OKIE IN EXILE — Jamestown, Pocahontas, and Disney

Bobby Neal Winters

In sixteen hundred seven

We sail the open sea

For glory, God, and gold

And The Virginia Company

--Alan Menken

I am in an AirBnB in Virginia as I write this.  It is located on the peninsula between the James and York rivers.  It is the location of the first successful English settlement in the New World.  If the family tree app that I have is right, some of my mother’s people lived here nigh on to 400 years ago.

Nobody’s told me that I look familiar--so far.

We’ve literally spent days in museums.  We’ve talked to the docents who are knowledgeable, patient people.  We’ve seen the movies.  We looked at the exhibits.  We’ve tread the ancient ground.  We’ve learned a few things.

They’ve done a good bit of work to flesh out the roles of the indigenous peoples and Africans at various points.  I am not saying it is perfect, but they’ve moved it beyond Disney.  They’ve put enough details in to give me a feeling that there were real people involved. It seems to me to be closer to the truth.

There, I’ve said it.  I would like to know the truth about things.  The truth is often buried beneath a ton of sugar. The story of Pocahontas is a nice example here. 

The Disney movie Pocahontas came out when my girls were little, and we did watch it and enjoy it. We still have it on VHS somewhere; Lord only knows if we still have a player.  Quite frankly, I have to admit that throughout the day we spent at Jamestown I had the tune “The Virginia Company” from that movie running through my head.  The only thing true about the Disney movie is there is a place called Virginia.

 First of all, Pocahontas wasn’t her real name.  It was her nickname.  I don’t remember her real name, and in fact she had a couple of those: the one they called her and her secret name.  On top of those names she had her Christian name Rebecca Rolfe because she was a baptised Christian.

Even that isn’t the whole story.  The English had kidnapped her and were trying to use her to make her father, the leader of her tribe, see things their way.  This was actually a thing that the indigenous peoples were familiar with because they did it to each other.  There was a way you were supposed to act as a prisoner of another tribe: you changed your name and you worshipped the way they did.

Pocahontas/Rebecca bore a son to John Rolfe and died in England after having been there a year.  She was 20 years old.  Everything we know of her makes me think that she was a remarkable individual.  She’s buried at Saint George’s Church in Gravesend, Kent, United Kingdom.  Her grave is not far from the Thames.

It is a tragic story.  It is a human story.  It is “the” human story.

I mean to say the human story is a tragedy with elements of romance, farce, and true crime.  If it were a movie, they wouldn’t know how to market it, but they don’t have to because you are in the theater already with the doors locked behind you and there is only one exit.  

Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like'' the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook. Search for him by name on YouTube. )