The True Story of Pocahontas | Teen Ink

The True Story of Pocahontas

August 30, 2023
By jennychip PLATINUM, Buffalo Grove, Illinois
jennychip PLATINUM, Buffalo Grove, Illinois
25 articles 13 photos 0 comments

Americans have long needed to reconcile with the devastation towards Native American populations and subsequent genocide. European settlers killed populations of natives to gain land, food, and resources that were oftentimes introduced by generous natives. Cultivation and navigation of the foreign land was shown to settlers by natives who entrusted Europeans. Since America’s founding, Christopher Columbus was celebrated by citizens as a “hero,” yet only in recent years has the recognition and teaching of Native Americans and the horrors done by European settlers brought to widespread attention. Therefore, William Sir’s ideology would be best for modern America if it also emphasizes how Pocahontas was taken advantage of. Sir’s dominating perspective would allow for a less eurocentric retelling of Pocahontas and a greater emphasis on Native Americans. 

William Sir’s perspective best serves America as long as the recognition of Europeans’ exploitation is accompanied by stressing how Pocahontas was taken advantage of. Oftentimes, American history holds a glorifying eurocentric perspective that pulls attention away from Pocahontas and Native Americans. Daniel Ritcher, author of “Facing East from Indian Country,” describes the story that is taught to North Americans about Pocahontas, who was a “beautiful Indian Princess [who] welcomed Europeans to Jamestown…and fell in love with dashing young Captain John Smith” (Ritcher). However, in reality, “Pocahontas was a prepubescent girl of about twelve, Smith was a squat bearded man in his late twenties” (Ritcher). This juxtaposition demonstrates the contrast between the history taught in America and reality, with the depiction of Pocahontas’ marriage highlighted as a romantic ceremony rather than an older man in power taking advantage of a young native girl. American’s eurocentrism in their teaching of native history also pushes this narrative, painting a lighthearted romance rather than showcasing how young Pocahontas was. William Sir’s perspective on recognizing much of the taught history about Pocahontas is eurocentric is important to reconcile with. Similarly, Charles Larson’s “American Indian Fiction,” reflected this, stating that “Pocahontas was a kind of traitor to her people…The crucial point, it seems to me, is to remember Pocahontas was a hostage” (Larson). This is also a juxtaposition that highlights the common belief of “traitorous” Pocahontas yet also emphasizes the need to remember the power dynamic within the relationship between Smith and Pocahontas. Recognizing eurocentrism in Pocahontas’ story would best teach modern Americans about the true story of Pocahontas. However, William Sir’s perspective would be best so long as it also discusses what Native Americans lost, how they were betrayed by white settlers, and how Pocahontas was taken advantage of. 

In addition to discussing the loss of natives, William Sir’s perspective would provide greater recognition of Native Americans’ stories and highlighting falsehoods in the glorified depiction of Europeans in Pocahontas’ story. In Hakan Ben’s perspective, Ben believes that a retelling of Pocahontas would highlight falsehoods in Pocahontas’ retelling by showing how Pocahontas “creates an image of a subservient and self interested woman” (Ben Brochure). Additionally, Ben’s perspective also highlights the need to expose the “Real Truth,” showing how Pocahontas was devious and betrayed Native Americans (Ben Presentation). On the other hand, many believe that Pocahontas decided to assimilate into western culture in order to save her people. In Vachel Linday’s poem “Our Mother Pocahontas,” she states that “The newest race/Is born of her resilient grace” (Linday). This contrasts to Ben’s perspective, instead stressing that Pocahontas was not ruthless but rather was forced to marry to save her people from further harm. Ben’s theme, and many other historian’s themes, would not only depict Pocahontas in a negative light, but it would focus on Pocahontas’ alleged deception instead of how Native Americans were hurt by Europeans. In the William Sir Presentation in Exhibit A, there are numerous paintings, one depicting the glorified view of Natives traversing the Atlantic, while there are two paintings drawn to show the reality of the devastation on natives imposed by European settlers (Sir Presentation). William Sir’s perspective not only highlights the consequences of European settlement, but it also helps take away from European glorification. 

The story of Pocahontas is largely unknown, but recognizing that much of the history of Pocahontas that is “common knowledge” today is largely eurocentric, alongside the vast majority of American history, would allow for a greater retelling of Pocahontas. William Sir’s theme would be the best depiction for modern history as long as the recognition of eurocentrism is also accompanied by how Pocahontas was taken advantage of. His perspective allows for greater understanding of Native American culture and their lives during European colonization compared to other perspectives that highlight greater negatives among the natives instead of recognizing the faults of European settlers. 

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