The True Story of Pocahontas: Historical Myths Versus Sad Reality

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States, Virginia on 2017-02-19 01:12Z by Steven

The True Story of Pocahontas: Historical Myths Versus Sad Reality

Indian Country Media Network
2017-02-16

Vincent Schilling


AP Images
A portrait of Pocahontas saving the life of John Smith with Father Wahunsenaca. Oral history from the descendants of Pocahontas dictate such a thing could never have happened.

Pocahontas had a Native Husband and Native Child; Never Married John Smith

Despite what many people believe due to longstanding and inaccurate accounts in history books and movies such as Disney’s Pocahontas, the true story of Pocahontas is not one of a young Native Powhatan woman with a raccoon friend who dove off of mountain-like cliffs off the coasts of Virginia. (Note: there are no cliffs on the coast of Virginia.)

The true story of Pocahontas is a tale of tragedy and heartbreak.

It is time to bust up the misconceptions perpetuated over 400 years regarding the young daughter of Powhatan chief Wahunsenaca. The truth—gathered from years of extensive research of the historical record, books, and oral histories from self-identified descendants of Pocahontas and tribal peoples of Virginia —is not for the faint of heart…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

Pocahontas’ tribe, the Pamunkey of Virginia, finally recognized by U.S.

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Virginia on 2015-08-03 00:47Z by Steven

Pocahontas’ tribe, the Pamunkey of Virginia, finally recognized by U.S.

The Los Angeles Times
2015-08-02

Noah Bierman


Mikayla Deacy, 4, swims with her dog Dakota in the Pamunkey River. As a member of the tribe, Mikayla will be eligible for scholarships and other benefits now that the Pamunkey have received federal recognition. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

The tidal river that surrounds this spit of scrubby land has long functioned like a moat that rises and falls through the day..

A single road connects the reservation’s sycamore, poplars and modest houses with miles of cornfields that separate the tribe from large retail stores and suburban office parks of eastern Virginia.

The Pamunkey have lived on and around these 1,200 acres for centuries, since before their most famous ancestor, Pocahontas, made contact with English colonists in 1607.

“We call this downtown Pamunkey,” said Kim Cook, the 50-year-old granddaughter of Chief Tecumseh Deerfoot Cook.

She smiled. The only noise came from birds chirping among the pines by the old fishing shanties. The only action came when a cousin stopped by to relieve Cook’s 8-year-old son, River Ottigney Cook, of his boredom by taking him on a boat ride…

…Despite that, the tribe long had laws discouraging intermarriage. Marrying anyone who was not white or Indian was forbidden. Women who married whites could not live on the reservation, though men who had white wives could.

It was not until 2012 that tribal leaders fully reversed those laws and allowed women to vote and serve on the tribal council for the first time. (There had been female chiefs into the 18th century.)

The issue threatened the tribe’s federal acknowledgment, drawing opposition from members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Tribal leaders said the laws pertaining to African Americans were a reflection of Virginia’s racist past that included a ban on interracial marriages — context also noted in the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ acknowledgment report — and were in part a defense against losing their status as a state tribe and being stripped of their land amid racial purity laws

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

I am not Pocahontas

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2014-09-09 20:44Z by Steven

I am not Pocahontas

The Weeklings (also in Salon)
2014-09-04

Elissa Washuta

AS A COWLITZ Indian child, white-skinned and New Jersey-born, I grew up fielding the question, “How much Indian are you?” without any sense of its meaning. Once I was old enough to know that my mother was Indian and my father wasn’t, I began responding “Half.” It wasn’t until my teenage years that I would ask my mother for the details of my ethnic breakdown. She pulled an index card out of her desk drawer. I knew that I was Cowlitz, Polish, Irish, and Ukrainian, but the card was full of surprising facts as well. What did it mean to be Welch? French?

The truly shocking information the card carried was my Indian blood quantum. I didn’t know that was the term for the sum of the fractions next to Cowlitz and Cascade. This was the “How much?” people had prodded me about, and it wasn’t the half I’d assumed. “What are you, a quarter?” people would toss out at times. It wasn’t that. The sum of the Cascade and Cowlitz fractions made an awkward hybrid. I decided it would be nobody’s business.

