Pocahontas & The Virginia Indians Online Course

Class #1- Intro to the Project, the Course and the Virginia Indians

Welcome Matoaka Covenant Participant!

I am so excited to welcome you to the first class in the on-line self-study course called Pocahontas and the Virginia Indians. As the curator of the course content I am honored you have chosen to enter into this information and inspiration exchange and I look forward to collaborating with you to make your education and social development experience as meaningful as possible. For The Pocahontas Project, the ultimate objectives of this Course involve providing students a strong foundation of information and understanding about Pocahontas and the Virginia Indians, inspiring Hope and Purpose, and expanding students’ intellectual and spiritual horizons as they look to participate in the Matoaka Covenant and the Matoaka Sustainability Action Plan.

Our intentions and objectives for the Course have been influenced by the global upheaval of 2020 as Pocahontas' life example has become much more topical and relevant. Much like humanity is currently facing, Pocahontas and her people were simultaneously confronted with new diseases and escalating racial, social and economic tensions after the English started to arrive in 1607.  Barely a teenager in the face of this adversity and uncertainty, Pocahontas exemplified leadership qualities that are compelling and quite relevant today for people of all ages, especially teenagers around the globe who will inherit the world adults have created for them. 

The 10 classes of the course offer a diverse set of information sources presenting a variety of perspectives of the life, legend and legacy of the woman most famously known as Pocahontas, as well as the history and culture of the Virginia Indians, with special attention to the tribes associated with Paramount Chief Powhatan.  Since there is remarkably little historical information available on the life of Pocahontas, much is open for interpretation and the course presents a variety of perspectives so you can draw your own conclusions.  While they can be viewed in any order, it is suggested the 10 class segments be viewed in the order presented.  For instance, the Project suggests it is best if students view a couple of versions of Pocahontas' life presented by credible historical organizations before they view the version of history presented in the Disney Pocahontas movie, which is part of the course content.

We have added to the formal course content a set of videos created specifically for this course in the summer of 2020 by fellow students and folks from places named for or connected to Pocahontas.  Collectively these “shout out” videos will be from people and places in Virginia, England, and around the world and intend to offer students additional current context.

At the end of each class is a concept we call Thoughtwork, which is an important component of the course designed to inspire critical thinking.  Following up on the content of each class, Course Headteacher Rhonda Taylor suggests Thoughtwork for students to consider. This intellectual opportunity is an example of the self-study aspect of this course - how much time you spend is up to you, but we are going to try to provoke and challenge you to want to spend time because it has meaning to you. You will see that before you start the Class #1 content Headteacher Taylor has some Pre-Course Thoughtwork for you to consider.

We start the Class #1 Content with an introductory video from me, Rick Tatnall, and my good friend Anne Richardson, Chief of the Rappahannock Indian Tribe. We follow with a video introduction from Headteacher Rhonda Taylor. Following that you will access videos from two people who have been materially involved in The Pocahontas Project from the beginning - Rev. Chris Stone from Gravesend, England and Carol Steele from Gloucester, Virginia. Formal Class #1 content follows these videos.

Finally, some housekeeping considerations:

1) You got to this webpage using the dedicated course link on the Gloucester County website, shown below – please save this link as you will use it every time you want to access the course.


2) This webpage will always feature the content for Class #1 – scroll to the bottom of this webpage to find links for the archived course class #2 through #10

3) Audio quality will vary with some of the “shout out” videos, so please be prepared to turn your volume up or down as needed

4) Class #4 involves viewing the 1995 Disney movie “Pocahontas”.   It is the student’s responsibility to obtain access to the movie, which is available for free on many streaming services and on YouTube for $2.99

5) Please let me know about any problems you encounter in terms of accessing content, technical issues, distorted web page views, or other problems with the presentation of the course content

6) We are relying on the Honor System - Please remember that the web link we are providing is for your use only. 

That’s all for now – please enjoy Class #1.

Rick Tatnall

The Pocahontas Project


Headteacher Pre-Course Thoughtwork (before you get started with Class #1)

Before you start with the Class #1 Content Headteacher Rhonda Taylor suggests every Student spend some time considering the following:

•    What are your goals and objectives for taking this Course?  If the Pocahontas Project can help you achieve them, please let us know how.  Your input will help us customize this informational and inspirational experience for you.

•    What knowledge do you already hold regarding Pocahontas?  Consider the context of your understanding – does what you know place Pocahontas in the context of her culture, or in yours?

•    What do you need intellectually and spiritually to better understand the worldview of Pocahontas’ people more completely?  Whatever that is, students are asked to look for it in this Course and please ask for it if you don’t find it.

Introductory Video from Course Curator Rick Tatnall and Chief Anne Richardson discussing the Pocahontas Project and the purpose & goals of this course

Headteacher, Rhonda Taylor Course Intro

Student of the course video, discussing why Pocahontas is important to them- Rev. Chris Stone from Gravesend, England

Shout out video from a place named for or connected to Pocahontas- Carol Steele from Gloucester, Virginia.

Formal Class Content

In March of 2017 the community of Gravesend, England honored the 400th anniversary of the funeral of Pocahontas at St. George’s Church on March 21, 1617 with a multi-event commemoration called Pocahontas 400.  Planning for and participating in Pocahontas 400 provided the energy and inspiration for the creation of the Pocahontas Project.  This video captures the magic quite well.

Pocahontas 400 commemoration video (March 2017 in Gravesend, England – 13.5 minutes)


An influential site since the 1200’s, Werowocomoco is located along the York River’s Puritan Bay in Gloucester County. Many believe it was the political and spiritual center of the Tidewater Indian world for more than 400 years before English colonists from Jamestown recorded visits there.  Abandoned in 1609, the site remained in private hands until becoming part of the National Park System in 2016.

NPS Video – Werowocomoco: A Powhatan Place of Power (2018 / 7 minutes)


Virginia Humanities has collaborated with the Library of Virginia for an online catalog called Encyclopedia Virginia. This link offers Students a complete history on Indians in Virginia and pathways to more information.

Reading Assignment > Virginia Humanities Encyclopedia Virginia – Indians in Virginia


Class #1 Thoughtwork (to be done after reviewing all class content)

  • Students are asked to consider the power of the place called Werowocomoco in 1606 – a year before the English arrive.  After thousands of years of social development, Werowocomoco in 1606 was the home / capital / headquarters of the supreme leadership of the complex society we call the Powhatan Tribes; a place Pocahontas certainly knew well.  Then in 1607, the English showed up in numbers and life immediately changed forever for the Powhatan tribes. WOW – consider what that must have been like for Pocahontas and her people.
  • Students are asked to consider the similarities between the “new normal” Pocahontas and her people faced with the arrival of the English, and the new normal humanity is currently facing in 2021.   Like today, the Powhatan Tribes were simultaneously confronted with new diseases and escalating racial tensions after the English started to arrive in 1607.  Barely a teenager in the face of this adversity and uncertainty, Pocahontas exemplified leadership qualities that are compelling and quite relevant today.   Students are asked to start considering what other similarities and consistencies there are between the Pocahontas story and global events today – please consider this an ongoing aspect of your Thoughtwork as you go through the entire course.