Will the Real Pocahontas Please Stand Up?

Will the Real Pocahontas Please Stand Up?
Edith Wilson: Religion, Social Issues and Reform

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Two to three class periods


Since Edith Wilson traced her ancestry back to the Indian princess, Pocahontas, this is a good time to look at the story of Pocahontas, which is sometimes disputed, and certainly portrayed differently by different authors and artists.


Students participating in this activity will learn about Pocahontas, the Powhatan Indians, and the many stories about Pocahontas.  They will gain experience in assessing the relative merits of presentations of Pocahontas's life, and try to decide who the "real" Pocahontas was.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet Access to print materials about Pocahontas and the Powhatan Indians A copy of the Disney movie, Pocahontas.


1.  Using the websites listed below, have students explore the story of Pocahontas and the life of the Powhatan Indians of Virginia. 

2.   Have students observe the four depictions of Pocahontas shown on the website, "The Four Faces of Pocahontas."  Ask them to write down the differences they observe in this portraits, and what they think the different portrayals "say" about her.

3.  Spend some time on the website describing Powhatan village life.  Ask students to list characteristics of the culture of the people.

4.  Watch the Disney movie, Pocahontas; ask students to consider differences between what they have learned about Pocahontas and her tribe and the way in which the movie tells the story.  Why do they think such differences exist?

5.  Ask students to decide who the "real" Pocahontas is.


Extending the Lesson:

This lesson might be extended by building models of a Powhatan village, or by reading books about the Indians of Virginia, the settlement of Jamestown, and/or other early Virginia settlements.

Sources & Resources:



This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.