I grew up in the time of Native American proverb posters and mass-produced dream catchers. Disney’s Pocahontas was released in 1995, when I was ten. I had outgrown my Barbies then, but I still added a Pocahontas doll to my retired collection. I knew that she was a fullblood. She communicated with animals and never wore a jacket. She painted with all the colors of the wind. If someone had asked me to explain the difference between my plastic doll and me, I might have said that she was the real Indian and I was the fake one…

…Although my tribe doesn’t require me to demonstrate a minimum degree of ancestry, acquaintances’ innocent questions of “How much?” seem to gesture toward a desire to get at the truth about how far I am from ancestor plucked from Kevin Costner’s friendly and doomed band: a real Indian.

“How much Indian are you?”, however well-intentioned, implies that alive within me is only a tiny piece of the free, noble Indian that passed on long ago, a remnant from which I am far removed. The questions, individually, are borne from a place of curiosity, but the questions have embedded in a time when blood quantum was used to rob indigenous peoples of rights and, ultimately, lead to our being defined out of existence. Pocahontas, in the final scene of the Disney re-creation, sends John Smith back to England and tells him, “No matter what happens, I’ll always be with you. Forever.” What happens: the viewer is spared the discomfort of a mixed-race happy ending. What happens, historically: Pocahontas is captured by the English, marries John Rolfe, has a son, travels to England to serve as the Crown’s symbol of the civilization and Christianization of the “heathens,” and dies there from tuberculosis at the age of twenty-two. The Disney version, in which Pocahontas never fit her feet into heeled shoes and refused to leave the woods (until the afterthought of a straight-to-video sequel), persists…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

we ought to have intermarried with them, which would have incorporated us with them effectually, and made of them staunch friends, and, which is of still more consequence, made many of them good Christians

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2013-11-18 21:42Z by Steven

Now, to answer your first query—whether by our breach of treaties we have not justly exasperated the bordering nations of Indians against us, and drawn upon ourselves the barbarous usage we meet with from them and the French? … I shall only hint at some things which we ought to have done, and which we did not do at our first settlement amongst them, and which we might have learnt long since from the practice of our enemies the French. I am persuaded we were not deficient in the observation of treaties, but as we got the land by concession, and not by conquest, we ought to have intermarried with them, which would have incorporated us with them effectually, and made of them staunch friends, and, which is of still more consequence, made many of them good Christians; but this our wise politicians at home [in England] put an effectual stop to at the beginning of our settlement here, for when they heard that Rolfe married Pocahontas, it was deliberated in Council, whether he had not committed high treason by doing so, that is, marrying an Indian Princess; and had some troubles not intervened which put a stop to the inquiry, the poor man might have been hanged up for doing the most just, the most natural, the most generous and politic action that ever was done this side of the water. This put an effectual stop to all intermarriages afterwards.

But here methinks I can hear you observe, What! Englishmen intermarry with Indians? But I can convince you that they are guilty of much more heinous practices, more unjustifiable in the sight of God and man … for many base wretches amongst us take up with negro women, by which means the country swarms with mulatto bastards, and these mulattoes, if but three generations removed from the black father or mother, may, by the indulgence of the laws of the country, intermarry with the white people, and actually do every day so marry. Now, if instead of this abominable practice which hath polluted the blood of many amongst us, we had taken Indian wives in the first place, it would have made them some compensation for their lands. They are a free people, and the offspring would not be born in a state of slavery. We should become rightful heirs to their lands, and should not have smutted our blood, for the Indian children when born are as white as Spanish or Portuguese, and were it not for the practice of going naked, in the summer and besmearing themselves with bears’ grease, etc., they would continue white; and had we thought fit to make them our wives, they would readily have complied with our fashion of wearing clothes all the year round; and by doing justice to these poor benighted heathen, we should have introduced Christianity amongst them. Your own reflections upon these hints will be a sufficient answer to your first query. I shall only add that General Johnson’s success was owing, under God, to his fidelity to the Indians, and his generous conduct to his Indian wife, by whom he hath several hopeful sons, who are all war-captains, the bulwarks with him of the five nations, and loyal subjects to their mother country.

