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Wasserman writes: "Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) would do well to embrace our early American hero Pocahontas. She might even thank Donald Trump for making the link."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren. (photo: Getty)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren. (photo: Getty)

Pocahontas Is a Great Hero Elizabeth Warren Should Embrace

By Harvey Wasserman, Reader Supported News

22 February 17


enator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) would do well to embrace our early American hero Pocahontas. She might even thank Donald Trump for making the link.

With his signature sneering, leering sexism and racism, Trump refers to the Massachusetts senator with the name of this real-life historic figure as if it were a put-down.

But Pocahontas is a true American icon. Unlike Trump, she was greatly loved by her people, and her character was impeccable. She was deeply admired in England, where she travelled with her husband and young son and then tragically passed away, having barely turned twenty.

Throughout her career, Senator Warren has referred to her lineage as including traces of both Cherokee and Delaware tribal heritage. It seems to be family lore for which she has no firm documentation. There’s no indication Senator Warren has benefitted from the possibility she may be part indigenous. Given her legendary serious demeanor, it’s extremely unlikely she made it up. But with characteristic ugliness, the Republicans have turned it into a slur.

In fact, Pocahontas was born with the name Matoaka, probably around 1596. She was the much-loved daughter of the powerful chieftain Powhatan, whose tribe occupied the tidewater region of present-day Virginia.

In 1607, as the first white settlers arrived at Jamestown, Pocahontas may have saved the life of the English adventurer John Smith. Allegedly Pocahontas’s father meant to put him to death. Legend has it Pocahontas saved Smith by stopping the execution. It’s also rumored she may have saved another white man as well.

The stories are shrouded in mystery, and there’s much about them that makes little sense. Smith was a polarizing character. It would have been very much in character for him to have alienated the Virginia chieftain, but the two men needed each other. Smith included the story of Pocahontas’s alleged intervention in memoirs that were relentlessly self-serving and doubted by some historians.

Whatever the case, the story has stuck throughout history and is revered as one of the first instances of a positive human connection between the indigenous Americans and invading Europeans.

There is no indication from Smith or any other contemporary that he and Pocahontas might have been lovers. She would have been about eleven years old when she allegedly saved him. He was probably pushing forty. The anatomically impossible characters in the Disney film are very far from credible.

In 1613, the teenaged Pocahontas was kidnapped by English settlers. While in captivity she converted to Christianity, then married a tobacco farmer named John Rolfe. The circumstances were complex, though most accounts indicate the two were in love. Their marriage prompted a “Peace of Pocahontas” between the colonists and the local tribes that lasted until her father died about a year after she did.

In 1615 Pocahontas and John Rolfe had a son they named Thomas. The following year Rolfe took the family to London, where they met the king and were welcomed at various social gatherings. She also met Smith again in what he described as a complex and not entirely loving encounter.

In March, 1617, the Rolfe family embarked for Virginia. Pocahontas took sick and died at Gravesend, on the Thames. Some of the natives on board the ship believed she was poisoned. There have been attempts to bring her body home, but the exact location of her gravesite at Gravesend has allegedly been lost.

Young Thomas returned to America. His descendants include First Lady Edith Wilson (married to Woodrow, also born in Virginia), the astronomer Percival Lowell and the actor Glenn Strange. It’s widely asserted that Nancy Reagan was also descended from Pocahontas, although the evidence is sketchy.

Pocahontas is the first indigenous female to be honored on a US postage stamp. She was revered on both sides of the Atlantic as a gentle, courageous woman of good character whose marriage helped inaugurate a rare time of peace between whites and natives. The armload of articles, books, and movies about her always exude the welcome image of a great heart.

Next time Donald Trump refers to Senator Warren as “Pocahontas,” she’d do well to proudly embrace the name and honor the real-life woman who made it famous. Perhaps she could propose a special commemoration to the Senate — if they let her speak.

