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Remembering Pocahontas

  • By Susan K. Lewis
  • Posted 05.08.07
  • NOVA

For Chief Anne “Little Fawn” Richardson, Pocahontas is more than a legendary historical figure. As the daughter of a chief herself, Richardson identifies with the young woman whose true story has been obscured by myth. Here, she talks about what Pocahontas's life may actually have been like.

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Hear Chief Anne "Little Fawn" Richardson talk about the connection she feels to the famous Indian princess.

This feature originally appeared on the site for the NOVA program Pocahontas Revealed.

Transcript

Remembering Pocahontas

Posted May 8, 2007

SUSAN LEWIS: You're listening to a NOVA podcast.

For Chief Anne Little Fawn Richardson, Pocahontas is more than a legendary historical figure. As the daughter of a chief herself, Richardson feels a special connection to Pocahontas.

CHIEF ANNE RICHARDSON: When I think about Pocahontas I think about myself and I think about the generations before me, being a 4th generation chief. Pocahontas would have been at her dads' feet all the time. He must have gone all over this region acquiring tribes, meeting people, and meeting dignitaries, not just people. Meeting people in power in these various places. Of course that gave her clout. She was the daughter of the paramount chief.

SUSAN LEWIS: His name was Powhatan, and English settlers would later call all of the tribes in the region Powhatan Indians. But Powhatan himself respected each tribe's identity, ruling through persuasion rather than brute force.

CHIEF ANNE RICHARDSON: He was a man of great wisdom and great power—spiritual power, not just military power. And he understood the meaning of true power, which is to have the power to wipe someone out, but to not wipe them out because you choose not to. Because you choose to learn from them. You choose to have relations with them, to get to know them, to see what it is that they have that they could offer you that could enhance your life. And that was the traditional way. And he went in and he subdued tribes. He took them over, because he had military power, but it wasn't like he just went in a killed everybody and took their land. He went in to say come under my umbrella. I can take care of you. I will provide you resources, and I will provide protection for you.

SUSAN LEWIS: But the English settlers who founded Jamestown in 1607 had no intention of falling under Powhatan's umbrella. They arrived with their steel tools, livestock, and muskets intent on making their fortune in what they considered a virgin land.

CHIEF ANNE RICHARDSON: In the beginning he must have been fascinated with these people. He must have wanted to know who they were, where they were from, what kind of technologies they can bring and how they could enhance the Powhatan society the way it stood at the time. We were family people. We are kinship-related people. We believe in making kinship relations with people from other tribes and other states. Why not other countries? And so there was a code of respect and a code of honor among the native people that the English didn't understand. Their way was to come in militarily into force. And he was saying 'look at all this vast land that I have, why would you fight me and kill my people over this?

SUSAN LEWIS: Over time, as Jamestown expanded, Powhatan's tribes were decimated. His capital village, Werawacomoco, disappeared. For centuries, no one knew its exact location. Recently, though, archeologists discovered what they thought might be the site. And Chief Richardson went on a pilgrimage.

CHIEF ANNE RICHARDSON: I was not excited necessarily to see the place, but I was excited to feel the place—to get a sense of whether it really was the place or not, in my spirit. And when I came here I immediately walked down toward the water, and it was raining. I was walking around in like in this very subtle rain and just looking out over the water and all of the sudden I smelled smoke. And there were no fires. I smelled smoke, and the smoke came up into eyes and caused my eyes to water. And I had the sense, in my spirit, that this was a council fire. This was a place of great spiritual power, a place of worship, not just any run of the mill town or a village site, but it was "the" village site. It was the place of worship for Powhatan people. And now archeology is proving that. That's really amazing to me.

Credits

Original interview produced by Kirk Wolfinger for NOVA's "Pocahontas Revealed"

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Courtesy WGBH/NOVA

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