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American History
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The Story of Pocahontas

In 1607, under Captain John Smith, the English established their first permanent settlement in Jamestown, Virginia. Pocahontas (whose name means "playful one") was the twelve year old princess daughter of Algonkin Indian Chief Powhatan. She soon met the colonists, and became friends with the English children.

The settlers were not prepared for the harsh conditions they encountered at the Virginia colony, and were soon running short of supplies. In 1608, while foraging for food, Captain John Smith and some of his men were captured by Indians. All of Captain Smith's men were killed, and he was taken to Chief Powhatan who sentenced him to be executed too. Forcing Captain Smith's head down upon a rock, the Indians raised their clubs to crush his head. Pocahontas, moved with compassion, rushed to Captain Smith, covered his head with her own, and pleaded that his life be spared. Chief Powhatan granted his daughter's request, and sent Captain Smith back to his people. But in 1609, Captain Smith was injured by a gunpowder explosion, and had to return to England for medical treatment.

The fighting continued between the Indians and the colonists, and in 1610, Pocahontas, now fifteen years old, was responsible for saving the Jamestown colony by warning them of an attack by Chief Powhatan.

In 1613, a rival chief of Powhatan captured Pocahontas, and sold her to the English settlers. The settlers kept her at Jamestown, and hoped to trade her for their captured relatives and stolen goods. But, she eventually gained her freedom, and instead of returning to her own people, she remained in Jamestown. While living in Jamestown, she met an official of the colony named John Rolfe. He taught her about Christianity, and at age eighteen, Pocahontas was baptized and became the first Christian convert in Virginia. After becoming a Christian, she changed her name to Rebecca.

When she was nineteen years old, Rebecca (Pocahontas) and John Rolfe were married. Their marriage in 1614 finally secured the peace between the settlers and the Indians.

In 1616, John Rolfe, Rebecca, now twenty-one years old, and their infant son Thomas traveled to England. As an Indian princess, Lady Rebecca was enthusiastically received by King James and Queen Anne. She was presented to the Royal Court wearing an English court dress, and was treated as the princess of an allied nation.

Then, in 1617, while preparing to return to America, she became ill and died at the age of twenty-two. John Rolfe returned to Jamestown alone, but he too lost his life in the Indian uprising of 1622.

John Randolph, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, is believed to be a descendant of Thomas, the son Pocahontas and John Rolfe.

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