East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

In case anyone out there still cares about history

From Charles C. Mann 's excellent new book 1491:

"[Her name] was actually Mataoka -- Pocahontas, a teasing nickname, meant something like "little hellion." Mataoka was a priestess-in-training... in the central town of the Powhatan alliance, a powerful confedercy in tidewater Virginia. Aged about twelve, she may have protected Smith, but not, as he wrote, by interceding when he was a captive and about to be executed in 1607. In fact, the "execution" was probably a ritual staged by Wahunsenacawh, head of the Powhatan alliance, to establish his authority over Smith by making him a member of the group; if Mataoka interceded, she was simply playing her assigned role in the ritual. The incident in which she may have saved Smith's life occurred a year later, when she warned the English that Wahunsenacawh, who had tired of them, was about to attack... [Smith] did leave Virginia in 1609 for medical treatment, but only because he somehow blew up a bag of gunpowder while wearing it around his neck."


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