The Reverend Peter Fontaine of Virginia, in a letter to his brother Moses
March 30, 1757

Robert S. Tilton, Pocahontas: The Evolution of an American Narrative, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). 21-23.

Tags: , , , ,

Pocahontas: The Evolution of an American Narrative

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2013-11-18 21:28Z by Steven

Pocahontas: The Evolution of an American Narrative

Cambridge University Press
November 1994
276 pages
31 b/w illus
229 x 152 x 16 mm
Paperback ISBN: 9780521469593

Robert S. Tilton, Professor of English
University of Connecticut, Torrington

From the time of its first appearance, the story of Pocahontas has provided the terms of a flexible discourse that has been put to multiple, and at times contradictory, uses. Centering around her legendary rescue of John Smith from the brink of execution and her subsequent marriage to a white Jamestown colonist, the Pocahontas convention became a source of national debate over such broad issues as miscegenation, racial conflict, and colonial expansion. At the same time, Pocahontas became the most frequently and variously portrayed female figure in antebellum literature. Robert S. Tilton draws upon the rich tradition of Pocahontas material to examine why her half-historic, half-legendary narrative so engaged the imaginations of Americans from the earliest days of the colonies through the conclusion of the Civil War. Drawing upon a wide variety of primary materials, Tilton reflects on the ways in which the Pocahontas myth was exploded, exploited, and ultimately made to rationalise dangerous preconceptions about the native American tradition.

  • The only study to focus exclusively on the Pocahontas narrative during this period
  • Deals with crucial aspects of Indian/white relations, such as interracial marriages, and the place of the Indian in ‘Manifest Destiny’ ideology
  • Brings together a number of visual images not elsewhere presented together

Table of Contents

  • 1. Miscegenation and the Pocahontas narrative in colonial and federalist America
  • 2. The Pocahontas narrative in post-Revolution America
  • 3. The Pocahontas narrative in the era of the romantic Indian
  • 4. John Gadsby Chapman’s Baptism of Pocahontas
  • 5. The figure of Pocahontas in sectionalist propaganda
  • Index
Tags: , , ,

Blood relations: The cultural work of miscegenation in nineteenth-century American literature

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2011-08-21 02:07Z by Steven

Blood relations: The cultural work of miscegenation in nineteenth-century American literature

University of Pennsylvania
1999, 282 pages
Publication Number: AAT 9937719
ISBN: 9780599389762

Leigh Holladay Edwards, Associate Professor of English
Florida State University

A DISSERTATION in English Presented to the Faculties of the University of Pennsylvania in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

“Blood Relations” analyzes the way nineteenth-century literary texts use racial mixture to explore cultural anxieties about subjectivity and national identity. As many scholars have detailed, nineteenth century Anglo-America overwhelmingly rejected actual, literal interracial sex and reproduction between white and non-white races. Yet I show that on a symbolic level, the dominant white culture actively invoked metaphors of mixing in order to define itself. While it would be more conventional to argue that nineteenth-century culture ignored or suppressed miscegenation because it wanted to believe in racial purity, I illustrate that the culture shaped notions of race not by repressing mixture but rather by obsessively focusing on it. Intermixture emerges as a popular literary trope in the nineteenth century at the same time that amalgamation was becoming more socially and legally taboo. The literary focus on mixing is a way of micro-managing it, encouraging people to think about the interracial in certain ways, not in others. This process of cultural management through endless discussion is similar to nineteenth-century discourses about sexuality; as Foucault has shown us, the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie did not ignore sex, they endlessly talked about it, and their routinized ways of talking about sex worked to narrow and restrict sexual identities. Similarly, American race consciousness requires a discussion of the interracial in order to sustain itself. If Americans had not had interracial sex, their writers would have had to invent it.

