What Is Pocahontas Famous For?

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Pocahontas, a young Algonquin woman, is famous for saving the life of Captain John Smith in 1607 when he was captured by her father and condemned to death. Afterwards, she helped the settlers of Jamestown, Va., by bringing them gifts of food to stave off starvation. Later, she married Englishman John Rolfe and visited England. It was the first recorded instance of an interracial marriage between a settler and Indian.

Pocahontas was the daughter of Powhatan, the chief of a confederacy of Algonquin tribes in Virginia. According to an account by John Smith written to Queen Anne, Pocahontas placed her own head on top of his to save him from being clubbed. Afterwards, she became friends with Smith, visited the colony often, and not only brought food, but warned the colonists of an ambush. However, when John Smith became ill and left for England, Pocahontas stopped visiting Jamestown.

Several years later, the British lured her onto a ship and captured her, holding her for ransom. When the ransom demands were not met, she remained in captivity. While in a settlement called Henricus, she was converted to Christianity and took the baptism name of Rebecca. Before marrying Pocahontas, John Rolfe asked permission of Powhatan, her father, and the British governor. The marriage was approved because both sides hoped it would improve relations between the colonists and Native Americans. In 1616, Rolfe took Pocahontas to England, where she met Queen Anne and King James I. While she was preparing to leave England to return to America, Pocahontas became ill and died at the approximate age of 22.