Wednesday, June 12, 2024

“Fantastic fantasy:” Pocahontas may have met Native American Squanto in England

(file photo)
A portrait of Pocahontas from her time in London. (file photo)

Jamestown was the site of the first Thanksgiving— and if one researcher is correct, one of the Jamestown Colony’s most famous residents may have met a hero from the better-known Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Mass.

Long before Pocahontas was popularized by a Disney film, she was born into Virginia’s Powhatan Tribe and was a peacemaker between the Jamestown colonists and her fellow Native Americans. After being captured, she married colonist John Rolfe and moved with him to London.

At the same time, another famous Native American, Squanto, was also living in London, before returning to the New World and serving as an emissary and translator for the Pilgrims.

Now, a scholar believes the two may have crossed paths during two months in 1617 when their London stays overlapped.

Emily Rose, who has a Ph.D. from Princeton and was a visiting fellow at the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation in the spring, believes she has uncovered circumstantial evidence that the two Native Americans met.

Pocahontas and Squanto lived only a few hundred yards from one another in London, and were also part of the same social circle, according to Rose.

A map of 1616 London. (Courtesy The Junto)

Members of Pocahontas’ delegation lived with Sir Thomas Smythe, Treasurer of the Virginia Company that founded the Jamestown Colony. Squanto lived with John Slaney, Treasurer for the Newfoundland Company.

Smith and Slaney shared business interests, including investments in the East India Company.

“I find it fascinating that the person who paid for Pocahontas’s trip [to London] and who housed Squanto were both members of the East India Company,” Rose said in a recent phone interview. “There’s no smoking gun document— it’s likelihood, not proof.”

In a recent post for The Junto, an early-American history blog, Rose wrote that it would have been “extraordinary” if Squanto and Pocahontas had not met at the theater, at a neighborhood church or market, or at a nearby merchant’s home or office.

They both spoke forms of the Algonquin language, Rose wrote in the post, and both also learned English. If they had met, what would they have talked about?

In the blog post, Rose said she likes to imagine the pair speaking about home, the weather or English customs, complaining about English food, or even toasting one another with English drinks.

“It’s a fantastic fantasy, but not an unlikely one,” Rose said in the phone interview.

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