The Abduction and Murder of Pocahontas, Part ll


And a happy Tuesday to you!  Hope y’all are doing well and I hope you’ll find the blog today fascinating.

Don’t know if I’ve mentioned that I’ll be giving away the free e-book, WAR CLOUD’S PASSION today, thus, I’ll do it here at the start of today’s blog.  Today’s blog could be a bit long, so let’s get right to it.

In my last blog last month, I tried to give an overview and an idea of how Pocahontas came to be familiar with the English colonists and how they had come to know her.  If you missed that post, you can do a search  under “The Abduction and Murder of Pocahontas,” and it will come up for you to read. 

Okay, that said, let’s look at where I left off in my last post, which was with Pocahontas coming of age and I promised to tell you about her marriage to Kocoum, as well as her abduction by a few of the colonists, and the rather sordid details of her subsequent marriage to John Rolfe.  It may take me more than this post to fill in all those holes.  But let’s at least start with how she might have met her husband, Kocoum.

In the Powhatan society, a young girl and boy’s coming of age is celebrated, and it was no different for Pocahontas.  However, because there was a rumor of an abduction planned for Pocahontas, her ceremony was limited to special friends and family only.  There is a special dance called the courtship dance during which male warriors search the dancers for a mate.  This is probably where their courtship began.  After a time, they were married.  Kocoum was an elite warrior.  He was among 50 of the top warriors that guarded the capital of the Powhatan confederacy.  He was also the younger brother of Wahunsenaca’s, a friend of Pocahontas’ father, Chief Japazaw.  Because the priests (called quiakros) feared that the colonists plotted to kidnap Pocahontas, the couple went to live in Kocoum’s home, which was isolated from the colonists and farther north.  She was, in fact, being hidden from the English.  Kocoum and Pocahontas had a child, little Kocoum, a boy.  It was Captain Samuel Argall, an English colonist, who accomplished the feat of kidnapping Pocahontas.

Please excuse me as I pause from my story momentarily to tell you of a movie I once watched where it rendered that Pocahontas and her father had a falling out and that he had banished her from the tribe, thus she had taken up with the English.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Pocahontas was a princess, dearly beloved by her father.  She was also married to Kocoum and had a child by him.  Never would she have been banished from the tribe.  That movie did nothing but further the false information about this very brave woman.  That said, back to Captain Argall.  Why did he wish to capture Pocahontas?  Why did he take such extreme measures, for he certainly did.  Once he had learned of her hiding place, he gathered together not only men, but weapons and arms to attempt her capture.  But why?

Let’s speculate.  Do you remember from my previous post that the English colonists were looting the Powhatan villages of their stores of food.  They were also raping their women and children and oftentimes stealing their women and children in order to make them servants for the English. Sometimes I wonder at the foolishness of sending only men to the colonies.  It only courted trouble.  But I digress.  Perhaps he simply wanted her as his woman.  But I don’t think so.  I think the reason is much more complex and includes money and greed.  The Powhatan had many diverse and rich agricultural fields. There were no trees to cut, no land to clear.  In order to take the land, all the colonists had to do was destroy the village and take the land — it seemed this was considered easier than clearing the land.  This the colonists did and they expected retribution from the very powerful Powhatan tribe because of it.  The tribe might have done this.  But they chose not to because Wahunsenaca considered the English a branch of his tribe.  Though the abuses were numerous, he still sought other ways to deal with the problem, rather than killing the colonists outright. 

Through trickery and deceit, Captain Argall managed to get Pocahontas onto his ship.  She was supposed to be returned.  She never was.  She was held for ransom.  What Captain Argall demanded from Pocohontas’ father was:   a) the return of English weapons that had been taken from Jamestown, b) the return of the English prisoners Washunsenaca held captive and c) a shipment of corn.  Washunsenaca  paid the ransom at once.  In fact Argall writes of the transaction in his log in 1613, “This news much grieved this great king (Wahunsenaca), yet without delay he returned the messenger with this answer, that he desired me to use his daughter well, and bring my ship into his river (Pamunkey), and there he would give me my demands; which being performed, I should deliver him his daugher, and we should be friends.”  Although Wahunsenaca quickly carried out the ransom demands, Pocahontas was never released.  images27According to the book, THE TRUE STORY OF POCAHONTAS, by Dr. Linwood “little Bear” Custalow and Angela L. Daniel “Silver Star,” “…oral history states that before Argall took sail (back to Jamestown), several of Argall’s men returned to Pocahontas’ home and killed her husband, Kocoum.”  It was tradition that he would have come for her and rescued her, something that Argall could not permit.  Little Kocoum survived because upon Pocahontas’ capture, he was put into the care of several of the women of the tribe.  As an aside, there are still many descendents of Kocoum who are alive and well to this day.  You may again wonder why the Powhatan didn’t retaliate.  Part of that is Pocahontas’s father’s fear for her life if he were to do so, the other reason he didn’t attack is because of a tribal custom — part of the cultural foundation of the tribe, which was that of appeasing evil.  If one could, one always sought a balance between submitting to evil demands and preventing the loss of life.  Even so, the quiakros  (priests) of the tribe advised a swift retaliation, but Wahunsenaca would not do it, fearing for his daughter’s life.

