Pocahontas (born Matoaka, and later known as Rebecca Rolfe, c. 1595 â€“ March 1617) was a Virginia Indian notable for her association with the colonial settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. She was the daughter of Chief Powhatan, the head of a network of tributary tribal nations in the Tidewater region of Virginia. In a well-known historical anecdote, she is said to have saved the life of an Indian captive, Englishman John Smith, in 1607 by placing her head upon his own when her father raised his war club to execute him.
Pocahontas was captured by the English during Anglo-Indian hostilities in 1613, and held for ransom. During her captivity, she converted to Christianity and took the name Rebecca. When the opportunity arose for her to return to her people, she chose to remain with the English. In April 1614, she married tobacco planter John Rolfe, and, in January 1615, bore him a son, Thomas Rolfe.
In 1616, the Rolfes traveled to London. Pocahontas was presented to English society as an example of the civilized "savage" in hopes of stimulating investment in the Jamestown settlement. She became something of a celebrity, was elegantly fÃªted, and attended a masque at Whitehall Palace. In 1617, the Rolfes set sail for home, but Pocahontas died at Gravesend of unknown causes. She was buried in England, but her resting place is not known.
Numerous places, landmarks, and products in the United States have been named after Pocahontas. Her story has been romanticized over the years, and she is the subject of art, literature, and film. Her descendants through her son Thomas include members of the First Families of Virginiaâ€Ž, First Ladies Edith Wilson and Nancy Reagan, astronomer Percival Lowell and American reality television personality Benjamin Wade.