In 1607, the Susan Constant sails to the New World from London, England, carrying Englishmen settlers. On board are Captain John Smith and the voyage’s leader Governor Ratcliffe, who seeks large amounts of Spaniard gold in the New World to assure a strong position at the British court. Along the way, the Susan Constant is caught in a North Atlantic storm, and Smith saves a young, inexperienced crew mate named Thomas from drowning. In the Powhatan tribe in Virginia, Pocahontas, the daughter of Chief Powhatan, fears being possibly wed to Kocoum, a brave warrior whom she sees as too serious for her own free-spirited personality. Chief Powhatan gives Pocahontas her mother’s necklace as a present. Pocahontas, along with her friends, the raccoon Meeko and hummingbird Flit, visit Grandmother Willow, a spiritual talking willow tree, and speaks of a dream involving a spinning arrow, and her confusion regarding what her path in life should be. Grandmother Willow then alerts Pocahontas to the arriving British.
Ratcliffe has Jamestown built in a wooded clearing and immediately has the crewmen dig for gold. Smith departs to explore the wilderness and encounters Pocahontas. They quickly bond, fascinated by each other’s worlds and develop a relationship, disregarding Chief Powhatan’s orders to keep away from the British after Kocoum and other warriors engage them in a fight. Meanwhile, Meeko meets Percy, Ratcliffe’s dog, and becomes the bane of his existence. Pocahontas introduces Smith to Grandmother Willow and avoids two other crewmen, but Pocahontas’s best friend Nakoma discovers her relationship with Smith and warns Kocoum. Later, Smith and Pocahontas meet with Grandmother Willow and plan to bring peace between the colonists and the tribe. Smith and Pocahontas kiss, while Kocoum and Thomas witness from afar. In a jealous rage, Kocoum attacks and attempts to kill Smith, but Thomas kills him; Kocoum ends up breaking Pocahontas’ necklace as he dies. Smith commands Thomas to leave just before the tribesmen come and capture Smith while Kocoum’s body is taken away. Chief Powhatan, enraged, declares war on the British, starting with executing Smith at sunrise.
Thomas warns the crewmen of Smith’s capture, while Ratcliffe rallies his men to battle, using this as an excuse to annihilate the tribe and find their non-existent gold. A desperate Pocahontas visits Grandmother Willow, where Meeko hands her Smith’s compass. Pocahontas realizes Smith’s compass was the spinning arrow from her dream, which leads her to her destiny. Just as Powhatan is about to kill Smith, Pocahontas stops Smith’s execution and convinces her father to stop the fighting between the two groups. Both parties accept gracefully, except Ratcliffe, who tries to kill Chief Powhatan in anger, but Smith is wounded by the bullet instead while trying to protect the chief. The governor is then captured and arrested by his crewmen. Meeko and Percy, now friends, give Pocahontas her mother’s necklace completely fixed. In the end, John is forced to return home to receive medical treatment, while Ratcliffe is also sent back to England to face justice for his crimes. He asks Pocahontas to come with him, but she chooses to stay with her tribe. Smith leaves with Pocahontas and Chief Powhatan’s blessing to return in the future.