Harvey Wasserman’s History of the United States helped pioneer a generation of “people’s histories” when it was introduced (in 1972) by the great Howard Zinn. He has taught history, journalism and diversity at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and at two colleges in central Ohio.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+26 # thekidde 2017-02-22 18:42
Donald Drumpf would do well to stfu.
+25 # reiverpacific 2017-02-22 18:55
Only an unschooled AND wanton ignoramus would use this noble heritage as a put-down.
I wonder if he is actually aware that his own mother was an UNDOCUMENTED illegal Scottish immigrant to the USA?
I'm Scottish by birth wayyyyy back, very proud of it and won't let this vainglorious Orange Outan make me otherwise.
Scotland is so much, much more than a few high-profile golf courses (I'm an avid golfer BTW).
+19 # jwb110 2017-02-22 20:43
If Warren's family goes back to 1596 it will be hard to deport her though Trump and McConnell will certainly try.
+23 # MendoChuck 2017-02-22 20:59
Great history of “Pocahontas,” . . . I was never aware of all of this information.
Thank You Harvey Wasserman.
+3 # GreenBee 2017-02-23 07:00
Terrence Malick made a great film about the legend of Pochahontas entitled "The New World." It's one of my all time favorite romantic/histor ical films.
+8 # kalpal 2017-02-23 06:04
Pointing out that Trump is an evil, incompetent duffus is impermissible as far as America's RW ignorati are concerned.
+1 # PaulK 2017-02-23 11:08
Is it brave if, for the good of your country, you're asked by the chief to marry a foreign nobleman, and you do? I'd say yes. It's quite a personal imposition, learning the other language and learning how to be "a lady" in strange-looking clothing. Then there's the risk of a short life span, either through strange diseases or poisoning.

European kings have been marrying off their daughters to nearby foreign kings for many centuries. It usually keeps the peace, although there's been an inbreeding problem for the past few centuries.
+8 # newell 2017-02-23 11:28
Growing up in the 1950s here in Oklahoma with Liz and others, we were all told that we had Indian blood in us. Many of us did and do--most are undocumented. Oklahoma has more Native Americans than any other state and the races mix more here because we don't have reservations like other states.
+6 # blackwand 2017-02-23 15:56
The tribe was called Powhatan, the father: Wahunseneka, means "One Arm." 20 wives, 44 kids; Makoah not a favorite, not kidnapped - sold or bartered to stop slaughter by Admiral Del A Ware - Pocohantas (crct sp.)best translates as "Pricktease." Brits called her "little wanton one." Rolfe major tobacco dealer, snuff box in Tower London Museum her pic on it suggests she was used for marketing. She was celebrity in court but worth noting in histories NOT ONE QUOTABLE WORD is attributed to her. Also, no reliable son Thomas source. John Smith's, a fugitive from gambling debts, accounts all self serving to make him heroic. Powhatan nmbrd 10K in 1600, 500 in 1660. Bacon's Rebellion 1676 wiped out the rest. They were one of sevral Algnqn-spkng people around Chspk Bay, all who were later called "Delaware Indians". E. Warren not likely descendant of Powhatan. Delaware in Okla. prob mostly from Lenni-Lenape (northern group of whom "sold" Manhattan to Dutch) I'm a big fan so suggest E. Warren dig deeper before buying Wasserman's hopeful but truncated history. (PS -"pricktease ref: based on "poco"="tree", "pocohaase" = "penis." in Powhatan dialect). And since I have 250 symbols left - CARRY ON RSN! I live on SSI and Pension but still manage $15 a month. I rely on accuracy of RSN's articles which is why I wanted to straighten out this one.
0 # Henry 2017-02-26 08:50
Quoting blackwand:
Pocohantas (crct sp.)

Strangely, not one reference anywhere on the internet to "Pocohantas," as you spell it.
+1 # Citizen Mike 2017-02-24 11:06
I got my DNA analyzed for fifty bucks through National Geographic and urge Warren to do the same and see if she does in fact have Native American genes. And with proof in hand announce solidarity with the Dakota Pipeline protest.
-4 # CDMR 2017-02-24 18:08
I wouldn't put much stock in Eliz. Warren. She's been recruited by George Soros to be a leader in the democratic party, along with Kieth Ellison. This is what is wrong with the Demo party. All of its leaders have been co-opted by Soros. In short, they are taking the money and selling out their constituents. This is hardly the legacy of Pocahontas. Forget Warren.
+1 # newell 2017-02-25 09:26
So, who do you recommend? Bernie? He's pushing Keith. Stein? She gave us Trump. Who?
+2 # Citizen Mike 2017-02-25 12:03
She may be supported by Soros but he did not recruit her, the American People recruited her to be their voice. What is your beef with Soros? He seems to be backing good causes in general, Warren's among them, and is a philanthropist.

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