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Daughter of Powhatan, who was chief of the "Powhatan Confederacy," an Algonquian Tribe. She was born around 1595 or 1596 in Werowocomoco which is now the Tidewater region of Virginia. Her real name was Mataoka. Pocahontas was a nickname meaning "playful" or "frolicsome" or "naughty one" or "little girl who likes to run around a lot and do cartwheels and such and who generally has a lot of fun in a rather extrovertive manner," that type of thing.

Not too much factual information is known about her life. What is known about her is quite muddled because of historical falsity, glossing over, colorful storytelling and perpetuation of myth. Captain John Smith, whose accounts regarding Pocahontas have largely been taken as the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth by the American public, was considered by people who actually knew him to be an egotistical and self-promoting stretcher of facts (read: big fat lying a-hole). Also, Disney did an A-1 job of completely mangling any reliable and accurate historical information that they could have included in their popular feature length cartoon called 'Pocahontas.' Yeah, they certainly fucked history up the ass on that one... So any detailed information known about her life is at best only probability and not quite clearly fact.

With that said, here are some more generally known probabilities/possibilities about the life of Pocahontas:

She was about eleven years old when she first encountered white men (Jamestown settlers) in 1607. Powhatan's tribe & the new settlers fought quite a lot, murdering eachother and whatnot. During more peaceful interludes, Pocahontas would visit Jamestown. She would play with the younger colonists. She was described by the colony's secretary as "wanton" because she'd cavort about completely naked. Pocahontas made friends in the colony and taught its occupants many Algonquin words & customs.

Sometime in 1607 the colonist John Smith was leading an expedition, wandered into an ambush and was captured by warriors from Pocahontas' tribe. According to Smith, Pocahontas saved his life when he was about to be clubbed to death as per chief Powhatan's orders. He wrote in his "Generall Historie of Virginia..." that she threw herself upon him, claiming him as her property and preventing his execution, risking her own life in the process. It should be noted that John Smith never mentioned this incident until 17 years after it supposedly happened and that he failed to record it in any of his writings previous to the period when Pocahontas became popular in England. Maybe it should also be mentioned that John Smith is reported to have claimed that several famous women saved his life at various times and also that his tale of Pocahontas preventing the "beating out of [his] braines" was amazingly similar to another man's story about being saved in such a manner that'd been published years previous to Smith's accounts detailing his encounters with the Powhatans. One more thing worth mentioning; It was a custom for outsiders to be accepted into a tribe through mock death rituals where they were threatened with execution but then saved or "adopted." A rebirth of sorts.
Make of that what you will..

Anyhow, after this whole beating of brains incident, the colonists & Powhatans apparently got along well enough. Pocahontas continued visiting the colony. The two peoples traded & shared with eachother. This more or less friendly relationship continued for a few years but after a time, the colonists and the natives seem to have gotten on eachothers bad sides again. Fighting commenced, hostages were taken, strife & disharmony abound... Pocahontas visited Jamestown less and less. Now when she went there it was more as a messenger between warring groups than as a social caller.

Sometime around 1610 Pocahontas married a boy/man named Kocoum and went to live with him among Potomac indians. Soon after this, she was kidnapped and held hostage by the Jamestown colonists to be used as a bargaining tool with chief Powhatan. Some say she was raped & brainwashed there. I don't know for sure about that. She was, though, dressed in English clothes, converted to Christianity, taught to "act like a lady" baptized and given a new Christian name, Rebecca.

She married a colonist, John Rolfe in 1614. Lived with him some miles north of Jamestown and bore him a son, Thomas in 1615. In the spring of 1616, Pocahontas, her husband & son sailed to England as part of a fundraising campaign for a tobacco outfit called The Virginia Company. Apparently, real live indians made for good PR & publicity. Pocahontas was only one of about a dozen natives who Sir Thomas Dale, who was involved with the tobacco company, shipped over to England in order to garner some attention for his money-making cause.

In England, Pocahontas was very well recieved. She met the King and Queen, did some sightseeing, was introduced to society. She also ran into John Smith again, whom she hadn't seen for years. Reports on her meeting him again range from her denouncing her tribe and calling him "father" to her cursing him and turning her back.

