Today, some of the most well-known old myths and stories can attribute their world-renowned popularity and acknowledgment to one particular historian who took these old classic tales, some rooted in history, and renovated them through the magic of animation.

That man was Walt Disney, and those tales became the basis of some of his company’s most memorable movies.

Movies made for the general public, including children, and therefore movies that had to sort of hide the darker side of some of these stories. Especially the film about the Native American Genocide.

Pocahontas was a brave departure from the regular Germanic folk and fairy tales that Disney was well known for.

It wasn’t their first break from formula, but one that veered dangerously close to an uncomfortable reality. That being the dark past that American settlers had in dealing with the natives.

It drew from the existence of one such native, a young girl who became known as Pocahontas, and her relationship with one John Smith but kept it clean for audiences.

The real story wouldn’t fit children; it was hardly done for the adults of the time.

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10 /10 Child Of The Chief

The many stories of Pocahontas recall her as the daughter of the Chief of the Pamunkey tribe of modern-day Virginia.

Her father, Chief Powhatan, ruled 30 tribes around what became Jamestown, Virginia, the first official English settlement in North America.

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9 /10 The Hard Winter

One line of stories that have endured is that of the Natives actively helping the settlers they met, which is true.

Unlike the fiction, Chief Powhatan gifted food to the Jamestown settlers for the first two winters, and young Pocahontas may have been requested to help deliver rations as she was only ten years old at the time and would present no possible threat as a show of peace.

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8 /10 Meeting John Smith

In the film and many other dramatizations, Pocahontas saved John Smith from execution after falling into poor favor with the Chief.

This is another misconception, as being a young girl, she not only would have been kept away from such a ceremony, but the Chief liked John Smith and invited him to honor him as a werowance, a fellow Chieftain, and leader of his people.

His life was never an indirect threat.


7 /10 Several Names

Pocahontas means “playful one” or “ill-behaved child,” used to capture her rebellious personality. Her actual given name is slightly disputed.

She had a given name of Amonute, but her birth name was reportedly Matoaka which means “flower between two streams,” indicating her birthplace in Mattaponi history was between the Mattaponi and the York rivers.

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6 /10 Smith's Hard Winter

The first settlement of Jamestown was reasonable, thanks to the provisions sent by the Chief, but things took a more drastic turn the following winter.

The natives did not have enough supplies to donate, and Smith started to make gun-toting demands of them. The honor once bestowed on him was besmirched by Chief Powhatan.

Smith claimed that Pocahontas came to warn him of an assassination plot, but this was refuted many times. She only knew him diplomatically and barely at that.

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5 /10 Coming Of Age

Around the time the English colonists became aggressive was when Pocahontas came of age and transitioned into young adulthood, at just 14.

She officially took the name Pocahontas- after her mother – and courted a warrior named Kocoum, whom she married.

A few years later, the English under Smith decided to make a move on her people for their supplies in the act of desperation.

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4 /10 Rebecca

Pocahontas was kidnapped when she was around 16, covered up as a “trade” for a copper pot.

She gave up her child to the village women and was taken away to the English colony, where she was alleged, abused, and made pregnant in captivity.

Her husband was also killed when he visited the settlers on peaceful terms, and her people did not try to rescue her, fearing her captors would hurt her.

While captured, she was converted, possibly by force, to Christianity and took Rebecca’s name.

3 /10 Visiting England

Pocahontas had a son, Thomas, out of wedlock in the colonies on their last leg.

It’s said they married out of love – a detail where he got swapped for John Smith in the movie – but it was primarily political and business-minded

Seeing an opportunity with the native’s use of tobacco curing, John Rolfe decided to marry her so he could get closer to the tribe and learn their secrets.

Afterward, he took her to England to make his deal with England. She traveled there with her husband, who agreed to bring along her sister as well, as envoys of the natives – and the first ever to set foot across the sea.

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2 /10 The Noble Savage

Pocahontas was uplifted in England as an example of the cultural upbringing that could be visited upon the “savage” native people across the sea.

Her visit was received very well and even seen as an extent of the friendship the settlers managed to curate, even as they were slaughtering her kin across the sea.

The settlers used her as a puppet for political gain to show that their culture had also won out in the new world. She may have even met the King at the time, though that is disputed.

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1 /10 Far From Home

Pocahontas was set to leave with John Rolfe and her sister back to Jamestown, but she grew sick and died before they left port.

It was immediate, as she was in good health up until the last moments before departing. She was nearly 21 years old at her death and was buried by Rolfe in Gravesend, England, at the Saint George’s Church.

A monument was raised in her honor, but her exact remains have never been found. As a “savage” and “foreigner,” it’s likely she was put in a commoner’s unmarked grave with many others instead.

Despite the dark and sudden end, Pocahontas had two children who assured her lineage continued to this day, including the famous singer Wayne Newton.

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