For weeks people had been talking in hushed voices,
stopping whenever she came near and looking
furtively at one another. Her name floated on the
wind like the smell of venison cooking over hot coals. Maybe
they were going to send her away to another tribe as they
were tired of her mischief and her constant questions…
maybe they going to sacrifice her to the Gods in return for
spiritual protection for the tribe? Was this the end for her?
Even although Matachanna, her older sister, had made
it very clear that only adults were invited, to the ‘special
meeting’, she had to find out what was going on - this was a
matter of life or death. She was Pocahontas, the daughter of
The Great Powhatan, and if they were not going to tell her
what this was all about, she would have to take matters into
her own hands. She was eight years old, and she had a right
to know if she was going to be sacrificed.
She watched them filing in to the quiccosan and waited
outside until everyone had entered. Then, lifting the doorflap,
screwing up her face and counting to ten, she crept in
like a small mouse, hardly daring to breathe. She crouched
down by the entrance, looking around her, while her eyes
adjusted to the darkness.
The quiccosan was the largest building that she had ever
seen. It was so long she could hardly see from one end to
the other, especially in the dark smoky atmosphere. The
rounded roof seemed as high as the sky, and the large fire
that burned Apook in the middle, made it fragrant and
warm, if a little stifling. She had to hold her breath to stop
herself coughing as the tobacco fumes clogged up her throat
and made her eyes water. There was a door flap at each end
of the large building, and strong mountainous pillars down
the middle, the tops of which bore the faces of members of
the Manito Aki. The pillars held up the roof, affirming
the presence of the spirits presiding over everything that
happened in the Great House.
She looked up to the faces of the Gods majestically staring
down at her, stern and judgmental, and bowed her head.
Her respects paid, she glanced back at the door flap from
where she had come, and then forwards to a potential hiding
place, pausing, considering - was this really a good idea?
She prayed once more to Oke to keep her invisible and
then summoning all the energy she had, she ran, crouching
down as small as she could until she reached a bench to hide
behind. She looked up at the wooden faces of the Gods once
more and put her hands together at her heart and mouthed
a silent apology for her rude intrusion.
She looked around to see if anyone earthly was watching,
breathing a sigh of relief when she saw that all eyes were on
her father. They sat side by side on long benches around the
Quiccosan, dressed in colourful ceremonial dress, intricate
headdresses signifying their varying ranks. Their bodies,
painted with flowers or animals, glistened in the heat of the
fire. Their faces were drawn, concentrating. Despair hung
in the air like a heavy blanket. Maybe they were sad that they
had to get rid of her? They were all people that had known
her since she was born and they all loved her, and she loved
them, but sometimes you had to do things you do not want
to do when there is a good reason – she had been told this
many times, and she almost forgave them.
The Great Powhatan, her father, put his hands together in
front of his heart as he bowed his head. Pocahontas saw the
sparkle had gone from his crinkly eyes as he looked at the
assembled group. He, especially, would be devastated if he
lost her. She was his favourite daughter, his ‘Little Mischief’.
He would miss her if she was sacrificed.
He raised his arm for silence. She held her breath.
“We have talked often my brothers and sisters, but you
must understand that the Spirits are sending us warnings.
The Quiakros have seen what is to come… it has been
foretold for many moons that great change is coming.” He
paused and looked around, struggling to draw himself up
to full height but giving in to powerlessness as he shook his
” This will be a new kind of foe, one that does not talk to
the winds as we do. We must prepare ourselves. My dream
vision commands that we embrace change. We know that
change can be difficult, but it is not always bad. We will learn
better ways from our new friends, forging an alliance that
will be strong and safe against further enemies.”
Nothing about her yet… hopefully he would get on with
it as she was starting to get pins and needles, and so far this
was very boring. Just about change, and someone coming.
Nothing to do with her.
Her Uncle Opechancanough, The Great Powhatan’s
younger brother, cleared his throat. Everyone turned to
look at him, including Pocahontas. Opechancanough always
spoke his mind, he was sure to get to the point and put her
out of her misery.
“Great Powhatan, how can this be right? We must defend
our lands, our food, and our people - if not, we will be
overrun and wiped out. You are surrendering control before
we have even seen these new invaders or tried to defend
ourselves. They will not come over the seas at great peril to
themselves to help us - they will come to take our lands and
kill our people.”
Powhatan looked at Opechancanough, and Pocahontas
had rarely seen such determination in his eyes. It was not to
do with her, but nevertheless it was getting very interesting…
Her father spoke. “The great festival of Nikomis, the
winter feast celebrating the grandmother, The Woman That
Fell From The Sky, will bring us answers, my brother. My
beautiful daughter Pocahontas will receive her dream vision
as prophesied by the Manito Aki. This will be the greatest
dream vision that we have received for many generations.
The Quiakros will interpret Pocahontas’s dreams and they
will tell us what to do. It is not up to you or me, it is up to
the visions of Pocahontas.”
Pocahontas froze like a cornered hare… ‘up to the visions
of Pocahontas? Invaders?’ What did it all mean? She watched,
trembling, to see what would happen next. Her Uncle’s face
was puce. Everyone else was sitting on the edge of their seats
waiting for the drama between the two brothers to unfold.
“But Powhatan… we must prepare for war… we cannot rely
on the visions of a child!” Opechancanough had disbelief
written all over his face.
Powhatan raised his arm, looked at Opechancanough and
shook his head. “The Gods have spoken, my brother. It is
true, she is just a child, but she is also the most important
Beloved Woman we have had for generations. I cannot
ignore the Prophesies.”
Opechancanough stared at his brother. Powhatan stared
back, his face unflinching.
