She saved the colony of Jamestown, Virginia from extinction by supplying it with food, and is said to have prevented her father from executing colonist John Smith. (Smith's account of this episode is generally not thought to be accurate.) In 1612, she was captured and held hostage at Jamestown. Her marriage to one of the colonists, John Rolfe, in 1614 created a climate of peace between the Jamestown colonists and Powhatan's tribes for several years. Prior to her marriage, she was baptised and was known by her Christian name thereafter, Rebecca Rolfe.
She created a sensation in England when she toured there as an "Indian princess" in 1616, but she died in Gravesend of smallpox. Her only child was Thomas Rolfe, through whom she has living descendants. Thomas Rolfe remained in England.
The 1995 Disney cartoon Pocahontas presents a highly romanticized and distorted view of the events surrounding Pocahontas' meeting with John Smith. See Pocahontas (movie) for a list of films surrounding this story.