Thursday October 02, 2014
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03-060 America’s First Century: Pocahontas II

Thursday Oct 02, 2014

Lead: By the account of John Smith the young Indian woman Matoaka, or Pocahontas, saved his life.

Intro: A Moment In Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Pocahontas' father, the great chief Powhatan, considered the English settlement at Jamestown a threat to his people. He captured Smith, one of the colony's leaders, and had it not been for the girl's intervention would have executed him. At the peak of his power he is said to have commanded the allegiance of a huge confederacy of tribes and villages with 9000 inhabitants stretching all along the Chesapeake Bay on Virginia's coast. His change of heart brought a period of relative peace between the English and American Indians, at least until an unfortunate wound forced Smith to return to England.

Pocahontas visited Jamestown regularly and fascinated the settlers. William Strachey, the secretary of the colony, wrote that the 13-year old girl would cartwheel, "naked as she was, all the fort over." In Smith's absence relations deteriorated between Powhatan and Jamestown and in the hopes of securing a lasting peace, the settlers took Pocahontas hostage. While in captivity she was treated with courtesy and baptized into the Church of England.

Powhatan ransomed his daughter but in the meantime she had met and fallen in love with a prominent colonist John Rolfe, who in 1612 had harvested the first crop of a strain of tobacco that would eventually establish the colony's plantations as a highly profitable enterprise. With the approval of both Governor Sir Thomas Dale and Powhatan, Pocahontas, now known as Lady Rebecca, was married to Rolfe in April 1614. As long as Powhatan lived there was peace between his tribes and his daughter's new people.

Next time: Pocahontas the diplomat.

The producer of A Moment In Time is Steve Clark. At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.


Edmunds, Pocahontas Wight. The Pocahontas-John Smith Story Richmond, Virginia: Dietz Press, 1956.

Mossiker, Frances. Pocahontas: The Life and the Legend. New York, Alfred Knopf, 1976.

Routhree, Helen C. Pocahontas' People. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1944.

Smith, Bradford. Captain John Smith, His Life and Legend Philadelphia: Lippencott Publishing, 1953).

Smith, John. Captain John Smith, Works 1608-1631, E. Arber, ed. Birmingham, 1884.

Tilton, R.S. Pocahontas, The Evolution of an American Narrative, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Copyright 2014 by Dan Roberts Enterprises, Inc.


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