I analyze works by writers such as Hawthorne, Melville, Chopin, Twain, and Helen Hunt Jackson, as well as popular Pocahontas narratives and the 1863 miscegenation pamphlet in which the term was coined. These representations titillated readers with America’s “open secret” of mixture, speaking to its paradoxical status as both social taboo and defining factor of self and nation. While distancing themselves from literal mixing, these writers simultaneously deploy symbolic intermixing, using mixture metaphorically to stage notions of the identity and the relationship between ideas of nation, gender, and race. I argue that we should place representations of mixture not at the periphery, but at the center of accounts of nineteenth-century culture.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Amalgamation and the National Imaginary in Hawthorne and Melville
  • Chapter Two: Tricky Business: Racial Mixture as Hoax in Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson
  • Section Introduction: Gendering Interracial Mixture
  • Chapter Three: Women as the Source of Mixture in “Desiree’s Baby
  • Chapter Four: Women and Assimilation in Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona
  • Chapter Five: The United Colors of Pocahontas: America’s Obsession with Race Mixing
  • Bibliography

Purchase the dissertation here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Hidden History of Mestizo America

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United Kingdom, United States on 2011-06-08 16:12Z by Steven

The Hidden History of Mestizo America

The Journal of American History
Volume 82, Number 3 (December, 1995)
pages 941-964
5 illustrations

Gary B. Nash, Professor Emeritus of History
University of California, Los Angeles

This essay was delivered as the presidential address at the national meeting of the Organization of American Historians in Washington, March 31, 1995.

La Nature aime les croisements (Nature loves cross-breedings).
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

On a dank January evening in London in 1617, the audience was distracted from a performance of Ben Johnson’s The Vision of Delight by the persons sitting next to King James I and Queen Anne: a dashing adventurer who had just returned from the outer edge of the fledgling English empire and his new wife, ten years his junior. The king’s guests were John Rolfe and his wife Rebecca—a name newly invented to anglicize the daughter of another king who ruled over a domain as big and populous as a north English county. She was Pocahontas, the daughter of Powhatan. The first recorded interracial marriage in American history had taken place because Rebecca’s father and the English leaders in the colony of Virginia were eager to bring about a detente after a decade of abrasive and sometimes bloody European-Algonkian contact on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.

The Rolfe-Pocahontas marriage might have become the embryo of a mestizo United States. I use the term mestizo in the original sense—referring to racial intermixture of all kinds. In the early seventeenth century, negative ideas about miscegenation had hardly formed; indeed, the word itself did not appear for another two and a half centuries. King James was not worried about interracial marriage. He fretted only about whether a commoner such as Rolfe was entitled to wed the daughter of a king. Nearly a century later, Robert Beverley’s History and Present State of Virginia (1705) described Indian women as “generally beautiful, possessing uncommon delicacy of shape and features,” and he regretted that Rolfe’s intermarriage was not followed by many more.

William Byrd, writing at the same time, was still commending what he called the “modern policy” of racial intermarriage employed in French Canada and Louisiana by which alliances rather than warfare were effected. Byrd confessed his preference for light-skinned women (a woman’s skin color, however, rarely curbed his sexual appetite), but he was sure that English “false delicacy” blocked a “prudent alliance” that might have saved Virginians much tragedy. Most colonies saw no reason to ban intermarriage with Native Americans (North Carolina was the exception).

In 1784, Patrick Henry nearly pushed through the Virginia legislature a law offering bounties for white-Indian marriages and free public education for interracial children. In the third year of his presidency, Thomas Jefferson pleaded “to let our settlements and theirs [Indians] meet and blend together, to intermix, and become one people.” Six years later, just before returning to Monticello, Jefferson promised a group of western Indian chiefs, “you will unite yourselves with us,… and we shall all be Americans; you will mix with us by marriage, your blood will run in our veins, and will spread with us over this great island.”

In 1809, almost two hundred years after Pocahontas sat in the theater with James I, the sixteen-year-old Sam Houston, taking a page from the book of Benjamin Franklin, ran away from his autocratic older brothers. The teenage Franklin fled south from Boston to Philadelphia, but Houston made his way west from Virginia to Hiwassee Island in western Tennessee. There he took up life among the Cherokees and was soon adopted by Ooleteka, who would become the Cherokee chief in 1820. Reappearing in white society in 1818, Houston launched a tumultuous, alcohol-laced, violent, and roller-coaster political career, but he retained his yen for the Cherokee life. After his disastrous first marriage at age thirty-six, he rejoined the Cherokee, became the ambassador of the Cherokee nation to Washington (in which office he wore Indian regalia) in 1829, and married Ooleteka’s niece, the widowed, mixed-blood Cherokee woman Tiana Rogers Gentry.

