Pocahontas

Pocahontas

Pocahontas' role in the early stages of white settlement is highly ambiguous. To the white settlers it seemed as if she supported them secretly by, for instance, stealing away from her tribe with baskets full of food, but later critics are convinced that she never undermined her father's authority but instead always obediently acted according to his will. This means that Powhatan pursued a double policy in order to keep the new settlers in check: he ensured their survival but at the same time carefully avoided appearing too supportive. The reason for such double facing remains unclear. Pocahontas, however, most surely served as an instrument for both parties: For her father she worked as a mediator, perhaps even as a spy. On the other hand, the white leaders, especially Sir Thomas Dale and Sir Thomas Gates, (ab)used her to enforce their concept of colonization. Theweleit suggests that her abduction in 1613 not only enabled them to blackmail Powhatan, but in fact they initiated a long-term project - the colonization through Christianization. With the help of Pocahontas as a model they wanted to pursuade the English public and the Virginia Company of their vision. Theweleit finds his theory confirmed by the fact that Pocahontas' stay in Jamestown was unnaturally and unnecessarily extended by their exaggerated demands. Secondly, they did not lose any time to start her religious instruction in order to be able to marry her to an Englishman. Intermarriage leading to a mixed population was the second cornerstone of their model of colonization. This model, though supported by important clergymen represented in the Virginia Company, was strongly opposed by those who only sought profit in the colonies.

The Wedding

The most promising groom was John Rolfe, who, having survived the Bermuda Shipwreck, brought with him some tobacco plants from the Bermudas to Jamestown and thereby laid the first major foundations of America's economy. Pocahontas spent much of her time with Rolfe and fell in love with him - her 'kidnapper'. This is why Theweleit refers to their relationship as one of the first examples of the Stockholm Syndrom. It has to be added that Pocahontas, though captive, enjoyed a fair amount of freedom and that she, in turn, taught Rolfe all he needed to know about growing tobacco. The prospect of marrying Pocahontas posed a moral dilemma for Rolfe because he felt he had to clarify his motivation. In a letter to Dale he asked for permission to marry the girl and stressed that he was not driven by carnal desire but by a genuine thrive to Christianize the red wild and to spread the Word of God. This letter is often viewed as a curiosity, but for Theweleit it clearly corresponds with Dale and Gate's concept of colonization.

Pocahontas and John Rolfe could have become the first couple of a newly emerging mixed population. Shortly before her wedding in 1614 she was baptized and given the Christian name Rebecca, not without motives, as Theweleit argues: In the Bible Rebecca is slightly colored and gives birth to twins, to two nations. In an attempt to unite the two peoples further and to secure his position Dale himself later wanted to marry another daughter of Powhatan, who did not give his consent. With Pocahontas' death in London in 1617, after she had campaigned for tobacco and exhibited herself as an integrated, educated exotic Princess, the vision of a mixed population vanished. Theweleit suggests that Pocahontas was possibly poisoned by opponents of this model. Even peaceful coexistence of the two peoples became impossible as a consequence of the massacre of 1622.


Introduction Chronological list of events A Map of Virginia
Captain John Smith Histo/myth-tory
Tobacco and the history of the USA The Tempest-The Shakespeare Connection Bibliography