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As the battered English ship continues on its way, the action zooms ahead to the tranquil shores of the New World, where life continues on, oblivious to the fact that it will soon change forever. We’re taken to a returning war party, led by Chief Powhatan, that is heading for home after engaging in a long fight with the Massawomecks.
One of the great things about Pocahontas is that it is one of the most realistic animated depictions of a Native American community ever created (as opposed to a more stereotypical representation like the one seen in Peter Pan). We’re given a sweeping overview of daily life: we see women picking corn, young boys playing lacrosse (I’m not sure what their name for the game was), people of all ages, from toddlers to the elderly all living in a fairly organized village.
The song tells about the regulated order of daily life; all has been the same for generations. The streams are full of fish, there is plenty of game in the woods, and all life is grounded by a firm belief in the Great Spirit and its power in their lives. All of this is provided to show that these people, while different from the arriving settlers, are hardly “savages” (as Ratcliffe continuously refers to them throughout the film).
In an earlier version of this song, Kocuom (a warrior who would like very much to marry Pocahontas) had a verse of his own ( where he sang about how he would build Pocahontas “a sturdy house with sturdy walls” (a line referenced later in “Just Around the Riverbend”). Actually, it may have been an entire song in its own right (“Dancing to the Wedding Drum”, but in a behind the scenes feature playing the song, it has nearly the same melody as this song, so I consider them one and the same).
I believe this song/verse was cut because Kocuom has a very different personality (he smiles!!!) from what we see in the final film. This is a shame because Kocuom gets very little character development overall and it would have been nice to see this moment between them.
As word spreads that the war party is nearly home, everyone begins to gather at the shore to welcome them. Clearly this is a greatly anticipated homecoming. Chief Powhatan is very happy to be home, but there is one face missing from the crowd…his own daughter Pocahontas! (Go figure the titular character is missing, a similar thing happens in The Little Mermaid, only Pocahontas isn’t in trouble for not being present).
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