…This brings us to a consideration of the virulent racial ideology that arose among the dominant Euro-Americans and that profoundly affected people of color. How most Americans came to believe that character and culture are literally carried in the blood, and how the idea of racial mixture was almost banished officially, has its own history. How would it come to happen, as Barbara Fields has expressed it, that a white woman can give birth to a Black child but a Black woman can never give birth to a white child? How would it come to be that the children of Indian-white marriages would contemptuously be referred to by whites as half- breeds?

The sequence of legal definitions of Blacks in Virginia demonstrates this progression. In 1785, the revolutionary generation defined a Black person as anyone with a Black parent or grandparent, thus conferring whiteness on whomever was less than one-quarter Black. Virginia changed the law 125 years later to define as “Negro,” as the term then was used, anyone who was at least one-sixteenth Black. In 1930, Virginia adopted the notorious “one-drop” law—defining as Black anyone with one drop of African blood, however that might have been determined…

There is nothing new about crossing racial boundaries; what is new is the frequency of border crossings and boundary hoppings and the refusal to bow to the thorn-filled American concept, perhaps unknown outside the United States, that each person has a race but only one. Racial blending is undermining the master idea that race is an irreducible marker among diverse peoples—an idea in any case that always has been socially constructed and has no scientific validity. (In this century, revivals of purportedly scientifically provable racial categories have surfaced every generation or so. Ideas die hard, especially when they are socially and politically useful.) Twenty-five years ago, it would have been unthinkable for Time-Life to publish a computer-created chart of racial synthesizing; seventy-five years ago, an issue on “The New Face of America” might have put Time out of business for promoting racial impurity…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Pocahontas Exception: The Exemption of American Indian Ancestry from Racial Purity Law

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2010-11-02 21:05Z by Steven

The Pocahontas Exception: The Exemption of American Indian Ancestry from Racial Purity Law

bepress Legal Series
Working Paper 1572
2006-08-18
47 pages

Kevin N. Maillard, Associate Professor of Law
Syracuse University

“The Pocahontas Exception” confronts the legal existence and cultural fascination with the eponymous “Indian Grandmother.” Laws existed in many states that prohibited marriage between whites and nonwhites to prevent the “quagmire of mongrelization.” Yet, this racial protectionism, as ingrained in law, blatantly exempted Indian blood from the threat to white racial purity. In Virginia, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 made exceptions for whites of mixed descent who proudly claimed Native American ancestry from Pocahontas. This paper questions the juridical exceptions made for Native American ancestry in antimiscegenation statues, and analyzes the concomitant exemptions in contemporary social practice. With increasing numbers of Americans freely and lately claiming Native ancestry, this openness escapes the triumvirate of resistance, shame, and secrecy that regularly accompanies findings of partial African ancestry. I contend that antimiscegenation laws such as the Racial Integrity Act relegate Indians to existence only in a distant past, creating a temporal disjuncture to free Indians from a contemporary discourse of racial politics. I argue that such exemptions assess Indians as abstractions rather than practicalities, which facilitates the miscegenistic exceptionalism as demonstrated in Virginia’s antimiscegenation statute.

Table of Contents

  • I. INTRODUCTION
  • II. ADVOCATING INDIAN-WHITE INTERMIXTURE
    • A. Support from the Founding Fathers
    • B. Assimilation Schemes and the Dawes Allotment Act
  • III. EUGENICS AND THE RACIAL INTEGRITY ACT OF 1924
    • A. The Growth of the Eugenics Movement
    • B. Fear Ingrained in Law: The Racial Integrity Act
    • C. Accommodating the Elite: Redefining the Parameters of Whiteness
  • IV. THE LEGEND OF POCAHONTAS
  • V. THE VANISHING INDIAN
    • A. The Indian Grandmother Complex: A Different Kind of Birth for the Nation
    • B. To the Margins of Society: The Non-Threat of Indian Blood
    • VI. CONCLUSION

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,