Which Indian tribe does Pocahontas come from

Pocahontas: 'A stranger in your country'

She stands there as if from another world, the bronze Indian woman in the garden of the Church of St. George in the English town of Gravesend. She wears a feather in her hair and a leather robe. She steps forward gracefully, spreads her arms and shows her empty palms as if to welcome the viewer. The statue shows a young woman who involuntarily came to the village 400 years ago and died just a few days later. Her name was Pocahontas.

How must the 22-year-old Indian woman have felt when she set foot on European soil for the first time in June 1616? The unfamiliar climate, the narrowness of London, the strange people - a culture shock. Curious looks lurk everywhere, people want to get an idea of ​​the "tamed savage". Pocahontas is a sensation - probably against its will. Or is she enjoying the attention? In any case, she is not allowed to hide. She was brought to England as an advertising icon and now has to play her role. Ironically, it is supposed to motivate people to invest money in the colonization - and thus the destruction - of their homeland. She is passed around from reception to banquet to theater performance, meets the king and queen, and answers questions from the clergy about her Christian faith, a belief she has only just embraced. And in all of this, the princess is often on her own. Because as the daughter of a great chief, the nobles consider her one of their own - her English husband, on the other hand, has to stay outside.

This article is included in Spectrum - The Week, 13/2017

Did she understand what game was being played with her? Did she even agree to become the representative of a whole people at such a young age? Everything we know about Rebecca Rolfe, as she was last called by the Europeans, comes almost without exception from the pen of the colonists of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement on the American continent. John Smith, William Strachey, George Percy, Samuel Argall, Ralph Hamor - men with tangible self-interests - tell us what happened back then. Neither Pocahontas nor any other person from their people wrote a single line at the time.

Mamanatowick Wahunsenacawh

When the newcomers chose the swampy Chesapeake Bay to found their colony, they ended up in Virginia Algonquin territory. The previously independent tribes had undergone a decisive change shortly before the arrival of the English: The power-conscious Wahunsenacawh had succeeded in merging more than 30 tribes into an extensive empire and rising to their Mamanatowick - the "chief of the chiefs". Powhatan is his much better known name, originally both his title and the name of the entire federation. Powhatan's area of ​​influence extended to the area of ​​the James River, York River and Potamac River. And with it on the Chesapeake Bay.

Similar to his European potentate colleagues, Powhatan used marriage as a political means, albeit with the small difference that he not only wed his descendants, but above all himself. He is said to have had more than 100 wives. The anthropologist Helen C. Rountree speaks of a kind of "rotating tower mentality" because, with the exception of the favorites, the partners left the chief again when they had given birth to an offspring. The children later returned to the father's household to take on a role in the ruling family. Sources speak of about 40 daughters and sons in Powhatan's entourage. Among them was a certain Amonute who was called by confidants Matoaka, but by most of the others simply "the little exuberant": Pocahontas. She was probably born around 1595. Nothing has come down to us about the mother, just as little about the first few years of her life. Only when she is back in Werowocómoco, her father's village, does she step out of the shadows of history. She owes this both to her very lively manner, which made her Mamanatowick's favorite daughter, and to the intercontinental claims to rule of an English king.

First step to the "British Empire"

Because while his predecessor Elizabeth I had failed to establish permanent settlements in North America, the English King Jacob I had put exactly that at the top of his agenda. The new continent should not be left to the other European powers. In order to secure the company financially, he founded two public companies: the Plymouth Company and the Virginia Company of London. The latter sent three ships - the Discovery, the Godspeed and the Susan Constant - to the North American east coast in December 1606. In addition to the seafarers, there were 108 men and boys on board who were supposed to take possession of the new land as settlers. Your mission: to create the basis for a permanent colony and develop lucrative, quickly available sources of income, ideally in the form of precious metals. In addition, the English wanted to check whether there was a route to the Pacific.