In 1995, Roy Disney decided to release an animated movie about a Powhatan woman known as “Pocahontas”. In answer to a complaint by the Powhatan Nation, he claims the film is “responsible, accurate, and respectful.”
We of the Powhatan Nation disagree. The film distorts history beyond recognition. Our offers to assist Disney with cultural and historical accuracy were rejected. Our efforts urging him to reconsider his misguided mission were spurred.
“Pocahontas” was a nickname, meaning “the naughty one” or “spoiled child”. Her real name was Matoaka. The legend is that she saved a heroic John Smith from being clubbed to death by her father in 1607 - she would have been about 10 or 11 at the time. The truth is that Smith’s fellow colonists described him as an abrasive, ambitious, self-promoting mercenary soldier.
Of all of Powhatan’s children, only “Pocahontas” is known, primarily because she became the hero of Euro-Americans as the “good Indian”, one who saved the life of a white man. Not only is the “good Indian/bad Indian theme” inevitably given new life by Disney, but the history, as recorded by the English themselves, is badly falsified in the name of “entertainment”.
The truth of the matter is that the first time John Smith told the story about this rescue was 17 years after it happened, and it was but one of three reported by the pretentious Smith that he was saved from death by a prominent woman.
Yet in an account Smith wrote after his winter stay with Powhatan’s people, he never mentioned such an incident. In fact, the starving adventurer reported he had been kept comfortable and treated in a friendly fashion as an honored guest of Powhatan and Powhatan’s brothers. Most scholars think the “Pocahontas incident” would have been highly unlikely, especially since it was part of a longer account used as justification to wage war on Powhatan’s Nation.
Euro-Americans must ask themselves why it has been so important to elevate Smith’s fibbing to status as a national myth worthy of being recycled again by Disney. Disney even improves upon it by changing Pocahontas from a little girl into a young woman.
The true Pocahontas story has a sad ending. In 1612, at the age of 17, Pocahontas was treacherously taken prisoner by the English while she was on a social visit, and was held hostage at Jamestown for over a year.
During her captivity, a 28-year-old widower named John Rolfe took a “special interest” in the attractive young prisoner. As a condition of her release, she agreed to marry Rolfe, who the world can thank for commercializing tobacco. Thus, in April 1614, Matoaka, also known as “Pocahontas”, daughter of Chief Powhatan, became “Rebecca Rolfe”. Shortly after, they had a son, whom they named Thomas Rolfe. The descendants of Pocahontas and John Rolfe were known as the “Red Rolfes.”
Two years later on the spring of 1616, Rolfe took her to England where the Virginia Company of London used her in their propaganda campaign to support the colony. She was wined and dined and taken to theaters. It was recorded that on one occasion when she encountered John Smith (who was also in London at the time), she was so furious with him that she turned her back to him, hid her face, and went off by herself for several hours. Later, in a second encounter, she called him a liar and showed him the door.
Rolfe, his young wife, and their son set off for Virginia in March of 1617, but “Rebecca” had to be taken off the ship at Gravesend. She died there on March 21, 1617, at the age of 21. She was buried at Gravesend, but the grave was destroyed in a reconstruction of the church. It was only after her death and her fame in London society that Smith found it convenient to invent the yarn that she had rescued him.
History tells the rest. Chief Powhatan died the following spring of 1618. The people of Smith and Rolfe turned upon the people who had shared their resources with them and had shown them friendship. During Pocahontas’ generation, Powhatan’s people were decimated and dispersed and their lands were taken over. A clear pattern had been set which would soon spread across the American continent.
Chief Roy Crazy Horse
It is unfortunate that this sad story,
which Euro-Americans should find embarrassing,
Disney makes “entertainment” and perpetuates a dishonest and self-serving myth
at the expense of the Powhatan Nation.
The all-white reinvention of Medieval Europe commonly depicted in popular fiction, films, tv shows and art is entirely that: a fiction. An invention. An erasure. Obviously, people of color have been an essential and integral part of European life, European art, and European literary imagination since time immemorial. To cite “historical accuracy” as a means to project whitewashed images of the past into the future to maintain a fiction of white supremacy is an unconscionable farce.
People of Color are not an anachronism.