In 1617 Pocahontas and her family again set sail, this time back home to Virginia. But on the way, Pocahontas became ill from either tuberculosis or smallpox or pneumonia (different texts say different things :/). She was taken off of the ship in Gravesend, England and died there at age 22.


I'll probably revise this node as I get more informed. /msg me if you see anything I need to correct. if you do, though, please include some sort of valid historical reference to back it up.
Disney Animated Features
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Release Date: 23 June 1995

Pocahontas was a bit of a departure for Disney, coming after the wildly successful The Lion King. The two films are very different, similar only in that they are both musicals. Pocahontas was loosely based on historical events, focused on human characters (the few animal characters never spoke), and featured a softer, smoother, more muted animation style.

The story is very straightforward. Pocahontas is a young Native American woman, daughter of Chief Powhatan. Settlers from England, including the noble and adventurous John Smith and the greedy Governor Ratcliffe arrive and there is immediate distrust between the natives and the English. When Smith and Pocahontas meet, they fall in love and must bridge the gap between their two cultures.

The film is based, however loosely, on the historical accounts given by Smith himself of his time in the Virginia colony, which are themselves thought to be mostly fabrications. The liberties taken by Disney when adapting these accounts were significant enough to produce quite an outcry from certain segments of the public. While Disney had taken similar liberties with their source materials many times in the past (including Alice in Wonderland and The Jungle Book), this was the first time they'd done it with historical events (even if partially fabricated by John Smith).

The key to watching these Disney Animated Features that have been heavily adapted is to forget that the original source material and focus only on what Disney has presented on the screen and let it speak for itself. This is, in fact, true of many films, not just Disney's, yet it caused an unusual uproar with Pocahontas.

Regardless, on its own, Pocahontas is probably the worst of Disney's animated offerings since The Black Cauldron in 1985. That's not to say it's bad -- not by any means. But it's, frankly, a little boring. It has its moments, helped along by the three small animals around for comic relief, but the story can get confusing and seems a bit plodding at times.

Alan Menken was once again the composer, with the capable Stephen Schwartz (creator of the music for Godspell and Pippin) working on the lyrics. The songs are adequate, and some are good, but none are as inspired as much of Menken's earlier work for Disney. Notably, Mel Gibson, the voice of John Smith, made his singing debut on "Mine, Mine, Mine," performing the part well. As per tradition, the movie's ballad was recorded in a pop arrangement to be played over the end credits; this time, it was Vanessa Williams on "Colors of the Wind." Jon Secada and Shanice also recorded the duet "If I Never Knew You," a song that was cut from the film.

As mentioned, Mel Gibson voiced John Smith, and was easily the biggest name in the cast. Also on hand were David Odgen Stiers, previously Cogsworth (Beauty and the Beast), as Governor Ratcliffe; and Christian Bale and Billy Connolly in small roles as English sailors.

The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King all won Oscars for both Best Music, Original Score and Best Music, Song; Pocahontas kept the tradition alive. The winning song was, predictably, the ballad "Colors of the Wind." That song also won a Grammy and a Golden Globe.

After the success of The Return of Jafar, the direct-to-video sequel to Aladdin, Disney did the same for Pocahontas. Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World told the tale of Pocahontas' journey to England, where she fell in love with a new man -- John Rolfe (who in real life became her husband).

While a fine film by most any standard, Pocahontas had the misfortune of being the next Disney Animated Feature after The Lion King. Next to that outstanding earlier film, Pocahontas pales significantly. Now that audiences were once again used to seeing such high-quality, entertaining features from Disney, this film seemed a step down -- however small. It was certainly the beginning of a decline in revenues from their animated films, but it can hardly be blamed for failing to top the enomorous success of The Lion King. Perhaps Disney had started to become a victim of its own successes...

Information for the Disney Animated Features series of nodes comes from the IMDb (www.imdb.com), Frank's Disney Page (http://www.fpx.de/fp/Disney/), and the dark recesses of my own memory.

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