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Pocahontas Research Elementary Level

Page history last edited by sigrid.olson@... 8 years, 1 month ago

SS GEs:

 

Students conduct research by… Describing evidence and recording observations using notecards, videotape, tape recorders, journals, or databases.

 

Students show understanding of how humans interpret history by…Differentiating among fact, opinion, and interpretation in various events.

 


 

 

Who is the person in the images below?

Describe what she looks like, what she's wearing, etc.

What do you know about her? How do you know this?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let's gather some more information from a clip from the movie:

 

 

 

 

Do you think this is what Pocahontas really looked like? How could we find out?

 

 

What do these images tell you about Pocahontas? How do they differ from the images in the movie?

 

 

How a young Pocahontas might have really looked.

From an image at the British Museum, displayed on the Virtual Jamestown's (National Park Service) web site.

 

How an older Pocahontas might have really looked

From an image at the British Museum, displayed on the Virtual Jamestown's (National Park Service) web site.

 

 

This is the only life portrait of Pocahontas (1595–1617), and the only credible image of her. Simon Van de Passe engraved it in 1616 while Pocahontas was in
England. She appears stiff in Jacobean court attire, but the costume probably hid tattooing and provided the chaste image wanted by the Virginia Company, which sponsored her trip and probably commissioned the print.

 


 

 

Read more about Pocahontas' life in this account from Historic Jamestowne of the National Park Service (edited). As you read, note the similarities and differences between Pocahontas' life (image) as portrayed in the movie and as recounted below:

 

Pocahontas: Her Life and Legend

Historic Jamestown

 

Not much is known about this memorable woman. What we do know was written by others, as none of her thoughts or feelings were ever recorded. Specifically, her story has been told through written historical accounts and, most recently, through the sacred oral history of the Mattaponi. Most notably, Pocahontas has left an indelible impression that has endured for more than 400 years. And yet, many people who know her name do not know much about her.

 

The Written History

Pocahontas was born about 1596 and named "Amonute," though she also had a more private name of Matoaka. She was called "Pocahontas" as a nickname, which meant "playful one," because of her frolicsome and curious nature. She was the daughter of Wahunsenaca (Chief Powhatan), the mamanatowick (paramount chief) of the Powhatan Chiefdom. At its height, the Powhatan Chiefdom had a population of about 25,000.

 

As a young girl, Pocahontas would have worn little to no clothing and had her hair shaven except for a small section in the back that was grown out long and usually braided. The shaven parts were probably bristly most of the time as the Powhatan Indians used mussel shells for shaving. In winter, she could have worn a deerskin mantle (not everyone could afford one). As she grew, she would have been taught women's work; even though the favorite daughter of the paramount chief Powhatan afforded her a more privileged lifestyle and more protection, she still needed to know how to be an adult woman.     

          

Women's work was separate from men's work, but both were equally taxing and equally important as both benefited all Powhatan society. As Pocahontas would learn, besides bearing and rearing children, women were responsible for building the houses (called yehakins by the Powhatan), which they may have owned. Women did all the farming, (planting and harvesting), the cooking (preparing and serving), collected water needed to cook and drink, gathered firewood for the fires (which women kept going all the time), made mats for houses (inside and out), made baskets, pots, cordage, wooden spoons, platters and mortars. Women were also barbers for the men and would process any meat the men brought home as well as tanning hides to make clothing.

 

Another important thing Pocahontas had to learn to be an adult woman was how to collect edible plants. As a result, she would need to identify the various kinds of useful plants and have the ability to recognize them in all seasons. All of the skills it took to be an adult woman Pocahontas would have learned by the time she was about thirteen...

 

When the English arrived and settled Jamestown in May 1607, Pocahontas was about eleven years old. Pocahontas and her father would not meet any Englishmen until the winter of 1607, when Captain John Smith (who is perhaps as famous as Pocahontas) was captured by Powhatan’s brother Opechancanough. Once captured, Smith was displayed at several Powhatan Indian towns before being brought to the capital of the Powhatan Chiefdom, Werowocomoco, to Chief Powhatan.

