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Pocahontas & The Virginia Indians Online Course

Class #4 - Pocahontas Reimagined

In the past 2 classes students have been introduced to the life and legend of Pocahontas from the mostly objective eyes of the folks at the Smithsonian and NOVA. While experts rightfully take issue with some of what is presented in those two videos, that’s primarily the result of an incomplete record and not of any intent to deceive. In Class #4 students will have the opportunity to view a complete reimagination of the story of the woman most famously known as Pocahontas from the fantasy makers at Disney Productions.

This Course began on June 15, 2020 which was almost 25 years to the day that the Disney movie named Pocahontas was released in theaters. In their "version" of history Disney reimagined every aspect of Pocahontas in an effort to create a storybook fantasy. From the history of her life and the lives of the cast of characters that are a part of her life’s story, to the land where Pocahontas was raised, every detail was reimagined to make the story more appealing. The complete rewriting of history was necessary to present an important part of Disney’s story - the sexual relationship between Pocahontas and John Smith. 

The Pocahontas Project believes that 2021, after the year we have witnessed, is the perfect time to view the Disney movie with a critical eye. Many students have seen this movie before as entertainment, but as the course content for Class #4 students are asked to pay attention to the historical errors, the oversexualization, and the various ways race and culture are presented. Society and social norms have changed a lot since 1995 when this movie was released, and the world is now upside down with calls for change for true representations of race, culture and diverse aspects of human society.

To help set the stage (pun intended) for this movie presentation, our Class #4 Student Video is from a great friend of the Pocahontas Project, Madeline Sayet. Raised on traditional Mohegan stories and Shakespeare, Madeline is an actor, writer and director whose work is shaped by the idea of Story Medicine - the belief that every story we put into this world has the power to do real world harm or healing. In her video Madeline offers a very powerful stream of consciousness on the Disney movie from the heart and mind of a native woman and theatrical professional. For more on Madeline Sayet, please view her website here.

In an effort to keep the concentration on the Disney movie Class #4 will not have a "Shout Out" video from a place named for or connected to Pocahontas - we will double up in a future Class to make up. Please remember that it is your responsibility to obtain and view the Disney movie. It is available on many streaming services and a quick google search will offer many options as well. Please let me know if you need any help.


Rick Tatnall

Student of the course video, discussing why Pocahontas is important to them- Madeline Sayet – actor, writer, director and member of the Mohegan Tribe – considering the Disney movie

Formal Class Content

Disney movie: Pocahontas (1995 / 91 minutes)

Access to the movie is the responsibility of the Student

Class #4 Thoughtwork

(to be done after reviewing all class content)

  • The Disney movie is chock full of inaccuracies – historical, geographical, cultural and more. Students are asked to consider these intentional manipulations by Disney, especially in light of the current racial and cultural upheaval – which ones bother you the most and why?
    ** The Pocahontas Project is developing a list of the errors, inaccuracies and manipulations in the Disney movie – Students are encouraged to assist that effort by recording their list and sending it to Rick Tatnall / Pocahontas Project:

  • While there are many inaccuracies, the widespread international attention offered Pocahontas from the Disney movie has catapulted her to be the most well-known Native American of all time. The movie also helped build on the already very positive perception of Pocahontas as a strong woman and influential leader, earned over many centuries. The Pocahontas Project is very focused on the legacy of Pocahontas – using the inspiration of her life example to once again change the future course of world history. For many people across the USA and around the world, the Disney movie is their only intellectual connection to Pocahontas. Students are asked to consider what positive community-building and leadership characteristics are presented by Disney’s Pocahontas that offers a positive foundation to build upon. Students are encouraged to send that list to Rick Tatnall / Pocahontas Project:

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