One of Pocahontas’ elder sisters, Mattachanna, and her husband, Uttamattamakin, who was also a priest, were allowed to visit Pocahontas during her captivity.  Oral tradition is very distinct on the fact that Pocahontas confided that she had been raped and worse,  she suspected she was pregnant.  Again, rape was unheard of in Powhatan society.  Interestingly, shortly after this confession to her sister, Pocahontas was quickly converted to Christianity in order to rush her into marriage.  At this time, it would have been inconceivable for a Christian man to marry anyone who was not Christian.  It is also supposed that Sir Thomas Dale was actually the biological father of Pocahontas’s child, since, according to scholars William M.S. Rasmussen and Robert S. Tilton, it was Thomas Dale who was most closely linked to Pocahontas during her kidnapping.  Note also that her son’s name was not “John,” but rather “Thomas.”  It would also explain why Rolfe (who was secretary of the colony at the time) did not record the birth of Thomas.

smlrolfe2Was the marriage one of love?  Oral history casts doubt on this.  She had just lost her husband, was separated from the father she loved, had given birth to a child from an incident she described as rape, and was rushed into marriage in order to make it appear that the birth had taken place after the marriage.  Plus, she was not free to live her own life.  She could not come and go as her leisure.  Did John Rolfe love her?  In a letter to Dale, Rolfe refers to her as a “creature,” not a “woman.”  But regardless, whether they loved one another or not, they were married and Rolfe became the heir to the friendliness of the Powhatan people, which included their knowledge of the tobacco plant and how it was processed.  Here is where the unsavory aspects of money and greed enter into the equation.  The Virgina company wasn’t doing well.  There was no gold in the New World, there was no silver, no gems, nothing to make the venture successful.  There just  had to some way to make the colony prosperous.  Would the tobacco plant become their claim to fame?

It seems likely that this might have been their intentions.  Rolfe had left England in 1609 with the goal of making a profit growing and processing tobacco.  He arrived in 1610 and for three years, he had been unsuccessful at both growing the tobacco and in the processing of it.  The year 1616 was the “deadline for the initial investments in the Virginia colony.” From the book THE TRUE STORY OF POCAHONTAS, it appears that time was running out.  The colony was failing.  And Rolfe’s crop was failing.  Thus, Rolfe himself was failing.  What was he to do?

Stay tuned.   We’ve gone over her abduction now.  Next month, I hope to answer the questions of what possible motive John Rolfe, Captain Argall and Thomas Dale might have had for kidnapping Pocohontas.  And then marrying her.  Then there’s the question of who killed her?  And why?  What could her death have accomplished?  Most of all, however, how was the deed accomplished and covered up so thoroughly?  To the point where it was believed that she had died of small pox?  

So come on back next month for the conclusion of The Murder and Abduction of Pocohontas.

Am hoping that you’ll come in an tell me your thoughts about this very real American legend.

Website | + posts

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.
Please refer to for all contest rules.

32 thoughts on “The Abduction and Murder of Pocahontas, Part ll”

