In the Words of Pocahontas

Levels:

Elementary, Middle

Objective:

Students compose diary entries from the perspective of Pocahontas that discuss events that affected the Powhatan Indians during her lifetime.

Standards of Learning:

VA Sols:  K.1; VS.1, a-i; VS. 3, g; VS.4, b
National Standards for History:  Historical Analysis and Decision-making;  Historical Analysis and Interpretation

Materials: and Resources:

Powhatan Indian World – Essay
Powhatan Indian Period Images
Portrait of Pocahontas
Young Pocahontas – Biography

Teacher Background:

The portrait of Pocahontas is a 1616 engraving by Simon van de Passe produced while Pocahontas was in England.  The print was rushed into print shortly after that.  The purpose of the print was to publicize her visit and to attract investors in the Jamestown colony, so the portrayal was created from the perspective of the English.  The portrayal was one of well-dressed affluence but not extravagance.  She is dressed as an Englishwoman, demonstrating her adoption of English ways.  Yet, she has the high cheekbones and dark hair and eyes of the Powhatan Indians.  Pocahontas seems to looks proudly at the viewer. Her fan of ostrich feathers denoted royalty.  The written inscription emphasizes the conversion of this daughter of the powerful Chief Powhatan and her marriage to a prominent Englishman.

Procedure:

Step 1.  Remind students that Pocahontas played an important role in the history of Jamestown Settlement, but she was also a Powhatan Indian.  She was Chief Powhatan’s daughter and helped to establish relations with the English colonists.  Pocahontas converted to Christianity, married an Englishman and traveled to England, serving as a kind of ambassador for the Powhatan people.  Tell students to imagine what Pocahontas must feel like living in England, a country far away from her native home.  If she were to reflect upon her life in a diary what things would she write about?  Over a period of several days students will create a diary written from the perspective of Pocahontas.

Step 2:  Distribute the Portrait of Pocahontas engraving.  Have students look at portrait and describe what they see.   Ask students to surmise why a portrait of Pocahontas in English clothing exists.  Share background information about the portrait with students.  Have students recreate the portrait for the cover of the diary using available art materials.

Step 3:  Hand out the Young Pocahontas biography.  Have students create a timeline of important events in Pocahontas’ life.

Step 4:  As a group, have students list what events from the timeline would be most meaningful for Pocahontas to remember and write about.

Step 4:  Direct each student to select 5 topics for their diary.  Some topics to consider could include entries about her childhood and daily life, her first contact with the English and her impressions of them, how her kidnapping changed her life, her marriage to John Rolfe and her travel and experiences in England.  Students should illustrate each diary entry.  They may use the Powhatan Indian Period Images as a visual reference.

Summary Activity:

Have each student present one dairy entry of choice.  Ask them to state why Pocahontas would have felt it important to write an entry about that particular topic.  If someone in England accidentally found Pocahontas’ diary and read the entry what would they learn about Pocahontas’ life and people in Virginia?

Lesson plans made possible by Archibald Andrews Marks.