Pocahontas & Indian Grandmas

Melissa in Pocahontas costume

How can calling someone “Pocahontas” be a slur/insult, & even a form of genocidal tactics, when her identity is seen as glamorous or famous? How is claiming ancestry to her or any other Indian Princess/Grandma/Guide offensive to today’s “Indians”? Was she was one of the first MMIW (Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women)? What do we really even know about Pocahontas?

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In this episode, Chas & Melissa finally manage to talk in a good way about these questions, & more. They aim to get at the crux of why claiming far-off ancestry to famous First Nation people is so aggravating to modern-day “Indians”.

Ultimately they both agree that taking responsibility for All our ancestors, and thanking them, is key.

You can learn more about Melissa in her bio on this site or through her blog writings that came out of premiering her solo show (referenced in this podcast), or even watch the 90 minute show here: PocaHauntUs–Shapeshifting History into HerStory. For exposure to Melissa’s yoga teachings, check out the MYOGA Freedom website &/or the short clips from New Zealand’s Good Morning Show.

A note from Melissa on the PocaHauntUs show:

“It took me an entire year after the premiere of the show to feel brave enough to put it online to a wider, unseen, audience than to only those who’d been there at the 5 live shows in Wellington, New Zealand. It was no accident I felt brave enough to develop & reveal this story there, with the difference in the presence of their indigenous culture, the Maori, in everyday modern life. And also because it was far away enough. For most of my life I’ve been “in the closet” about this, but then I started to try it on as an identity & see where/how it got me. I asked myself, “What relationship to this particular aspect of my ancestry could I develop that would be true & good? How could my life/living, & the show I put together, honor the best of Pocahontas?”

And that’s what’s tricky. How do we know what we think we know? What are the sources of our almighty information? In questioning the sources of information I had about Pocahontas, some common, some not, my whole sense of time & space & relationality unraveled. I realized I couldn’t really know anything & that how the story is told, & who’s telling the story, IS the story, which I said in the show. So then I began a journey of questioning–seeking out, digging into, & unpeeling in the process–both Pocahontas and myself, as well as everything that was built on these identities, which is nearly everything in my world. It was that far away–in Aotearoa (New Zealand)–that I felt I could connect more closely to alternate ways of imagining Pocahontas, as well as US history as we know it, & the patterns passed on through my grandmothers, my mother, and myself. For me, it was what I had intended–a synthesis of 4th wall separatist storytelling of the western worldview & the transformative (versus performative) carthasis of ceremony. But please keep in mind that the video recording of the show lacks the live transference–it’s a record of an experience more than the experience itself.”

Some Resources from Melissa:

The True Story of Pocahontas, The Other Side of History by Mattaponi Tribal Historian, Dr. Linwood ‘Little Bear’ Custalow, and Angela L. Daniel “Silver Star’, as profiled in Indian Country Today.

Paula Allan Gunn’s alternative view

Helen Rountree, and her books

Frederic Gleach

A book I would have loved to have had while creating the show, but wasn’t published yet so instead I used Howard Zinn‘s A People’s History of the US, is An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.


On the MMIW front, Chas recommends these resources:

South Dakota Coalition Ending Domestic & Sexual Violence

The on-going search for Olivia LoneBear 







2 thoughts on “Pocahontas & Indian Grandmas

  1. Chas and Melissa, I thought you did a great job with this. Thanks for the thoughtful and insightful dialogue. It would be great to hear you discuss: 1. More Than A Word documentary, 2. How to create better partnerships to fight for common causes (always an issue in Sierra Club Chas), 3. How to promote “tribal nation citizenry” rather than member/rolls/blood quantum (ie real nation building)… just a few ideas.

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