Pocahontas: (De) Constructing an American Myth

+4 votes

Interesting review of several books


(JSTOR - needs free registration I think)

Apparently she wasn't Powhatan's daughter at all, it's all a misunderstanding.  Or whatever.

WikiTree profile: Rebecca Rolfe
in The Tree House by Living Horace G2G6 Pilot (572k points)

If what you say it true, RJ, and the research holds up, there are going to be a lot of folks crying themselves to sleep. smiley

I doubt if there's any new research involved.  Just interpretation.  Plenty of room for that, because the available data may be almost nothing (depending on who you choose to believe).
A (bitingly negative) review of Townsend's book can be found here:


There's nothing in this one questioning Pocahontas' parentage.

A (much more positive, even glowing) review of Rountree's book can be found here:


Again, no mention of Pocahontas's origins.

Which of the remaining books on the list you link to, RJ, question Pocahontas' father's identity? (I want to make sure we accurately portray this on her profile.) Thanks.

Page 779, last paragraph, "not the daughter of Powhatan at all"


But that's after saying "Some historians will be uncomfortable with the lack of citations and written evidence to support many of the arresting assertions that Allen makes"

Thanks, RJ.  So it's the third book in the list of books that Mcmasters review.  That review is even more scathing although written very diplomatically.  

For folks without access to JSTOR, the book that questions Pocahontas' origins is  Pocahontas: Medicine Woman, Spy, Entrepreneur, Diplomat, by Paula Gunn Allen. As the reviewer points out, Allen's work draws not from any historical documentation but oral tradition of mostly the Algonquin, not the tribal traditions of the Native Americans that originated in Virginia.  She also makes many other claims about Pocahontas that are not at all supported by any historical evidence even claiming that P was assassinated by her husband.  Most researchers of history and genealogy are going to have great difficulty accepting anything from this book. 

Helen Rountree, on the other hand, is highly respected and trusted. 

1 Answer

+8 votes
One of my old college professors stressed the need for "Critical thinking"   which is essentially the objective analysis of fact to form a judgment.

In genealogy we end up with various cherished family myths. and some people cling to those myths, despite any and all evidence.

I had an ancestor named polk, almost every obit of everyone in that family said they were related to president polk.  but I could never find a connection to his family.  It's only when I disregarded the myth and did my best to look at the evidence objectively, did I realize that the myth was just that, a myth.
by Craig Albrechtson G2G6 Mach 8 (87.9k points)

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