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Pocahontas - Native American Studies - Book Report/Review Example

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June 28, 2011 Native American Non-Fiction Literature Review Pocahontas by Grace Steele Woodward The story of Pocahontas, the Native American “princess” of the Powhatan tribe in the Algonquin nation, is well known to most Americans…
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Download file to see previous pages The story has been in countless books, plays, movies, and other forms of popular media, with varying levels of exaggeration and respect for the Native American cultural traditions (“Pocahontas - Geography of Virginia”). One such historical writing on the topic was the novel “Pocahontas” written by Grace Steele Woodward and published in 1969. Woodward is well known for a number of other works on Native Americans, most notably her novel “The Cherokees”, reputed by many to be one of the most comprehensive and culturally understanding texts on that particular tribe that is in existence today. She is celebrated for both her ability to write with excitement on nearly any topic as well as for her efforts to remain true to the historical facts without falling prey to the trap of many writers that is the desire to overly romanticize these often legendary histories (Edmunds). In an effort to ensure the factual nature of the information used in her book, Wordward researched the physical locations that are referenced in the Pocahontas story, such as the colony of Jamestown, her childhood home with the Powhatan tribe, the potential location of her home with John Rolfe in the colony, the places which she visited during her travels to the English court, and more. She also used many examples of primary source documentation to learn what Pocahontas' contemporaries had to say about Pocahontas, the Powhatan tribe in general, and life in the Jamestown colony (Edmunds). This research is clearly evident in a reading of the novel. Woodward frequently cites and quotes from these documents, giving her novel an authentic feel for the time period in which Pocahontas lived. Especially notable is her coverage of the culture of the Powhatan tribe. With her stories of what life was like for Pocahontas during the years prior to the arrival of the Jamestown colonists, the reader gains a clear appreciation for both why Pocahontas was so enthralled and curious with the European culture and what she gave up to marry John Rolfe and travel with him to England. This fascinating novel covers not only the life of Pocahontas and her relationship with John Smith, stories that are usually previously encountered by the reader in other media, but also the life and times of the Jamestown settlers and the background of the Virginia Company, the financial backers of the settlers. The stories of the settlers and their experiences does provide an interesting backdrop to the better-known story of Pocahontas. However, despite their relevance, it does seem like the information on the Jamestown settlers takes up an inordinately large portion of the book. The focus of the text is supposed to be on Pocahontas, and though the Jamestown settlers were a part of her life and the life of her tribe, much of that information seems like it would be better suited to inclusion in a different volume, perhaps one focusing on the relationships between colonial government and the Native American population. Despite her extensive use of primary source documentation in researching the background for this novel, or possibly in some ways due to it, Woodward does compound some mistakes made by previous writers. For example, Woodward makes reference to Pocahontas as a “princess” because she was the favorite daughter of the chief of the tribe, a position that was often translated by Europeans as a similar position to that of a “ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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