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True Story of Pocahontas

Chapter Book

The True Story of Pocahontas: The Other Side of History

Dr. Linwood "Little Bear" Custalow and Angela L. Daniel “Silver Star”

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Daniel, Angela L., and Linwood Custalow. The True Story of Pocahontas: The Other Side of History.

     Fulcrum Publishing, 2007.

Counter Narrative Connections

The historical account of Pocahontas is predominantly that gathered from the journals of John Smith and other English colonialists, i.e. written accounts of history. For years, the Powhatan side of the Pocahontas story, maintained through oral histories, has only existed (and rather intentionally so) outside of the publishing world. Given history writers’ bias toward written information over oral, the master narrative of Pocahontas is that of an erased Powhatan perspective.


The work of Dr. Linwood "Little Bear" Custalow and Angela L. Daniel “Silver Star” in this book, then, is groundbreaking. Dr. Linwood "Little Bear" Custalow is the historian of the Mattaponi Indian tribe and has spent his life learning his tribe’s oral history. In The True Story of Pocahontas, he works with Angela L. Daniel “Silver Star” to transcribe the oral history of Pocahontas into print.


This book is not written for children, but the reading difficulty is very approachable for middle-grade. Further, it is the only account of a Powhatan perspective of the Pocahontas story as passed down through the oral tradition. This work offers a key counter to the Euro-centric, writing-biased Pocahontas master narrative, in addition to key counter narratives about particular details of Pocahontas’ life.

Teaching Prompt

Chapters 3 (“Pocahontas: The Powhatan Peace Symbol”), 4 (“Powhatan Rule: Not by Force”), and 7 (“Pocahontas Kidnapped”) might be read as excerpts for an abridged account of Pocahontas’ relationship with the colonists. Note that other chapters should be read by the instructor beforehand, as some mention topics that might be too mature for children. The chapter “The Other Side of History” offers an introduction to oral history, how it differs from written history, and pros and cons of both. 


Have students share what they learned about Pocahontas from the Disney movie. Compile answers in a large group list. Compare these statements to depictions of these events in The True Story of Pocahontas. Ask students about why the stories might be different, how stories change based on who is telling the story, and how to identify who is telling a story.

Adjacent Topics

  • Grappling with Competing Historical Accounts

  • Historical Authority

  • Differences between Oral History and Written History

  • Primary vs Secondary Sources

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