Disney’s rendition of Pocahontas may be enjoyable and heart-warming but it is a profoundly untrue retelling of a real woman's story. The story Disney had created is fictional while the characters are very real, and their experiences were vastly different than what was depicted in the film. The real story of “Pocahontas” is tragic. She, along with her tribe, faced many injustices that Disney chose to hide from their viewers. Her story isn’t as pleasant as Disney made it out to be.
Matoaka was her original name. She was born in 1596 in Werowocomoco, Virginia, daughter of Wahunsenacawh; chief of the Powhatan tribe. Her father often called her “Pocahontas” after her late mother whose name was Pocahontas meaning “playful one”. After finding the name rather suited her growing up, she took on the name.
In 1607 when Pocahontas was only 11 years old, English colonizers came to what is now America to discover new land; their leader being John Smith. It is important to note that there was never a romantic relationship between Pocahontas and John Smith; keep in mind she was 11 years old at this time while he was a grown man. Pocahontas also never saved John Smith's life despite the various books Smith had written about his experience with the Native Americans, claiming Pocahontas had saved his life numerous times.
The 1600’s was an especially dark time for Native Americans. When male English colonizers invaded the land, they took advantage of the Native tribes. Women and children were violently physically and sexually assaulted; mothers often had to “throw themselves” at the male settlers to keep them from assaulting their children.
The Native Americans quickly became infuriated, and talk of war spread among the people. The colonizers began to feel the threat of war which led them to their solution; they would kidnap Pocahontas, the daughter of the chief, to give them an opportunity to bargain. By this time Pocahontas had changed name in a coming of age ceremony, had already gotten married and had a child before the age of 16. A captain by the name of Samuel Argall kidnapped Pocahontas when her baby was still newborn, and was taken aboard a ship where she was kept until she finally had to give up her child to the women in her tribe. During the time she was held on the ship, her husband was killed by the colonizers.
From this moment on, Pocahontas was held captive for the rest of her life. She was forced to convert to Christianity and her name was changed to “Rebecca”. In her captivity she was raped numerous times by various people; she eventually gave birth out of wedlock to a son whom she named Thomas. In 1614 she was remarried to John Rolfe, who needed to make an alliance in tobacco production with her native tribe. Rolfe wanted to learn their sacred tobacco ceremonial recipe which was superior to England’s tobacco production, in an endeavor to surpass Spain’s tobacco production. Rolfe knew this marriage would be profitable and it was; this arrangement secured him immense funding’s, and Pocahontas was but a transaction.
When Pocahontas was about 19 years old, she was eventually taken to England by Samuel Argall and John Rolfe to show the King and Queen and the people of England that “savages” can be converted. As a result, John Rolfe and the settlers in Virginia received even more funding to advance the colonization.
There are numerous conspiracies surrounding her death. Some say she died of an illness, while others say she was poisoned by Rolfe and Argall. In 1617, before she turned 21, she passed away, alone, and without having seen her family in years. She was buried in Gravesend, England.
This story needs to be known for what it truly is. Disney created a film that reflects how hard America has tried to cover up colonialism and by extension, racism. Disney has created a lie within a lie by using “feminism” to appear more progressive, when in reality it’s just a method for covering up the damage inflicted by the American Government. Her story is not meant to romanticize colonialism, or to portray colonialism in a positive light. Children who have watched Disney’s Pocahontas grow up ignorant of the devastating reality she faced. No more hiding behind the dreamy Disney façade; this is Matoaka’s true story.