a movie of the real story.

  5. Thanks for sharing this story with us! How
    atrociously Pocahontas was treated by people
    she should have been able to trust!!

    Pat Cochran

  6. It’s heartbreaking that Pocahontas was treated so badly, and I wonder what happened to her son. How sad that her sister wasn’t allowed to raise him. I’m sure she would have loved and cared for him in the way Pocahontas would have wanted.

    And I don’t doubt for a minute that Pocahontas was murdered, but the motive has me confused. If they killed her to silence her, why didn’t they also dispose of Mattachanna and her husband in the same way? They were still able to report what she had learned and what had happened to her to her father. It would have been easy to claim they all died of the same illness. Any ideas?

  7. Interesting post as usual. Unfortunately, the oral tradition tells a story that reflects the path colonization usually takes. The Spanish and the English were unscrupulous in their dealings with locals. This was true in the Americas, India, and in their own backyard with the Irish a nd the Scotts. It seems they felt it was okay to lie, cheat, steal, murder as long as their goals were met. Rape, murder, and enslavement seem to be their solution to dealing with those in their way. Contracts and treaties were drawn up to give the other parties the allusion that an agreement has been reached. In reality, the English seemed to view them as a delaying device which they had no intention of honoring.

    With the way movies have been going lately, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see an accurate one produced. People are more aware of just how much has been left out of our history books. Add to that the realization that much is only partially or inacurrately reported.

    I learned many years ago to look behind the story. I always want to know more. By looking into the facts surrounding events and stories, it expands the picture you see and often changes the meaning if not the actual details of events. It shows that those of honest intentions often are taken advantage of by those not on the moral high ground.

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