Big Ideas Company are proud to announce Pocahontas 2017: a public season marking the 400th anniversary of the presence in England of an extraordinary Native American woman who lived and died at the collision of two very different worlds. Her compelling story enables us to reflect on issues still relevant to us all.

The project was launched with a special ceremony at St George’s Church in Gravesend, believed to be the site of Pocahontas’ grave. At the event, the US Ambassador Matthew Barzun was joined by Mayor of Gravesham Cllr Greta Goatley, direct descendant John Rolfe, Crow Creek Cultural Ambassador to the UK Stephanie Pratt and Cllr Jordan Meade, Cabinet Member at Gravesham Borough Council, who at 21 is the same age as Pocahontas was when she died.

Before the ceremony the Ambassador, direct descendants, Stephanie Pratt, Gravesham Mayor, Cllr Jordan Meade and students from Thamesview School laid 21 roses (for 21 years of Pocahontas’ life) at the statue of her at St George’s Church.

The story of Pocahontas contains far more than the uplifting – and hugely popular – animated films from Disney. The daughter of paramount chief Powhatan, Matoaka was born in what is now Virginia state around 1596, and known then and since as Pocahontas. She was an influential figure in her community and lived through a period of exceptional change as the English established a permanent settlement in the ‘New World’.

Big Ideas Company are working in consultation with the Pamunkey Tribal Council (the same tribe as Pocahontas), and the
Pocahontas 2017 logo is a photograph of a gourd created by Pamunkey tribe member Ethan Brown. The gourd depicts a Powhatan story of the afterlife and an image of Pocahontas on her path to the spirit world.

We may never recover the ‘real’ Pocahontas, but we can explore the issues her history presents and bring both the shared history of Britain and America and current themes including native rights, cultural appropriation and multi-racial identity into clearer focus today.

The 2017 programme includes a public exhibition, a conference at the British Library, and the production of an international resource for schools with the British Council.

Tickets for the conference Pocahontas and after:historical culture and transatlantic encounters 1617 – 2017 are on sale now. This major international conference to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Pocahontas’ death is co-hosted by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library and the Institute for Historical Research.