Little Kocoum or Ka Okee; who was the child of Pocahontas and her husband Kocoum?
Due to some rather inappropriate comments left in response to this post, I have turned off the commenting option. Genealogy should be fun, but occasionally folks who disagree with my opionions take it way to far. If you cannot handle someone having an opinion that differs from your, maybe you shouldn't read this post. Let me also preface this post by saying I did not come to my conclusions alone. I work with a team of genealogist on Wikitree who specialize in Native American Genealogy and have years of experience. The researchers on the website Geni.com have also come to the came conclusion as us. That being said....proceed with caution.
There are innumberable genealogies on the internet that claim a descent from Pocahontas, not through her son with John Rolfe but through an earlier child. Did Pocahontas have a child with her first husband Kocoum? We know of the marriage because of a very brief mention by William Strachey who said:
“…they often reported unto us that Powhata had then lyving twenty sonnes and ten daughters besides a young one by Winganuse, Machumps his sister and a great Dearling of the kings, and besides younge Pocohunta a daughter of his, vsing sometype to our Fort in tymes past, now marryed to a private Captayne called Kocoum some 2 years synce.“
This text is the only mention of Kocoum in the written record. Did Pocahontas and Kocoum have any children? There is no evidence for a child in any written record. Pocahontas was of child bearing age and it is entirely possible that she had a child.
There are two mentioned on internet genealogies.
Little Kocoum gets less web attention than his alter ego Ka Okee. But, his provenance has a more stable background. In 2007 a small, ill written book entitled The True Story of Pocahontas was published. I say 'ill written' because it is unrelentingly redundant and seems to be written on a fourth grade level. The book was written by Dr. Linwood "Little Bear" Custalow and Angela L. Daniels "Little Star." Dr. Linwood was a member the Mattiponi Tribe, one of the tribes inherited by Powhatan, father of Pocahontas.
This book makes many assertions concerning the life of Pocahontas and the authority for these statements is said to be the "sacred oral history" of the Mattiponi Tribe. I will not deny that oral tradition has a place in genealogy, but I will argue that oral tradition cannot replace the written record, it can only complement it. In any case according to this book, Custalow says that Pocahontas and her first husband Kocoum had one child, a son. This son was called Little Kocoum. The book is quite clear that the child was a boy and goes on to say that some of his descendants are alive today including the 'entertainer' Wayne Newton.
Do we accept oral tradition as if it was fact? If so, if we have to believe that Little Kocoum was the child of Pocahontas. If we accept one statement as fact then we must also accept the other claims laid out in the book. Custalow states that Pocahontas, after her kidnapping was raped, repeatedly, possibly by more than one man. He says that only after she became pregnant did she marry John Rolfe. He says unequivocally that Thomas Rolfe was not the son of John Rolfe. He also says that Pocahontas was murdered. I would like to give you an example of Custalow's writing:
"While Mattachanna was with Pocahontas, Pocahontas also told her that she believed that she was pregnant. Mattachanna found Pocahontas depressed, emotionally disturbed, fatigued and nauseous".
I find it amazing that the keepers of Mattaponi sacred history, who I assume were mostly men, would over the course of four hundred years, find room to remember such minute details of a rather minor event. Now, I am not saying that in the life of Pocahontas that this was minor, but rather that in all the things that happened to these people, as a whole, in the last four hundred years, that this sort of intimate, minute detail would be passed down.
In any case, if one accepts that the Mattiponi oral history is the 'gospel truth' then we must accept that Pocahontas had two male children who survived her, one full blooded Indian, Kocoum, the other a half Anglo child, Thomas, who was not the son of John Rolfe.
So people have voiced doubts as to the veracity of the claims by Linwood Custalow and questioned his motives in writing the book. Not this quote from Helen Rountree found on the website Pocahontas Lives by Kevin Miller:
Nevertheless, one prominent expert who knew Custalow, and who has written many volumes on the Powhatan Indians, did choose to weigh in. Anthropologist Helen C. Rountree wrote in a personal email,
"I don’t believe Linwood’s 'sacred tradition' stuff was either accurate or passed down through the Mattaponis. … Linwood didn’t get any of his stuff from his ancestors."
To find the full article on the Custalow Book see this website; The Custalow Book
where does kaokee fit in?
Ka Okee is as much the child of Pocahontas as she is the child of Bill Deyo. Bill is a member of the Patawomeck Indian Tribe. He writes that he had researched his connections to Pocahontas for many years. It was only with the publication of Custalow's book that he was able to connect his family to Pocahontas. 'Little Kocoum' was the missing link. In an article in the Patawomeck Tides he lays out all his theories centered around many Virginia families who believed they had an Indian ancestor but could not quite pin her down. It seems she and a woman named Christian Martin were connected but not until Custalow published his book did all the die fall into place. Ka Okee mother of Christian Martin was the daughter of Pocahontas.
Well, wait a minute. I thought Custalow said Pocahontas had a boy, named for his father. How did he somehow become a girl? The Tide article says:
The book by Custalow and Daniel calls the child “Little Kocoum,” but the time line near the end of the book states that they really do not know anything about the child from the sacred Mattaponi history, only that Pocahontas had a child by Kocoum and that the child was raised by the Patawomeck Tribe. The book states that the Newton family of Stafford County descends from the child of Pocahontas and Kocoum! Can you imagine the joy of the compiler to learn this after over 40 years of research? It was no wonder that he could not find a descent from Pocahontas and John Rolfe for his family. The descent was not from John Rolfe at all but was through Pocahontas’ first husband, Kocoum! The reason that the Mattaponi Tribe knew that the Newtons and other Stafford families descended from Pocahontas and Kocoum was due to the research of the late Mattaponi Chief, O. T. Custalow, who married Elizabeth Newton of Stafford. Chief Custalow researched the ancestry of his wife, Elizabeth Newton, long before the compiler was born and was able to talk to the elders at that
time who knew how they descended from Pocahontas. Years later, when the compiler began his
research, the elders at that time knew that Pocahontas was their ancestor but did not know how.
The problem with this is that the book states that the Newton family of Stafford County descends from the son of Pocahontas and Kocoum, not a daughter.
where does that leave us?
I personally have no clue if Pocahontas had more than one children. What troubles me more is the lack of evidence further down the ladder, and this is where genealogical standards come into play. Ka-Okee is supposed to have married Thomas Pettus; there is no proof. We do not know when Thomas Pettus arrived in Virginia and there was more than one man of that name. Ka-Okee is said to have a daughter Christian Pettus who married a John Martin; again no proof. If someone out there knows of such proof, and by that I mean an actual document written at the time that these people were alive. Please pass it on.
A through search done by wikitree members turned up zero evidence for Ka Okee other than internet postings by Bill Deyo. He is the sole source of this story. There is a difference between family lore and genealogy, sadly for genealogy this story has been taken for fact.
William Strachney, Historie of Travell into Virginia Britania (1612), eds. Louis B. Wright and Virginia Freund, Kraus Reprint Limited, Liechtenstein 1967 p. 62.