The Pocahontas Project

The Pocahontas Project logo #1“Pocahontas is one of those characters, rarely appearing on the theatre of life, which no age can claim, no country appropriate.  She is the property of mankind, serving as a beacon to light us on our way, instruct us in our duty, and show us what the human mind is capable of performing when abandoned to its own operations.”

William Watson Waldron, 19th Century Author

The Pocahontas Project

In March of 2017 the world was reminded of the spiritual power and incredible courage and commitment inherent in the life of the woman called Matoaka, Amonute, and Rebecca, but most famously known as Pocahontas, when the community of Gravesend, England commemorated the 400th anniversary of her death and funeral there on March 21, 1617.  While folks from England and Virginia, including leaders of several Virginia Indian Tribes, gathered to honor and celebrate her life, it became quite apparent the spirit of Pocahontas is still very strong and relevant today and that her life example offers a compelling citizenship model for all mankind.

At a time when the world is searching for inspiration to connect diverse ideals and cultures, Pocahontas offers humanity a compelling example of the power of civic engagement and how one person can truly change the course of history.  While she may or may not have physically saved John Smith’s life, Pocahontas’ hopes and purposeful intervention into the relationship between her people and the English certainly sustained John Smith and enabled the English settlement to continue at Jamestown.  Pocahontas’ influence on the development of the “New World” grew significantly after her conversion to Christianity and her marriage to John Rolfe, and the Rolfe’s trip to England ultimately became one of the most important diplomatic missions of all time, enhanced because Pocahontas died in England and is buried there.

The Pocahontas Project is an effort inspired by the Gravesend Pocahontas 400 commemoration that intends to honor Pocahontas’ legacy by establishing her globally as an iconic spiritual symbol of Hope and Purpose.  The Project believes Pocahontas will once again change the course of history as she inspires people around the world to tap into the spirit of Pocahontas that is within them and start assuming responsibility for fixing the world’s problems.  In November 2017 the Project declared its intentions and began a multiyear process to expand awareness across Virginia and England, as well as around the world, of the important lessons to be learned from the life of Pocahontas.  The Project is using her selfless life example to inspire hope and purpose in people across the globe in an effort to affect unity, collaboration and positive social change.

Project Purpose and Goals

The purpose of The Pocahontas Project is to harness the power created by the 400th anniversary of the death of Pocahontas in England in March, 1617 to motivate and inspire a multi-level academic and global community development exercise offering many future quality of life benefits and opportunities for all who participate.  Employing a set of programs, conversations, artistic interpretations, intellectual investigations and events, the Project intends to use the power of our past to change our collective future by connecting to the rippling historical, social and cultural implications of the life of Pocahontas.

One of the major goals of the Project is to collect and categorize all historical and cultural accounts and representations of the life of Pocahontas through an academic effort that intersects with students, educators and scholars in Virginia, England, and around the world.  The Project will also perform a similar investigation into the life of her father, Powhatan.  These historical investigations will frame the lives of Pocahontas and Powhatan, and their impact on history from three different perspectives – the Virginia perspective, the English perspective and most importantly, the Native American perspective.

An equally important goal of the Project is to use the power of the life of Pocahontas to inspire people across the world, especially women, as they confront many of the same life challenges she faced.  The Project will celebrate Pocahontas as one of the most influential women in history and work to establish her as the iconic spiritual symbol of Hope and Purpose.  Through conversation, experiential activities, the creative arts, and the power of technology the Project will look to provide insight, perspective, comfort and inspiration to people through the lens of the life of Pocahontas.

Finally, it is hoped that the Project’s attention to Pocahontas and Powhatan will inspire greater appreciation and respect for the importance of the role of Native Americans in the development of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States of America, and for the power and purpose of indigenous communities around the world .  The Project will build on the social energy created by the recently passed legislation granting Federal recognition to six Virginia Indian Tribes that were part of the Powhatan Nation, the dedication of the Mantle commemoration on the Virginia Capitol grounds, and the many programs and events related to Virginia’s 2019 American Evolution Commemoration.

Project Objectives

The Pocahontas Project has many specific objectives, including:

  • Setting the historical record straight by telling the TRUE history of the life of Pocahontas and her father Powhatan through the investigative work of all levels of the academic spectrum – 1st graders and PhDs and everyone in between.
    • Step #1 – Assemble into a relational database all known information, artifacts and media currently in existence that have any relationship to Pocahontas and Powhatan > including biographies, artistic renderings and descriptions, articles and other manuscripts, videos and movies, stories and oral histories, anything else
      • A critical component of this effort is to gain the oral history perspective of all of the Virginia Indian Tribes that have a descendant relationship or historic relationship to Powhatan and Pocahontas
      • As a part of this information gathering process, the Project will create a separate database of the descendants of Pocahontas, authenticated as best as possible
    • Step #2 – Organize all items by subject matter and academically categorize each item as fact, fiction, fable, or in question and up for debate
    • Step #3 – Present the results of Step #1 + #2 in an academic and scientific manner to educate and influence the future telling of the story of Pocahontas and Powhatan, especially as relates to the education of our youth
      • The Project intends to develop the academic credibility to affect changes in the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) sections relevant to Pocahontas and Powhatan as well as to inspire more school systems across the Commonwealth to include the story of Pocahontas and Powhatan in their academic curriculum
    • Step #4 – Make the results of Steps #1 + #2 + #3 available to folks in Virginia, in England and around the world through a variety of means and medias
  • Using the power of the past to change the future – the legacy of the life of the woman we know as Pocahontas is quite powerful and very relevant today.  Through her strong will and leadership Pocahontas promoted and facilitated positive connections between vastly different cultures and embraced diversity in a non-violent manner.  The world is crying out for more examples of her commitment to peaceful co-existence and the Project intends to use her legacy to once again change the future course of world events.
  • Promoting Pocahontas as one of the most influential women in the history of the world, in large part because she is still very relevant in the 21st Century and positioned to remain relevant for a long time to come.
    • Complement and supplement the efforts of the Virginia 2019 Commemoration and the Virginia Women’s Monument Commission
  • Celebrating and influencing folks across Virginia and around the world to take full advantage of the historical and cultural collections pertaining to Pocahontas and Powhatan held by the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, Henricus. National Park Service and Jamestown
  • Organizing the descendants of Pocahontas into a connected global community that collaborates to do good work in the name of Pocahontas
  • Strengthening connections between Virginia and England as well as between America and the United Kingdom
    • Building on the connections made from the multiple Virginia delegations to England in March 2017 by establishing a variety of academic relationships and community friendships between folks of all ages, first in Virginia and England and then around the world, all inspired by Pocahontas.

Project Tools and Tactics

The Pocahontas Project has several tools and tactics at its disposal and will utilize them to achieve its objectives:

  • The extraordinary collections pertaining to Pocahontas and Powhatan held by the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, Henricus Historical Park, Jamestown and other Virginia institutions.
  • Virginia Museum of History & Culture’s HistoryConnects program about Pocahontas
    • The Project will use the HistoryConnects tool to lay the informational foundation about Pocahontas for students across Virginia and in England – this interactive virtual classroom can accommodate up to 100 different sites at one time.  Two programs are currently planned for December 3rd and 5th, 2018.  One program will be geared towards 4th graders (which is when Pocahontas is currently taught in VA Schools)  and one geared for secondary age students.
  • Pocahontas Leadership Program – Throughout her life Pocahontas exhibited her strong will and leadership abilities in the face of adversity.  In an effort to pass on these positive characteristics to others who are facing adversity, the Program has been created to motivate and inspire youth and single mothers living in Virginia’s public housing communities through the life and legacy of Pocahontas.  The Program will begin its efforts at the Thomas Rolfe Courts, a public housing community in Hopewell VA named for the son of Rebecca Rolfe, aka Pocahontas.  The program is honored to have the intellectual support of Dr. Oliver Hill Jr. and is working to involve students from Virginia State University in the process.
  • Pocahontas Legacy Program – Pocahontas’ 22 years on earth included an incredible number of life-changing decisions and experiences, as a daughter of a Chief, as a wife and as a mother.  The Pocahontas Project recognizes that 400 years later, her life example has significant relevance to decisions and experiences folks in Virginia, in England, and around the world are facing every day.  The Pocahontas Legacy Program intends to change the future using the life of Pocahontas as a spiritual icon of Hope and Purpose, The Pocahontas Legacy Program will use a variety of tactics to achieve its goals including public information events, school based programming, creative arts projects, and community development efforts.  As an Ambassador to our future, the Pocahontas Legacy Program will use the life experiences of Pocahontas to inspire conversation and introspection about today’s and tomorrow’s problems and issues, including immigration, racism, religious freedom, equality and women’s rights, human trafficking, embracing diversity, environmental stewardship and so much more
  • Pocahontas Creative Arts Project – Created to inspire and facilitate an ever-expanding multi-disciplinary collection of creative art efforts wrapped around the life, legend and legacy of Pocahontas.  The Project intends to provide participating artists an accurate history of the life of Pocahontas and a variety of perspectives on her cultural significance, over the past four hundred years and today.  An important Project goal is to use the creative arts to intersect and inspire artists and audiences of all ages with the power of the woman known as Pocahontas.  Another important Project goal is to inspire and facilitate commemoration and celebration of Pocahontas through a wide range of the creative arts – painting, sculpture, theater, ballet, dance, music, song, poetry, photography, and so much more.
    • The initial effort of the Pocahontas Creative Arts Project is a 44 page keepsake booklet called Pocahontas: Her Life, Legend and Legacy.  This publication, volume 1 in a proposed series, will include a written accounting of Pocahontas’ life, offer a glimpse into her legend with paintings, images and statues created over the past 400 years, and examine her legacy in Virginia, England and around the world
    • The Project’s most significant artistic connection made to date is with Border Crossings, a UK Theatrical Company that has just concluded a photography exhibit at Syon House called Pocahontas and After.  The Project is inspired by a video created by Border Crossings as a part of their Pocahontas themed effort (2nd video in linked webpage http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/religious-studies/indigenous-rituals?in_menu=724959)
  • Henricus Historical Park – Nowhere is there a more compelling and ongoing interpretation of the life of Pocahontas than at Henricus Historical Park.  John Pagano, Chief Interpretive Specialist at Henricus, is finishing a book about Pocahontas with the working title: “Captive, Convert, and Celebrity: The English Pocahontas, 1613-1617”.   The Project is proud to be connected to Henricus and Mr. Pagano and his research, and will use his book to build on the educational foundation for students and adults about the life and legacy of Pocahontas.
  • The Descendants of Pocahontas – There are probably more than 100,000 people around the world who are direct descendants of Pocahontas.  The Project intends to capitalize on the power of numbers and positive intentions by connecting the descendants of Pocahontas in common purpose, inspiring their intellectual and financial support of the Project and to collectively do good work in the name of their ancestor.

