Pocahontas: Navigating Cultures and Challenging Myths

Join us in celebrating International Day of the World’s Indigenous People on August 9th by watching Pocahontas: Princess of the American Indians on TheArchive, as well as by learning about the true story of Pocahontas. 

The story of Pocahontas is a timeless tale that bridges cultures while celebrating the power of unity and promotes a reverence for Mother Earth. The plot of the film goes as follows: Native American princess Pocahontas has been entrusted with a special task that could save her people and the environment. When colonists arrive by ship on their lands, Pocahontas prays to the Great Spirit for a way for her people to befriend the colonists instead of fighting, but she must teach the settlers to preserve the forests, protect animals and the environment.

Pocahontas is a real historical figure, whose real name was Matoaka in some accounts or Amonute in others. She was a Pamunkey Native American woman born in the late 1500s in what is now Virginia. Her journey through life has been immortalized in both historical records and popular culture, showcasing her bravery, compassion, and ability to foster understanding between different cultures and customs. People described Amonute as playful and not well-behaved, which is apparently where the nickname Pocahontas stems from. Amonute was tribe leader Powhatan’s favorite daughter. 

The story of Pocahontas is most famously known for her relationship to John Smith. John Smith wrote about a beautiful Native American woman that rescued him from being executed by her father. In reality, historians doubt that Pocahontas was in love with John Smith, but they do believe that John Smith and Pocahontas were teaching each other and exchanging their own languages. Pocahontas' interactions with English colonizers, including Captain John Smith, have been documented, though the details are somewhat uncertain due to differing accounts and cultural biases. The actual life of Pocahontas represented a unique intermingling of cultures, it was also shaped by the larger forces of imperialism and cultural displacement. 

Most depictions of Pocahontas, including the extremely popular Disney version, are problematic and promote false depictions of the actual life and story of Pocahontas. The Disney Film, starring Mel Gibson, Christian Bale, and Linda Hunt, distorts the reality of what actually happened by using romanticized elements and glossing over or completely omitting the horrible experiences endured by indigenous people in the U.S. and everywhere. Pocahontas' life was riddled with grief, and should not be idealized as a love story.

In conclusion, by peeling away the layers of myth and simplification, we can honor her memory as a young woman who straddled two worlds, each with its own challenges and complexities. Pocahontas has become a symbol of diplomacy and strength and although the films and myth are not historically accurate, they do bring representation to indigenous girls everywhere. Pocahontas Scholar & Author Camilla Townsend says, Partly, I think the children’s movies have ironically helped. Even though it conveyed more myths, the Native American character is the star—she's the main character, and she's interesting, strong and beautiful, and so young Native Americans love to watch that movie. It's a real change for them.” 

Watch Pocahontas: Princess of the American Indians on TheArchive


TheArchive channel is dedicated to aficionados and lovers of story, craft, and silver screen fun – streaming rare, retro, and restored films and classic TV. From indies and series, to Oscar winning documentaries, unearthed MOWs, and a killer horror library, TheArchive delivers forgotten, never-before-seen gems for free and many in 4K. Marilyn, Karloff, and Orson Welles stream alongside Reese, Keanu, and Samuel L. Jackson. Find true stories of Queen, Hendrix, and Sinatra, an LGBTQ library, MLK bios, and world history docs. TheArchive has the movies and shows you either saw, should’ve seen, or should be watching now!