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Pocahontas, later known as Rebecca Rolfe, was a Native American who assisted English colonists during their first years in Virginia.
Pocahontas - Mini Biography (2:14)
Pocahontas was a Native American Princess, ambassador, and peacemaker to the first American settlers. She eventually was taken hostage by the British. She married John Rolfe and was renamed Rebecca.
Pocahontas, daughter of Chief Powhatan, married English colonist John Rolfe. At the time of their marriage, it was considered outrageously scandalous.
When Pocahontas arrived in England with her husband and infant son, John Smith called her The Lady Rebecca and arranged for her to visit with Queen Anne.
Pocahontas' people, the Powhatan tribe, were led by her father, Wahunsunacock. In the 1590's the Powhatan people were in an advanced level of their civilization.
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Pocahontas was a Powhatan Native American woman, born around 1595, known for her involvement with English colonial settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. In a well-known historical anecdote, she saved the life of Englishman John Smith, by placing her head upon his own at the moment of his execution. Pocahontas later married a colonist, changed her name to Rebecca Rolfe and died while visiting England in 1617.
"Were you not afraid to come into my father's country, and caused fear in him and all of his people and fear you here I should call you father: I tell you I will, and you shall call me child, and so I will be for ever and ever your countryman."
[Pocahontas to John Smith]
"Your countrymen will lie much."
[Pocahontas to John Smith]
"All must die. 'Tis enough that the child liveth."
[Pocahontas at her death]
"In the utmost of many extremities that blessed Pocahontas, the great king's daughter of Virginia oft saved my life."
"Pocahontas, the king's dearest daughter, got [my] head into her arms, and laid her own upon [mine] to save [me] from death."
"[Pocahontas was] the instrument to preserve this colony [Jamestown] from death, famine and utter confusion."
"A messenger forthwith was sent to her father, that his daughter Pocahontas he loved so dearly, he must ransom with our men, swords, pieces, tools, etc., he treacherously had stolen."
"Master John Rolfe, an honest gentleman, and of good behavior, had been in love with Pocahontas, and she with him."
"Pocahontas, the king's most dear and well-beloved daughter...gave me much cause to respect her."
"Pocahontas with her attendants brought ... so much provision, that saved many of their lives [in Jamestown], that else for all this had starved with hunger."
Pocahontas was the daughter of Powhatan, the leader of an alliance of about 30 Algonquian-speaking groups and petty chiefdoms in Tidewater Virginia known as Tsenacommacah. Her mother’s identity is unknown.
Historians have estimated Pocahontas’ birth year as around 1595, based on the 1608 account of Captain John Smith in A True Relation of Virginia and Smith’s subsequent letters. Even Smith is inconsistent on the question of her age, however. Although English narratives would remember Pocahontas as a princess, her childhood was probably fairly typical for a girl in Tsenacommacah.
Pocahontas was a favorite of her father's -- his "delight and darling,” according to the colonist Captain Ralph Hamor -- but she was not a princess in the sense of inheriting a political station. Like most young females, she learned how to forage for food and firewood, farm and building thatched houses. As one of Powhatan’s many daughters, she would have contributed to the preparation of feasts and other celebrations.
Like many Algonquian-speaking Virginia Indians of the period, Pocahontas probably had several names, to be used in various contexts. Early in her life she was called Matoaka, but was later known as Amonute. The name Pocahontas was used in childhood, probably in a casual or family context.
Pocahontas was primarily linked to the English colonists through Captain John Smith, who arrived in Virginia with more than 100 other settlers in April 1607. The Englishmen had numerous encounters over the next several months with the Tsenacommacah Indians. While exploring on the Chickahominy River in December of that year, Smith was captured by a hunting party led by Powhatan's close relative Opechancanough, and brought to Powhatan's home at Werowocomoco.
The details of this episode are inconsistent within Smith’s writings. In his 1608 account, Smith described a large feast followed by a talk with Powhatan. In this account, he does not meet Pocahontas for the first time until a few months later. In 1616, however, Smith revised his story in a letter to Queen Anne, who was anticipating the arrival of Pocahontas with her husband, John Rolfe.
Smith’s 1616 account describes the dramatic act of selflessness which would become legendary: "... at the minute of my execution", he wrote, "she [Pocahontas] hazarded the beating out of her own brains to save mine; and not only that, but so prevailed with her father, that I was safely conducted to Jamestown." Smith further embellished this story in his Generall Historie, written years later.
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