Totopotomoi

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Totopotomoi (c. 1625–1656) was a grandson of a sister of Chief Powhatan, the father of Pocahontas. He became the Chief of the Pamunkey tribe in 1649 when he succeeded Nectowance as chief sometime after the death of Opechancanough. He married Cockacoeske the daughter of Opechancanough.

Totopotomoi's community controlled the modern area of New Kent including that part of New Kent which is now Hanover. After the death of Opechancanough the once mighty chiefdom had disintegrated and the English had grown much stronger in the Virginia Colony. He became a staunch ally of the English and often sided with them in conflicts. The allied Monacan and Manahoac confederacies were constantly at war with the Powhatan and the Iroquois who were their mortal enemies. After banding into a league late in the sixteenth century, the powerful Iroquois began a gradual descent upon these weaker tribes of the south, annihilating some and causing others to flee, and eventually to merge for protection.

About 1656, six or seven hundred members of the Shackoconian tribe of the Manahoac confederacy in search of a new dwelling place, moved down near the falls of the James River. In an attempt to remove them the English Colonists, joined by the Pamunkey Tribe under Totopotomoi, precipitated what was perhaps the bloodiest Native American battle ever fought on the soil of Virginia, and the last great fight between the Siouan and the Algonquian tribes. Colonel Edward Hill was put in command of the Colonial Rangers and ordered to dislodge them. He was reinforced by Totopotomoi, with 100 warriors.

The resulting battle known as the Battle of Bloody Run took place at a point in the eastern limits of Richmond, Virginia, now known as Bloody Run spring. So many were slain in the battle, (Totopotomoi being among them) that the tradition is that the streamlet from the spring ran with blood. Hill was so disgraced that he had to personally pay for the cost of the battle and was stripped of his rank.

Totopotomoi's widow Cockacoeske then became the Weroance of the Pamunkey Tribe. Over the thirty year span of her leadership, she worked within the English system to recapture the former power of Opechancanough and maintain a peaceful unity among the several tribes under her control. The Powhatan, who had suffered even more at the hands of the English than at those of the Iroquois, became by 1665 mere dependents of the colony, submissive to the stringent laws enacted that year, which compelled them to accept chiefs appointed by the governor. After the Treaty of Albany in 1684, the Powhatan Confederacy all but vanished.

Preceded by
Necotowance
Weroance of the Pamunkey
1649–1656
Succeeded by
Cockacoeske

Sources[edit]

  • "Middle Peninsula Historic Marker "Cockacoeske"
  • "The Powhatan Indians of Virginia: Their Traditional Culture. Rountree, Helen C., University of Oklahoma Press, 1989.
  • "Cockacoeske, Queen of Pamunkey: Diplomat and Suzeraine." W. Martha W. McCartney.
  • "Powhatan's Mantle: Indians in the Colonial Southeast by Peter H. Wood.