Esmy Shichans, Tobot Deabot, Okiawampe
|Relations||Brother, Kiptopeke; daughter, Nandua|
Debedeavon (died 1657) was the chief ruler of the Accawmack Indian nation that was inhabiting the Eastern Shore of Virginia upon the first arrival of English colonists in 1608. His title was recorded as "Ye Emperor of Ye Easterne Shore and King of Ye Great Nussawattocks," and he was also known familiarly as "the Laughing King". He also seems to be the same figure who was known variously in English records as Esmy Shichans, Tobot Deabot, and Okiawampe.
The Accawmack, who numbered about 2000, were peripheral or nominal members of the Powhatan Confederacy; however, owing to being isolated by water from the rest of Tsenacommacah (mainland Virginia), the Eastern Shore Indians had their own confederacy enjoying some measure of autonomy and peaceful rule under king Debedeavon. Each of his clan subchiefs paid him 8 bushels of corn, plus three arrowheads, as tribute each year.
In 1608, an English lad of 13 named Thomas Savage was traded to Chief Powhatan for a native boy, Nemotacke, as something like a cultural exchange student. Powhatan adopted Savage, but the jealousy of that Chief's brother eventually led Savage to be sent to the relatively safer Eastern Shore under the benign protection of its king Debedeavon. Later Savage and Debedeavon were both instrumental in warning the Jamestown colonists about impending events leading to the Indian massacre of 1622. Debedeavon favored Savage and gave him a large tract of land that is still today known as "Savage's Neck".
In his later years, Debedeavon devoted himself to the pleasures of hunting, leaving much of the business of government to his brother and Prime Minister, Kiptopeke. In his will dated April 22, 1657, Debedeavon left the kingdom to his daughter, Nandua, cautioning her as "Empress" to maintain the good will of their English friends.
Timeline of name variants in English records (incomplete)
- 1608 - Capt. Smith records that Debedeavon is ruling Accowmacke, pop. 2000
- 1620 - Debedeavon grants large tracts to Thomas Savage and to Governor George Yeardley.
- 1635 - Patent to Thomas Savage's widow Hannah "by the King of the Easterne shoare as by deed calling himselfe Esmy Schichans."
- 1648 - Richard Vaughan buys tract from "Debbedeaven, king of Nandue."
- 1650 - Edmund Scarburgh, Jr. buys 2000 acres from Okiawampe, "great Kinge of the Easterne Shore."
- 1653 - Dr. George Hack buys 1000 acres from "Tepitiason, King of great Nuswattocks"
- 1657 - "Deabedanba, Kinge of great nusangs" gives 100 acres to Joan Johnson
- 1657 - Will of Okiawampe
- 1663 - Thomas Leatherbury buys 1200 acres from "Tapatiapon, great Emperor of the Eastern Shore" for three matchcoats.
- Leonora W. Wood (1952). Guide to Virginia's Eastern Shore. Richmond, VA: Dietz Press. p. 15.
- Jennings Cropper Wise (1911). Ye kingdome of Accawmacke: or, The Eastern Shore of Virginia in the seventeenth century. Richmond, VA: The Bell Book and Stationery Co. p. 34.
- Alfred A. Cave (2011). Lethal Encounters: Englishmen and Indians in Colonial Virginia. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 142.
- Wood, p. 16.
- Wood, p. 16.
- Ralph Whitelaw, Virginia's Eastern Shore 1968.