A review of The True Story of Pocahontas: The Other Side of History

by Jun 15, 2010A&E0 comments


Children sing along to the version of Pocahontas’ life story in Disney films.  The local Dollar Store sells coloring books that offer the story of Pocahontas in bold outlines. Cinematic productions pair the child Pocahontas with the much older John Smith in uncomfortable attempts at romance.  Now, a new book proffers a version of this captivating tale, provided by Pocahontas’ own people.

“We can only learn from the real history,” Dr. Linwood “Little Bear” Custalow, one of the authors of The True Story of Pocahontas asserts.  “The reason we have not learned from history is because we have not embraced the truth of what has happened,” he posits.

This new book blends the oral history of the Mattaponi tribe with the contextual history that surrounds the story of Pocahontas.

Collaborating with anthropologist Angela Daniel “Silver Star”, Custalow has chronicled Pocahontas’ adventures in an accessible format.  “The narrative of this book is true to this oral history,” the authors assure readers.  “Its language and structure are designed for our eyes as well as our ears.”  The result is an engaging historical account of one of the most intriguing events in US history.

Custalow is careful to correct inaccuracies in many recent films, romances and books.  Using the oral history handed down by the Powhatan priests, Custalow portrays Pocahontas as a powerful person, who is neither naive nor uninspiring. 

Custalow explains the customs, legal systems and chiefdoms of the Powhatan confederacy in clear, direct terms. He sets the stage for the events involving Pocahontas, John Smith, John Rolfe and the Native people of the Southeast with skillful interest.

This book is an insightful attempt to allow Pocahontas’ people to speak for her and for themselves. As a result, it is a useful tool for balancing out the representations of Pocahontas in animation, books and movies that have failed to meet the standards of the Mattaponi historians.  The True Story of Pocahontas is a fascinating addition to the historical record, and a strong influence to set that record straight.

Book info: The True Story of Pocahontas: The Other Side of History by Dr. Linwood “Little Bear” Custalow and Angela Daniel “Silver Star”.  Golden, Colorado:Fulcrum Publishing, 2007, ISBN#:1-55591-632-5 or 13:978-1-55591-632-9, 120 pp, $14.95 paper.