“There is nothing more to say then” Opechancanough
muttered through gritted teeth, getting up and marching out
of the Quiccosan, the door flap swinging violently behind
Pocahontas pulled back into the shadows as he passed.
She looked after him, and then towards her father, her face
drained of colour, bile rising up to her throat …the most
important dream vision for generations… it is up to the Dream
Visions of Pocahontas…
Powhatan paused, regaining his composure, and then
turned back to the assembled group who were murmuring
amongst themselves, clearly shocked by what they had just
He stood up raising both arms in the air for silence. “There
will be some among you that doubt. Just remember, one
thing is certain - change is coming. We will learn how
to manage change by being alert and by listening to the
Gods and the Visions that are sent – even if they are sent to
children. We must trust in the messages sent to us by the
Gods.” He bowed his head, sat down and closed his eyes to
signify the ending of the meeting.
She was the child on whom they all depended. She should
have listened to Matachanna, and never come to the meeting.
The words played in her ears…. ‘It is up to the Dream Visions
As Powhatan sat with his eyes closed, everyone withdrew
and left the Quioccosan, somber and deep in thought.
Pocahontas crouched in her hiding place, waiting for the
moment to strategically leave without being seen.
She was getting pins and needles in her legs from crouching.
The Quiccosan had emptied out now, and she was left
on her own with Powhatan. She tried to stretch out her leg
to get the circulation going, and panic overwhelmed her as
she saw, as if in slow motion, the huge bench that she was
hiding behind started to topple over. She reached over to
steady it, but it was too late.
There she was, thoroughly exposed, scrabbling around on
the floor like a beetle, with no hiding place, her eyes wide
and focussed on her father, waiting for the sky to fall in when
he realised her crime. Powhatan opened his eyes and looked
in her direction, alert for danger.
“It is only me father, it is only Pocahontas. I came to see
you, but I see it is not the right time, so I will just go.” She
looked at him with wide eyes, rising from her crouched position, hobbling as her circulation started to flow. She started to move towards the door, gaining speed.
“Oh Pocahontas, what are we going to do with you child?” He shook his head, but a faint smile touched his lips. “You know you should not be here, but right now your presence has lifted my heart at a time when my heart is very heavy. Stay awhile.”
He patted the ground next to him, and as her anticipation of his wrath diminished, she breathed a sigh of relief and tiptoed towards him, sitting down cross legged. She looked up at him, wondering what he was going to say next, needing to know what it all meant, but his eyes were vacant, his smile faded as he looked into the flames. She wriggled, but his silence was telling her to wait. She crossed and re-crossed her legs and looked up at him again. His eyes were still focused on the yellow and blue flames as he breathed in the fragrant apook in silence. His breathing was hoarse and loud, almost as if he was asleep. She did not want to disturb him and he had said he wanted her to stay, so she held in her impatience.
She sat for a while picking her fingernails and wriggling her toes, but she really needed to go and think things through, if Powhatan was not going to answer her questions. She glanced up at him to see if his face had changed at all. He was still the same. She was not sure if he still knew she was there. Maybe he was asleep? She had to do something. She moved her small hand towards his arm and touched him, smiling up at him. He looked down at her as if seeing her for the first time. It was now or never.
“Father, I heard what you were saying to Uncle Opechancanough, and I think this needs further consideration.” She was trying to sound grown-up. He laughed. “If only it were that simple, my Little Mischief.” He wasn’t supposed to laugh, this was serious. Her face crumpled “I didn’t realise that my Visions would be so important. I am scared. I am just a child, I cannot do these things” she said.
He smiled as she looked up at him with big black eyes that were glistening with fear and anticipation. Her tiny naked flat chest was rising and falling as she waited, hoping that he could take from her the weight that had suddenly crashed down on her tiny shoulders. Hoping he would say it was alright and that she had misunderstood.
He sighed as he stooped down and lifted her up onto his knee and put his arm around her, drawing her into him. She felt his strong firm body and his still and calm presence, and sighed. This was her father; this was the strong warrior that she knew. He would make it better. She relaxed into him.
He looked down at her. “It is alright Pocahontas. The Spirits will always protect you and give you what you need. You are only a Messenger. It is not your message that we are waiting for - it is the message that will be given to you by the Manito Aki. All you must do is open your heart.”
Pocahontas screwed up her face. “I do not really know what it all means, father. I don’t know how to open my heart. Say I am given a Vision and I tell you the wrong thing?” Her mouth turned down and she sat up and stared into the fire, drawing her eyebrows together.
Powhatan pulled her back and gave her another hug. “Before you were born, it was prophesied that you would be a Beloved Woman whose Dream Visions would foretell the biggest changes in the world for hundreds of years. When the Spring Equinox is with us, you will go to a Hobbomak and you will stay there, not eating for many days. It is then that the Spirits will send you The Vision.”
Their eyes met. Her face was long, and her eyes were watery, remembering what her Uncle had said. “But father, I am only a child, I cannot do these things. I don’t know enough.”
“I know you will worry. It would be strange if you did not. All I can tell you Pocahontas, is that this is a process that has been going on for thousands of years. The spirits have said that you will be very special, and your name will be remembered for generations to come. There is nothing that you can do to stop this - the Spirits have spoken.”
“But I don’t feel special, I just want to play and have fun. Can’t you choose someone else?”
Powhatan enveloped her in a bear like hug, smiling, but her body remained stiff, her eyes staring into the fire. She had known she had special powers for a long time. She saw things that others could not see. But she had ignored it, hoping it would go away. She wanted to please him so much, but she feared telling him about the Visions she had already seen, … She shivered, but not from the cold. She was beginning to realize that the nightmares that came to her day and night, were not just dreams, they were prophesies – and silent tears slid down her face as it became clear that Powhatan could not take it all away. It was all up to her...