This is the story of one of the most famous Indian women in the Americas. The name 'Pocahontas' seems to have been a nickname, meaning 'playful one' or 'wanton one.' Her real name was 'Matoaka.' Although Pocahontas' mother seems to have died at her birth, her father was a chief of the Powhatan tribe. Of course, we know that there was no such thing as an 'Indian princess;' Indians did not have a royalty hierarchy in their social structure.
Pocahontas saved John Smith's life in late 1607 when she was between 10 and 13-years-of-age. After John Smith returned to England, Pocahontas was told he was dead. Over the years, she became an adult, married, and possibly had a child. To get European hostages and guns from her father, Pocahontas was abducted by the Virginians. At that time, it seems her Indian husband was killed in a skirmish to get her back.
Strangely enough, she was with the English for so long that she had time to be instructed in Christianity and learn something of the Bible. Some say she adopted European dress and caught the eye of John Rolfe, a widower who had also lost an infant son soon after coming to the New World.
Pocahontas took the name ' Rebecca' when she converted to Christianity and it holds significance because, through Pocahontas, peace was arranged between two warring groups and she married Rolfe. When they traveled to England, Pocahontas met King James I of England. On her way back home to Virginia, Pocahontas became ill and died. Because she was from a land without significant illnesses, she may have contracted one of the many contagious illnesses of Europe. She died at about 21-years-of-age. The ship could not take her body to Virginia, so she was buried in Gravesend, England on March 21, 1617.
Although she lived such a short time and we know little of her childhood, Pocahontas has left an indelible mark on America's memory of this unique individual.