Born in about 1596, Pocahontas was the favorite daughter of Powhatan, a powerful Indian leader who ruled about 30 tribes in what is now Virginia.
When the English built Jamestown on her father’s lands, she was probably about 11 years old. Like many of the Powhatan Indians, she took an interest in the English and their unfamiliar ways. At her father’s request, Pocahontas also delivered gifts of food to the colonists.
Despite the hospitality of the Powhatan people, the friendly relationship between the Indians and the English quickly broke down. In 1610 Pocahontas stopped visiting their settlement.
Three years later, she was kidnapped by the English, who used her as a tool in their negotiations with Powhatan. While living in Jamestown, Pocahontas married John Rolfe, a wealthy colonist and took the Christian name Rebecca. In 1616, Jamestown leaders sent her to England, where they introduced her to powerful people, including the king, while they tried to raise money for the colony. On her trip home, Pocahontas became sick and died at the age of about 21.
Did Pocahontas want to live among the English, as they claimed, or was she being held captive against her will? No one knows for certain.
An engraving of Pocahontas was based on her appearance when she was in England, where she was known as Rebecca. It is the only likeness of her based on her real appearance, not the artist’s imagination.