Roderick, Tom, et al. “Bias in Children’s Movies: Pocahontas.” Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A
Practical Guide to K-12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development, edited by Enid
Lee et al., 2nd ed., Teaching for Change, 2002.
Counter Narrative Connections
This is Chief Roy Crazy Horse of the Powhatan Renape Nation’s response to “the Pocahontas Myth” propogated and monetized by Disney through their animated film Pocahontas. In the memo, Chief Roy Crazy Horse gives a brief history of Pocahontas’ life, as well as key ways in which the Disney film harmfully bends truth about Pocahontas’ history. He particularly notes Pocahontas’ young age during John Smith’s time in Virginia, the unlikelihood of Pocahontas saving or needing to save John Smith’s life, and that Pocahontas was captured by the settlers and forced to marry another colonizer John Rolfe.
This resource accomplishes several objectives. For one, it introduces a discussion of films and artwork as playing an important role in how people understand history and communities (and does so through a film with which many children are already familiar). Chief Roy Crazy Horse’s letter to Disney also introduces children to art criticism—that artwork is connected to communities and those communities have a right to respond. Particularly per the Pocahontas narrative, Chief Roy Crazy Horse’s introduces an important perspective that is often left out of the Pocahontas story—the perspective of her own people, the Powhatans. Most historical accounts of Pocahontas rely on John Smith’s diaries and letters, or the written records of English colonialists. Additionally, Chief Roy Crazy Horse’s letter asserts that the Powhatan community is not, as the master narrative pretends, a community of the past.
Pair with Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices by Mary Beth Leatherdale and Lisa Charleyboy for a discussion about depictions of Native Americans in media and the differences between depictions of Native Americans by Native Americans vs non-Native Americans. What does it mean for somebody to be able to tell their own story?
Film and Art Criticism
Responsibilities of Accuracy in Artwork
Own Voices Stories
Grappling with Competing Historical Accounts