The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Monday, July 10, 1995                  TAG: 9507100038
SECTION: FRONT                    PAGE: A3   EDITION: FINAL 
DATELINE: PENSACOLA, FLA.                    LENGTH: Medium:   69 lines


When the Indian chief ordered the execution of a European captive, the chief's daughter persuaded him to spare the white man's life.

Does that sound like the story of Capt. John Smith, the Jamestown colonist, now being retold in the Walt Disney movie ``Pocahontas''?

Actually, it happened in Florida nearly 80 years before Smith set foot in Virginia. The European was Spaniard Juan Ortiz and the Indian maiden was known as Ulele.

Many historians doubt that Pocahontas ever saved Smith's life and some contend the Englishman probably made up the story after reading of Ortiz's ordeal.

Not until after Pocahontas died in 1617 did the story show up in a revised account of Smith's adventures. Some historians dismiss Smith as a ``blowhard'' and self-promoter.

``It's something nobody can prove one way or the other,'' said historian William Coker. ``But on the other hand the evidence, I think, leans pretty heavily in favor of him borrowing the story.''

In 1528, Timucua Indians captured Ortiz and three other Spaniards who were searching for missing explorer Panfilio de Narvaez near Tampa Bay.

``The first thing they did was . . . use them for target practice,'' said Coker, an emeritus professor of history at the University of West Florida. Arrows killed three of the Spaniards, but Ortiz survived.

Hirrihugua, chief of the Ucita village, had a score to settle with the Spanish because Narvaez had cut off his nose and killed his mother by throwing her to a pack of dogs.

The chief saved Ortiz for a special torture called ``barbacoa,'' a word that survives as ``barbecue.''

Ortiz was strung up over a fire to be roasted alive but Ulele pleaded with her father to spare his life. The chief's wife joined in the appeal and he relented.

However, the chief again threatened to have Ortiz killed. Before his sentence could be carried out, Ulele helped Ortiz escape to the village of a neighboring chief, Mocoso.

Ortiz lived there in relative peace until he joined Hernando de Soto's expedition 11 years later. He and de Soto died during the winter of 1541-42 near the Mississippi River.

Smith encountered Pocahontas in 1607 and returned to England two years later. Pocahontas married another colonist, John Rolfe, in 1614 and they moved to England in 1616. She died a year later.

Smith's tale of rescue, never written about by any other colonists, does have supporters. Some say he may have left out the rescue initially to avoid scaring away potential colonists. Others say his first writings were heavily edited, possibly deleting the Pocahontas story.

But Helen Roundtree of Old Dominion University in Norfolk has another reason for doubting the Pocahontas story. It claims that Pocahontas' father, Powhatan, planned to bash out his brains with stones. The Indians of that time and place would have used a slower, more torturous method of death, she said. ILLUSTRATION: MUSEUM OF FLORIDA HISTORY

This lithograph depicts the rescue by Ulele, a Timucuan Indian

maiden, of Spanish explorer Juan Ortiz from death by ``barbacoa,'' a

word that survives as ``barbecue.''