Project Letters of Support

Senator Tim Kaine letter of Support for Pocahontas History Project

Dr Dana Bedden Letter of Support for Pocahontas History Project

James River Park System Pocahontas Support Letter

Northumberland resolution for Pocahontas Project

Gloucester support letter for Gravesend

Project Calendar of Events / Programs

The Pocahontas Project is working to maintain the following calendar of events/programs through the first quarter of 2019:

  • November 2018 – VMHC HistoryConnects Pocahontas Program Preparation – Formally inviting and confirming the schools and cultural sites that will take part in the December 3/5 HistoryConnects Pocahontas Programs
  • November + December 2018 – Compiling text and graphics for Volume One of The Pocahontas Project Booklet, to be available mid-January 2019
  • November 14, 2018 – Pocahontas: Her Life, Legend and Legacy, a symposium at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture
  • December 3rd and 5th, 2018 – VMHC HistoryConnects Pocahontas Program – Two separate programs – one for 4th graders and one for secondary students
  • January 2019 – Pocahontas Legacy Program – 1st Pocahontas Community Conversation (date and details to be determined)
  • January 2019 – Introduction of the Pocahontas Leadership Program, starting at Thomas Rolfe Courts in Hopewell
  • Mid-January 2019 – Volume One of The Pocahontas Project Booklet will be distributed
  • March 21, 2019 – Pocahontas Remembered – An event commemorating the 402nd anniversary of the funeral of Pocahontas at St. George’s Church in Gravesend England on March 21, 1617 – event location and other details to be determined

Intellectual Partners, hopefully to include the following:

The Pocahontas Project is working to connect with a wide-ranging set of schools, agencies, organizations and individuals which will collectively strengthen the impact of the Project and the integrity of the results of its academic investigation.  The Project is honored to have the support of Dr. Charles F. “Charlie” Bryan, Jr., former CEO and President of the Virginia Historical Society, who has agreed to be the Project’s Coordinating Historical Consultant.  The following agencies, entities and individuals are invited to participate, with more to come:

  • Virginia K-12 School Systems
    • Charles City County
    • Chesterfield County
    • Gloucester County
    • Goochland County
    • Hanover County
    • Henrico County
    • King William County
    • New Kent County
    • Northumberland County
    • Powhatan County
    • Richmond County
    • City of Hampton
    • City of Hopewell
    • Richmond City
  • Cultural Institutions
    • Virginia Museum of History and Culture
    • Henricus
    • Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
    • Library of Virginia
    • National Museum of the American Indian
    • Hampton History Museum
    • Jamestown / Yorktown Foundation
    • Pocahontas Island Black History Museum
  • Higher Education Institutions, hopefully to include:
    • William & Mary – Omohundro Institute
  • Government
    • US Department of State > US Ambassador to UK
    • US Department of Education
    • Virginia Department of Natural Resources
    • Virginia Department of Education
    • National Park Service
    • Virginia Tourism Corporation
  • Communities, institutions and folks in England
    • Gravesend / Borough of Gravesham
      • St. George’s Church
      • St. George’s Church of England School, Gravesend, Kent
      • Other Gravesend schools, to be determined
    • Brentford / London Borough of Hounslow
      • Secondary school, to be determined
      • Primary school, to be determined
    • London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
      • Grey Court School, Ham
      • Other Richmond upon Thames schools, to be determined
    • The National Archives, Kew
    • Duke of Northumberland, Syon Park
    • City of London
  • The Native American community, hopefully to include the eight Virginia Tribes with a descendant relationship to and/or were allied with the Powhatan paramount chiefdom > Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Mattaponi, Upper Mattaponi, Nansemond, Pamunkey, Patawomeck, Rappahannock

Project Funding and Resource Partners:

The Pocahontas Project is a community based initiative working to gain the support of many different elements of the regional community of Richmond and the Commonwealth of Virginia.  The Project is very thankful to its first Founding Sponsor, the Richmond Branch of the English Speaking Union, whose financial contribution has facilitated the development of a strong foundation for the Project, as defined above.  The Project also appreciates the generous allocation of intellectual support and other resources from the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.  The Project looks forward to involving many more funding and resource partners as we progress.

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Updated on 11-10-2018 by:

Rick Tatnall > Replenish Richmond / The Pocahontas Project

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