Ancient Stone Bridge, Rize, Turkey
"They are the earliest painted portraits that have survived; they were painted whilst the Gospels of the New Testament were being written. Why then do they strike us today as being so immediate? Why does their individuality feel like our own? Why is their look more contemporary than any look to be found in the rest of the two millennia of traditional European art which followed them? The Fayum portraits touch us, as if they had been painted last month. Why? This is the riddle.”
-John Berger, from “The Fayum Portraits”
This is pretty cool to watch.
Meet the Mona Lisa of the Prado, the earliest known copy of Da Vinci’s best portrait. Similarity in the undersketch of the painting indicates that this was very likely painted concurrently with the original Mona Lisa, by a student of Da Vinci.
There is much controversy in the art world over the question of whether or not to clean the fragile Mona Lisa, but her sister has been restored and some fairly odd later alterations removed to show the original vibrant colors and lighting. Some details, such as the sheerness of her shawl and the pattern on the neckline of her dress, have become utterly obscured in the original, but in the restored copy they’re perfectly clear.
It blows my mind a little bit to look at these two sisters side-by-side and imagine how much vivid detail could be hiding in the Mona Lisa under 500 years of rotten varnish.
THE COPY HAS EYEBROWS
Your response to a beautiful piece of artwork done by Leonardo Da Vinci himself is “SHES GOT EYEBROWS”. Alright. All intelligent life has been lost.
Yo Snooty McSnotwhine, the Mona Lisa’s vanished eyebrows have been the subject of debate and analysis in the art expert community for hundreds of years, long before your parents squirted water at each other from across the clown car and then honked their bicycle horns to indicate they really wanted to make a smug, insufferable little clown baby together.
^ reblogging for awesome commentary
Has your cat ever walked across your keyboard? Well, it’s not a new problem. Medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel recently Tweeted this photo of a 15th century book with… you guessed it… cat paw prints in ink on the pages! We’re part of a long and glorious historical movement, friends. (Source: Dr. Marty Becker)
Ah this is the best thing! Those medieval cats!
Cats gon’ be cats
Medieval kids’ doodles on birch bark
Here’s something very special. In the 1950s archeologists made a great discovery near the city of Novgorod, Russia: they dug up hundreds of pieces of birch bark with all sorts of texts written on them. The 915 items are mostly letters, notes and receipts, all written between the 11th and 15th century. Among the more notable scraps is a marriage proposal from a man called Mikita to his beloved Anna: “marry me - I want you and you want me, and the witness to that is Ignat Moiseev” (item 377).
The most special items, however, are the ones shown above, which are from a medieval classroom. In the 13th century, young schoolboys learning to write filled these scraps with alphabets and short texts. Bark was ideal material for writing down things with such a short half-life. Then the pupils got bored and started to doodle, as kids do: crude drawings of individuals with big hands, as well as a figure with a raised sword standing next to a defeated beast (lower image). The last one was drawn by Onfim, who put his name next to the victorious warrior. The snippets provide a delightful and most unusual peek into a 13th-century classroom, with kids learning to read - and getting bored in the process.
More information - On the scraps in general, see here. Here is a full inventory, in Russian. On the excavation, see here and here. More kids’ doodles here and here. Some letters in this Flickr stream. The Leiden scholar Jos Schaeken published a book in Dutch on this material, which can be downloaded for free here (English translation to follow next year).
Oh my god this is the cutest thing ever
Hadrian’s Wall was a defensive fortification in Roman Britain, begun in AD 122 during the rule of emperor Hadrian. In addition to its military role, gates through the wall served as customs posts.
photo by gms
I was doing research on Napoleon when I found it again
My favorite picture of him
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, “stuffing” was quite the fad, be it in tiny cars or telephone booths. But in 1961, students at the University of Maine decided to cram inside hollow trees. A “Tree Stuffing” contest was held by the Pi Phi Sorority and Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity at the University of Maine. The result: 13 girls were stuffed into the hollow tree, and 15 boys. From Mental Floss.
The Strongest Anti-Racism Ads Of The Last 20 Years
- 1996 Benetton
- 1996 UK
- 1999 campaign via the UK by the Commission for Racial Equality
- 2001 For the National Congress Of American Indians
- 2002 Via the UK for the National Assembly Against Racism
- 2002 Via the UK
- 2002 National Union of Students
- 2003 Red Cross of Finland
- 2004 campaign via the UK
- 2007 A More Perfect Union via the USA
Number 8 though.