  1. The story I read was that the Thomas you speak of who supposedly raped Pocahontas was just the governor of the English settlement who conned Pocahontas into going on board the ship with the Potomac’s tribes chiefs wife and after having a tour and dinner, then they announce that Pocahontas could not leave. So she was put under the guidance of Reverend Whitaker who eventually took her to his home where she was taken care of by servents and where Reverend Whitaker started converting her to Christianity. It was at a gathering for church on a Sunday that she met John Rolph, and over time, they fell in love and she even went and told her brothers she was to marry John Rolfe and then Her brothers stayed with the English. while John Rolfe went in search of her father to tell him of he and Pocahontas‘s plans and to reiterate they should give back their weapons. Because the whole point of taking Pocahontas was to get the people her tribe kidnapped back, along with the guns. He complied and let the hostages go, But didn’t want to give back the guns until he learned of John Rolfe and Pocahontas‘s wedding. It was after this that Pocahontas left to sail to Britain with her husband. They also said she was not raped because she was under the care of Reverend Whitaker and he would not have allowed that. Also, because she was a negotiation tool and they wouldn’t have treated her badly. I guess because none of us were there we could only Choose to believe what we want, but to write what you’ve written, as if thats the facts, bothers me. Misinformation is a dangerous thing no matter when it happened. Also how could you say Indians knew nothing of rape when they used to kidnap other tribe members, and treated them in a derogatory and degradating Manner. They did this for many reasons. To make them slaves, to have a sway over the other tribes, and if one of the tribe members had a fancy for another tribes female. As I said, this is just a story I read and just like your story, mine may Not be 100% accurate, but there is no way to fact check as I did what you did and read what was available.

    • Thank you for your viewpoint on this. As you said, we were not there. What I am relating here is the oral history of the matter as passed down by Pocahontas’ family and her people. We have had, up to the point when this book was published only the history as told by the invaders of this land.

      Now, about what you said about rape. This is NOT the first historical record that I have read from the Indians that rape was unknown to them prior to the invader’s arrival to this land. There was a time before the invaders arrived that a young girl could walk anywhere without fear of rape or harm from it. Many tribes mention this, not merely this book.

      Before I would believe any accounts, I would research both sides of the story and then form an opinion. When women were stolen by tribes, they were generally treated very well, to the extent that most never wanted to return to their old way of life. Several different stories (some of them capture stories), go into this in detail. They were replacing members of families and were not mistreated.

      Enemy warriors were killed or tortured, yes. But women were either killed (more rare) or taken captive and then adopted into families and/or married.

      Anyone can write anything about anything. That doesn’t make it true. When oral history says that the chief KEPT HIS WORD of honor (at this time an Indian man never went back on his word of honor…ever — to do so was to court evil and to become unclean) — I would tend to believe because this was the belief that at time that he would have kept his word.

      You are most welcome to rebut what I’ve written here. But, again, oral history from her own tribe and her own people say differently, and for me, I would be on the side of believing this — especially in the light of having research other tribes and their beliefs and what they held dear. For instance, at this time in history if a man gave his word and didn’t keep it, he was killed. A liar was always killed.

      Decide for yourself.

  2. Indeed, it is. Again, this is from the book, THE TRUE STORY OF POCAHONTAS, The Other Side of History, by Dr. Linwood “Little Bear” Custalow and Angela L. Daniel “Silver Star.”

  3. Personally, none of this surprises me. The European settlers only perpetuated what they had known. The Native Americans were NOT like the newcomers, and while they knew war with other tribes, they also learned other atrocities from the Europeans. I’m thinking we’d fight back if someone tried to do to us what the Europeans did to them. Just like later, when they decided to “go west” and still just tried to take and take and trick. Why are we surprised when we learn things are NOT what we’ve always been taught? All you have to do is look at current events, with people having fits about Confederate statues, and taking them down, to know that everything we knew of previous times could have been re-written, too!!!

  4. Hi Trudy,

    I tend to think as you do. It’s so easy to say or write anything about anything. It doesn’t make it true. That’s why one really must do the research oneself on these kinds of controversial subjects. Get as much facts as you can. One thing I have researched and is said over and over again is that a liar was killed outright by the Tribes at that time, as was a man who didn’t keep his word. A liar at that time was thought of in the same way as a murderer and he was killed.

    Now, that said, an Indian at this time considered it his duty to lie to an enemy about matters of importance to his tribe. To not do so was thought to be as committing treason.

    But, as to the above post about rape of captives, I have not seen it in these Eastern tribes. Killing them, yes. But, more likely, they were adopted into the tribe and treated well. Again, none of us were there. We can only research and come to our own conclusions.

    However, I would note this: research well the person who is writing the story. Were they known to tell tales? Did that person have an inclination to drink a lot? One man who wrote a lot about Indians (forget his name) was known to be drunk more than he was sober, and he cheated the Indians in trade whenever he could. His tales I discount because if he will lie and cheat and drink to distraction, why would I believe such a person?