 

What happened next is what has kept the names of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith inextricably linked: the famous rescue of John Smith by Pocahontas. As Smith tells it, he was brought in front of Chief Powhatan, two large stones were placed on the ground, Smith’s head was forced upon them, and a warrior raised a club to smash in his brains. Before this could happen, Pocahontas rushed in and placed her head upon his, which stopped the execution.

Whether this event actually happened or not has been debated for centuries. One theory posits that what took place was an elaborate adoption ceremony; its adherents believe that Smith’s life was never in danger (though, he most likely would not have known that). Afterwards, Powhatan told Smith he was part of the tribe. In return for “two great guns and a grindstone,” Powhatan would give Smith Capahowasick (on the York River), and “forever esteem him as his son Nantaquoud.” Smith was then allowed to leave Werowocomoco.
                                                                       
Once Smith returned to Jamestown, Chief Powhatan sent gifts of food to the starving English. These envoys were usually accompanied by Pocahontas, as she was a sign of peace to the English. On her visits to the fort, Pocahontas was seen cart-wheeling with the young English boys, living up to her nickname of “playful one.”

 

As time passed, however, relations between the Powhatan Indians and the English began to deteriorate, but Pocahontas’s relationship with the newcomers was not over. By the winter of 1608-1609, the English visited various Powhatan tribes to trade beads and other trinkets for more corn, only to find a severe drought had drastically reduced the tribes' harvests. In addition, Powhatan's official policy for his chiefdom was to cease trading with the English. The settlers were demanding more food than his people had to spare, so the English were threatening the tribes and burning towns to get it. Chief Powhatan sent a message to John Smith, telling him if he brought to Werowocomoco swords, guns, hens, copper, beads, and a grindstone, he would have Smith's ship loaded with corn. Smith and his men visited Powhatan to make the exchange, and ended up stranding their barge. Negotiations did not go well.

 

According to Smith, that night Pocahontas returned to warn him that her father intended to kill him. Smith had already suspected something was wrong, but was still grateful that Pocahontas was willing to risk her life to save his yet again. Afterwards, she disappeared into the woods, never to see Smith in Virginia again.

 

Eventually, Pocahontas met widower John Rolfe, who would become famous for introducing the cash crop tobacco to the settlers in Virginia. By all English accounts, the two fell in love and wanted to marry. Powhatan consented to the proposed marriage and sent an uncle of Pocahontas’ to represent him and her people at the wedding. 

        
In 1614, Pocahontas converted to Christianity and was baptized “Rebecca.” In April 1614, she and John Rolfe married. The marriage led to the "Peace of Pocahontas;" a lull in the inevitable conflicts between the English and Powhatan Indians. The Rolfes soon had a son named Thomas. The Virginia Company of London, who had funded the settling of Jamestown, decided to make use of the favorite daughter of the great Powhatan to their advantage. They thought, as a Christian convert married to an Englishman, Pocahontas could encourage interest in Virginia and the company.

 

The Rolfe family traveled to England in 1616, their expenses paid by the Virginia Company of London. Pocahontas, known as "Lady Rebecca Rolfe," was also accompanied by about a dozen Powhatan men and women. Once in England, the party toured the country.

In March 1617, the Rolfe family was ready to return to Virginia. After traveling down the Thames River, Pocahontas, seriously ill, had to be taken ashore. In the town of Gravesend, Pocahontas died of an unspecified illness. Many historians believe she suffered from an upper respiratory ailment, such as pneumonia, while others think she could have died from some form of dysentery. Pocahontas, about twenty-one, was buried at St. George's Church on March 21, 1617. John Rolfe returned to Virginia, but left the young ailing Thomas with relatives in England. Within a year, Powhatan died. The "Peace of Pocahontas" began to slowly unravel. Life for her people would never be the same.

 


 

 

 

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