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The True Story of Pocahontas: The Other Side…
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The True Story of Pocahontas: The Other Side of History

by Linwood Custalow, Angela L. Daniel

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Not well written but an interesting and engaging story. ( )
  jnmwheels | Apr 3, 2016 |
According to the authors, the Mattaponi tribe of Virginia passed down their version of the Pocahontas/John Smith/Jamestown story via oral history for over 400 years but never set it down on in writing for fear of reprisals due to its rather extreme divergence from the pasteurized mythology told by white society, starting with Smith's own falsified reports in the 1600s. As the new millennium dawned, however, it was deemed finally time to tell the Native side of the tale to the world. Hence, in 2007, this slim (100 pages) volume was published.

The "story" of Pocahontas and John Smith is one known to most U.S. school children: in the tale, the young Powhatan Indian maid brings food to the starving Jamestown colony and, when John Smith is visiting the Indian settlement, warns John Smith that her father is planning to kill him in the night, allowing him to escape. The authors point out the holes in this version, namely that Pocahontas at the time would have been right around 10 years old. As the favorite daughter of the tribes chief, she would have been closely watched and protected, and not allowed to get anywhere near a visiting white, let alone able to sneak off alone to their fort with provisions. The authors, current-day Mattaponi historians and scholars, provide an insightful look into the culture and beliefs of the Powhatans (the Chiefdom of whom the Mattaponi were but one of many member tribes) as well as their own version of the Pocahontas story, which includes her kidnapping to be held as hostage, forced conversion and marriage, and eventual murder at the hands of the settlers. The relations between Indian and white is told as the usual progression of exploitation, theft and overall cruelty by the whites towards the natives.

I liked the fact that the prose here is often purposefully presented in a narrative meant to reflect spoken language, as if one is being told a tale by a griot, by a bard. So this is a skillful and effective mix of "straight" cultural history and tribal oral history. Obviously, the "real" actual story will never be known, but this telling certainly rings true. I think it's an important story for American readers to experience.

My enjoyment of this book was enhanced by the fact that I purchased the volume in the gift shop of the American Indian Museum (a branch of the Smithsonian) when I visited Washington, DC, in September, 2012.
2 vote rocketjk | Nov 26, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Linwood Custalowprimary authorall editionscalculated
Daniel, Angela L.main authorall editionsconfirmed
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Book description
The True Story of Pocahontas: The Other Side of History incorporates the sacred oral history of the Mattaponi that has been passed down to Lin “Little Bear” since his childhood, by his father, the late Mattaponi Chief Webster “Little Eagle” Custalow; his uncle, the late Mattaponi Chief O. T. Custalow; and grandfather, the late Mattaponi Chief George F. Custalow; and those that came before. The Mattaponi Indian Tribe, along with the Pamunkey Tribe, was one of the original core tribes of the Powhatan Chiefdom, which the English colonists encountered in the 17th century while establishing Jamestown. For nearly 400 years people have heard the Euro-American rendition and interpretation of events that transpired between the English colonists and the Powhatan Indians. The True Story of Pocahontas is the first public publication of the Powhatan perspective that has been maintained and passed down from generation to generation within the Mattaponi Tribe, and the first written history of Pocahontas by her own people. The book will be published in 2007, in connection with the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown Colony.
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