    It’s one thing I try to find out before I believe anything I read in history — who was the person who is writing it? : )

    • Yes!! A person who would lie, cheat, drink so much, eh’s pretty much treating everyone the same way, and therefore definitely not to be trusted, and his “word” wouldn’t be good. I agree with you about the rape and torture. To me, that’s what they learned from the white man. European history shows that they were brutal and savage, and not just to one race, but all races they tried to conquer. No other people has been so horribly treated as were our Native Americans, and that hasn’t changed to this day.

      • Hi Trudy,

        I do agree with you on most of what you say. There is one thing I would say, which is that there is evidence that torture was a part of some of the Eastern tribes before the white man came. The reason I say this is that in 1140 AD, the Peacemaker came to the 5 tribes of the Iroquois to bring peace to them. At that time, cannabalism (please excuse spelling) was extant and it was the particular mission of the Peacemaker to urge the tribes to cease this practice. One good thing is that those 5 tribes (and others followed) gave up that practice entirely and almost overnight. : )

      • Interesting!! I can understand the torture, not the cannablism, though! Glad that stopped! Who was the Peacemaker? You’re teaching me all kinds of stuff! I like it!

  5. Wow this just gets more and more interesting. I feel bad that she had to go through all of that. That was not right. Cant wait until next month. thanks for all the research and for sharing it.

    • Hi Lori,

      Yes, it does get quite interesting, including sailing to England, meeting the Queen and King and what happened to her, how it happened, etc. and of course who are the suspects. It’s all in that book, The True Story of Pocahontas, The Other Side of History. On the back cover it says: “From the Sacred History of the Mattaponi Reservation People. We invite you into our world that you might begin to know us for who we are.” Thanks for your post.

  6. So much of our “history” was written by white men, textbooks by publishers written and owned by white men, and that’s what we learn, even when it’s incorrect.

    So glad we live in an age when the truths can be revealed, our eyes opened, and pass on correct information to future generations.


  7. Hi Karen …. seems like such a heart wrenching existence. I liked the pictures you included and look forward to reading more next time you visit. Take care.

    • Yes. i guess this is a story of the two cultures coming together and what happened as a result. Luckily, as we grew here in America, a lot of these atrocities faded away. Thanks for your comment.

  8. Wow, this is all so very interesting and so different from the fairy tale. Thank you so much for sharing this. (not entering the giveaway but Thank you)

    • Yes, it is quite different, even to the difference in ages between Pocahontas and John Smith. It is a love story, but one of the love of a father and daughter and Pocahontas’ love for her people.

  9. As the saying goes, history is written by the victors. I have read several accounts of her life and demise. Even an article for the Smithsonian claims she died of pneumonia. The Jamestown National Park information gives both stories about her life and death. The version put forth from the Native American view point is broadly put forth and good details are given. It does state that her illness came on suddenly after a meal which is counter to a chronic disease. I am trying not to get ahead of your discussion. Their coverage of her story is very evenhanded, giving both stories equal time and details from the tribal viewpoint not usually heard.. Either way, she had a remarkable and tragically short life.

  10. Hi Patricia,

    As always I love reading your viewpoint on these touchy subjects. Am so glad that the Native American story is out there, along with the other. Yes, her “illness” came on so suddenly after a meal and her death resulting from that so suddenly that it, indeed, looks to be murder by poisoning. In the book I mention, the motive is clearly stated and makes sense, actually. And, for me the lesson to be learned is very clearly stated in the Bible…but I go ahead of myself here. Hope to see you on the blog next month.

  11. The reason history as we know it keeps changing is because someone with a different viewpoint writes about it or someone finds historical evidence such as old letters or records that previous writers didn’t have access to or didn’t research. In some cases they totally ignored the point of view from the other side of the issue. You were fortunate to find something written by authors who actually listened to the oral history.

    • Hi Alice,

      Thanks so much for your reply. Yes, I do believe that I was fortunate to find this book and find out about the oral history of this definite heroine.

  12. Karen – Thanks, for telling us the truth as to what really happened to Pocahontas. Awesome post! Seems like we came to this New World & took over. Killed for what we wanted & didn’t care about the people who were here first & covered everything up in our history books. What a World we live in.

  13. Hi Lois,

    It does seem that way, but luckily, most people have a sense of community and like to see the other guy do well. Only seem to be a few idiots who decide it’s an all for me, none for thee, type of thing…not realizing that true happiness comes from not only ensuring that one can himself do well and provide for himself and be happy, but that his own happiness and well being come from also making sure the other guy gets what he wants, too.

Comments are closed.