The statue by William Ordway Partridge was placed in Jamestown in 1922 to commemorate the life of Pocahontas, daughter of Chief Powhatan, who served as a diplomat between the English colonists and the Powhatan tribe. Pocahontas married colonial leader John Rolfe but perished during her honeymoon trip to England. One of the best-known if also least-understood Native Americans, Pocahontas was born around 1595 and died in 1617. The statue presents Pocahontas in dress that was typical for Native Americans on the Great Plains rather than those who lived in Virginia at the time of contact with colonists, something that reflects the view of many Americans who envision all Native Americans as identical.
Early Jamestown leader Captain John Smith claimed that Pocahontas saved him on more than one occasion. In reality, she may have been performing a Native American diplomatic ritual meant to demonstrate power by acting as the agent who convinced her father to spare Smith's life. If her role was one of diplomacy, it was a role that she played often and with great skill.
From 1608 to 1609, Pocahontas was a regular visitor to Jamestown, arriving with food sent from Powhatan. Relations between the natives and the colonists might have shifted after these years, as Pocahontas did not visit the settlement between 1609 and 1613. In April 1613, the English found her and forced her to go to Jamestown where she was kept as a prisoner. It was during this time she was baptized, a decision that may have reflected a genuine desire to convert to Christianity or a strategic decision to alleviate her condition.
By marrying John Rolfe in April 1614, she once again worked to secure peace among the English and Native Americans. In 1616 she, Rolfe, and their baby, Thomas, went to England; it was on the trip back to Virginia that she passed away on March 21, 1617. She was laid to rest at St. George’s Church in Gravesend, England. Many Americans believe themselves to be her descendants through Thomas and her granddaughter.