Wequash Cooke

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Wequash Cooke
Tribe Pequot
Died 1642
Native name Wequash Cook, Weekwash, Weekwosh, or Wequashcuk
Relatives Uncle, Ninigret

Wequash Cooke (also known as: Wequash Cook or Weekwash or Weekwosh or Wequashcuk) (died 1642) was allegedly one of the earliest Native American converts to Protestant Christianity, and as a sagamore he played an important role in the 1637 Pequot War in New England.[1]

Relationship with Native people[edit]

Wequash was the eldest son of the sachem of the Niantic people and some historians presume that his mother was a Pequot. Wequash was also a nephew of Chief Ninigret. In 1637 Wequash and Uncas united with the English under Captain John Mason to fight the Pequots and witnessed the destruction of the tribe's fort by the English forces during the Mystic massacre in Mystic, Connecticut. Wequash later deeded the land for the settlement of Guilford, Connecticut to Henry Whitfield in 1641.[2]

Conversion to Christianity[edit]

After witnessing the battle, the local historians observe, Wequash was filled with "respect for English power" and "it awakened a spirit of inquiry in regard to the Englishmen's God, which led him finally to a hearty and influential reception of Christianity." After this experience Wequash returned to local Native Americans as a missionary preaching about Christ for which he was persecuted. Wequash's tombstone in Lyme, Connecticut refers to him as New England's first Indian convert.[3] Many Puritans in Massachusetts such as Governor John Winthrop wrote about Wequash's conversion as the first Native American conversion to Christianity, and New England's First Fruits was published in 1643 describing Wequash's experience.[4] This was later used to justify the Massachusetts Bay Colony's existence as a mission in evangelizing to Native Americans. In A Key Into the Language of America Roger Williams spoke more skeptically of Wequash's conversion and described how on his deathbed Wequash thanked Williams for explaining Christianity to him at his home in Providence, but Williams still had concerns about whether Wequash had truly been converted. Wequash died in 1642 in the home of Colonel George Fenwick, co-founder of the Saybrook Colony, and there were suspicions that Wequash had been poisoned for his relationship with the English.[5] Prior to his death Wequash requested that his son Wequash be raised by the English settlers.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ New England's First Fruits, London, Printed by R. O. and G.D. for Henry Overton, 1643 (republished 1865)
  2. ^ The history of Guilford, Connecticut, from its first settlement in 1639 By Ralph Dunning Smith (J. Munsell, printer, 1877), pg 69 [1]
  3. ^ Edward Elias Atwater, Lucy M. Hewitt, Bessie E. Beach, Robert Atwater Smith, History of the colony of New Haven to its absorption into Connecticut (Journal Publishing Company, 1902)
  4. ^ John Winthrop, James Kendall Hosmer, Winthrop's journal, "History of New England", 1630-1649, Volume 2, Original narratives of early American history, (1642), pg. 69 [2]
  5. ^ Jim Trocchi (2011). "Acculturation of Native Americans in Southern New England". FOSA Newsletter Reprints. Retrieved 2013-02-27. 
  6. ^ History of the Indians of Connecticut from the earliest known period to 1850 By John William De Forest, Felix Octavius Carr Darley, (W. J. Hamersley, 1851) pg. 181 [3]

See also[edit]