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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art


b. 1595, Tenakomakah (now Virginia); d. 1617, Gravesend, England

Matoaka, whose nickname Pocahontas means “the playful one” in Algonquian, was the daughter of Powhatan, chief of the Algonquian Indians in the Tidewater region of Virginia. The English arrived in 1607 and established the Jamestown colony. In 1613, they kidnapped Pocahontas as a tactic to obtain the release of English prisoners held by the Powhatan tribe. John Rolfe fell in love with Pocahontas during her captivity in Jamestown and they married in 1614. Their union, the first between a Native American woman and an Englishman, has been credited with securing peaceful relations between the English and the Powhatan. The couple traveled to England in 1616 to encourage further colonization of Virginia. Pocahontas became ill in 1617 and died in Gravesend.