Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma

In her book Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma

Historian Camilla Townsend is able to differentiate between historical fact and fiction. The short existence of American Indian princess Pocohantas has been obscured by myths that have persisted since the 17th century.(Townsend 10).

Townsend's Research on Pocahontas

Townsend has put a lot of work into separating the truth about Pocohantas from the myths that have persisted over the years. The author is very direct when she claims that more information would become obvious if the true story of the Pocohantas could be revealed. (Townsend 4). According to the writer's statement, the narrated story by Pocohantas should not be considered real thus it should be regarded as myth.

Pocahontas' Birth and True Identity

Pocahontas actual date of birth is yet to be known hence many historians estimates as 1596. Townsend also agrees with this date when she states that Smith claimed to have married Pocahontas described his spouse as a girl of 10 years old in 1608(Townsend 4).The author describes that Pocahontas was not even her real name, she was called Amonute and also had a private name, Matoaka. The name Pocahontas was just a nickname which means ill-behaved kid or a playful one. The actual meaning of the nickname according to Townsend would, however, depend on the person you ask. Many historians do not indicate the true identification of Pocahontas hence their narrations are based on imaginations, but Townsend did mention the truth. Pocahontas was the most beloved daughter of Powhatan, the formidable ruler of Algonquin-speaking ethnic groups (Townsend 5).The chief ruled the Algonquin-speaking people for 30 years in and around the region where the early English settlers would claim to be Jamestown, Virginia. Townsend reveals how John Smith met and made a relationship with Pocahontas. Smith, who was an English adventurer, describes how he was rescued by a beautiful daughter of a powerful ruler from being executed by her dad.

The True Story of Pocahontas

The story about Pocahontas going against her people and joining the English has been told for many years. Such narrations have made the readers believe that Pocahontas betrayed her father and culture by joining the English settlers. Nevertheless, in reality, according to Townsend, Pocahontas' life was diverse than how Smith and the mainstream cultures narrate it(Townsend 12).The author further states that the Smith may have been rescued by another person and not Pocahontas. She was just ten years old hence the action of saving Smith would have been impossible. The English explorer may have misinterpreted what was in a real sense a customary rite, or he may have lifted the account from a common Scottish ballad (Townsend 10).

Powhatan's True Traits

Townsend has revealed the actual traits of Powhatan who was Pocahontas' father since many readers and viewers of myths have regarded him as an evil leader. The ruler was born in Wahunsenacaw where he inherited six chiefdoms from a young age. Throughout the years, "by use of force and diplomacy, he was able to expand his territory to over 30 chiefdoms and twenty thousand subjects"(Townsend 12). Being a paramount chief of Tsenacomoco, Powhatan was the highest commanding ruler for the English at the beginning of the 17th century. When her daughter married John Rolfe, the war against the locals and the English came to a temporal end. The chief targeted at arriving at a consensus with the English people but if they fail, he will murder them all. Through humor, generosity and practical violence, Powhatan was a master of uniting groups which lived detached lives for many years. Then, it is evident that the nation's inception was divided along tribal and ethnic lines, but myths have led us to believe that differences were only among the Algonquin-speaking ethnic groups and the visitors.

Pocahontas' Life and Actions

The book states that power was only supposed to be passed to men unless there was no male heir, that's when women would be allowed to rule. The author in her book describes more traits about Pocahontas. Being a daughter of the king did not separate her life from the common individuals. She worked with other persons including her dad's other children as well as their mothers(Townsend 15).The princess through the interaction with other people was able to negotiate her way as well as expressing herself. Due to her love for plays and interaction, every individual known the princess as, the playful little one thus nicknamed Pocahontas (Townsend 17).As she grew up and with the help of the English warrior she was married to, Pocahontas saved Jamestown from Indian attacks and starvation. Also, she provided food to the colonists and acted as an intermediary between the English and her people.

Pocahontas' Kidnapping and Collaboration

She warned her lover as well as the other English people about any ambush planned by her father. In return, Smith gave her ornaments as a sign or appreciation. However, a few years later she was kidnapped by the same English people where they used her as a bargain to allow the king release colonial captives(Townsend 18).The ruler did not give in to the English demands hence Pocahontas stayed with the colonists for a long period. These actions reveal to us that Pocahontas was a brave daughter who was willing to go against the will of her father in return for justice and cohesion to the foreigners. She chose to collaborate with the colonists, an action which no one else from the land had attempted(Townsend 18).The myths have led to believe that the English sellers were good people but on the other hand, they are not since they kidnapped the person who was helping them survive the land.

Importance of the True Story

Readers from any culture need to know the true story of Pocahontas. John Smith was the man who has over the years misled people by narrating the story as a love tale. The story is common among people from dominant cultures but not among the Native Americans. Many people would wonder why the Indian girl as so welcoming to the colonists that she decided to leave all she had back and joined them(Townsend 116).People would wonder why the Indian girl admired a white man as well as Christianity which as a different religion from what she believed. Most people would be happy to live believing in the mythical part of the Pocahontas narration and avoid hearing the truth. The whole notion of keeping this myth alive makes people in white American beliefs feel good about their culture and believe that their fathers were never hurting the Indians (Townsend 117).Readers need to know the truth since Pocahontas did not collaborate with the colonists to help them conquer her land. People should acknowledge that the locals would not have defeated the Europeans if a war to start. The colonists had better technology, weapons, book printing facilities, shipping mediums as well as compass making hence they would have conquered Pocahontas’ people. The reality is that Pocahontas used courage and cleverness strategies to deal with the colonists. Hence, the most significant lesson is that she was brave and stronger than the fictional Pocahontas.

The US History on Women

It would be of great significance to understand the history of the United States women. The notes indicate that power was never passed to women, but it would only be given to them if they were no male heirs. Hence, according to this history, women were discriminated against, and they would be seen as people who were unable to rule(Townsend 15). Currently, in the United States of America, there are many women in leadership and other top corporate where they have a majority voice. The history helps us know that the rights of women have been fought for and it took so many years to achieve it. Pocahontas is viewed as a courageous and strong princess who collaborates with the English with a motive to save her people and land(Townsend 18).She is clever and uses strategic plans to unite her people and the colonists. The history also indicates that women do not discriminate people of ethnic lines since Pocahontas was an Indian woman who was married to John, who was a Christian.

Works Cited

Townsend, Camilla. Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma: the American portraits series. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013.

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