Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Pocahontas from Collins English Dictionary


1 original name Matoaka; married name Rebecca Rolfe. ?1595–1617, Native American, who allegedly saved the colonist Captain John Smith from being killed

Summary Article: Pocahontas
from Rourke's Native American History & Culture Encyclopedia

Pocahontas (1595-1617) (also known as Matoaka, her real name) was known as the Indian princess who bridged peace between Native Americans and early European settlers.

Her father, Powhatan, was the powerful chief of the Algonquian tribes in the Virginia region. When Pocahontas was 11 years old, she befriended the Jamestown colonists and brought them food. One of the colonists, Captain John Smith, claimed that Pocahontas saved his life by throwing herself over him just before he was to be killed on her father's orders.

In 1613, Captain Samuel Argall kidnapped Pocahontas to force her father to release the English colonists he held as prisoners. While being held hostage among the colonists, Pocahontas converted to Christianity and married John Rolfe, a colonist. This marriage led to several years of peace between Jamestown colonists and Powhatan's tribes.

In 1616, Pocahontas, her husband, and son traveled to England to raise money for the struggling Virginia colony. Just before returning home, she died of smallpox. Even in death, she symbolized to Europeans the possibility of peaceful relations with Native Americans.





Saves John Smith's life

Colonists take her hostage for the return of English colonists held prisoner by Chief Powhatan

Marries John Rolfe

A statue of Pocahontas is erected in Jamestown, Virginia

Copyright ©2009 Rourke Publishing, LLC

Related Articles

Full text Article Pocahontas
Philip's Encyclopedia

1595-1617 Native American princess and early colonial heroine. According to legend, she saved the life of John Smith , leader of the ...

Full text Article Pocahontas (c. 1596 - c. 1617)
The Penguin Biographical Dictionary of Women

She next under God, was still the instrument to preserve this colony from death, famine and utter confusion. —Captain...

Full text Article Pocahontas Helps the English Settlers (1607)
Term Paper Resource Guides: Term Paper Resource Guide to American Indian History

Pocahontas sparks the imagination of historians and the ordinary person with equal passion and unending curiosity, due to her interaction with...

See more from Credo