Weetamoo

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Weetamoo
Wampanoag leader
In office
1675 (1675) – 1676 (1676)
Preceded by Corbitant
Personal details
Born Namumpum Weetamoo
1635 (1635)
present day North Tiverton, Rhode Island
Died August 6, 1676(1676-08-06) (aged 40–41)
Taunton, Massachusetts
Cause of death Drowning
Children Massasoit
Military service
Nickname(s)
  • Weetamoe
  • Wenunchus
  • Tatapanunum
Battles/wars King Philip's War

Weetamoo (c. 1635–1676), also referred to as Weethao, Weetamoe, Wenunchus, Wattimore, Namumpum, and Tatapanunum, was a Pocasset Wampanoag Native American Chief. She was the sunksqua, or female sachem, of Pocasset.[1] She was born in the Mattapoiset village of the Pokanoket or at Rhode Island's Taunton River area,[2] and died at Taunton River. Her father was either Corbitant, sachem of the Pocasset tribe in present-day North Tiverton, Rhode Island, c. 1618–1630 or Passaconaway, a chieftain in the Pennacook.[3] She had five husbands, the most famous of whom was Wamsutta, the eldest son of Massasoit, grand sachem of the Wampanoag and participant in the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims.

According to the Tiverton Four Corners website, "the squaw sachem, Weetamoo" governed the Pocasset tribe, which occupied today's Tiverton, Rhode Island in 1620. Weetamoo joined "with King Philip in fighting the colonists" in 1675, in King Philip's War, also known as "Metacomet's Rebellion." King Philip’s War is named for the uprising of Metacomet, Weetamoo’s brother in law and the younger brother of Wamsutta, who was also known by the English name Philip.[2] Early on in the war, Weetamoo gave support to Metacomet by aiding his forces with the strength of her soldiers.[2]

Weetamoo's life[edit]

Weetamoo/Wenunchus was married five times.

  • Montowampate, sachem of Saugus, Massachusetts, was the first. He died shortly after their marriage.[3] (However, according to one legend, Weetamoo died before him, having been lost in her canoe on the icy Merrimack River when returning to Montowampate from the home of her father, who is given as Passaconaway rather than Corbitant.[4])
  • Chief Wamsutta was second. After his death, his brother Metacom (Philip) became Chief of the Wampanoag. The tribe allied with the English against the Narragansett, but the English broke this treaty. Wamsutta became sick and died during talks with the English. Weetamoo is speculated to have had one child with Wamsutta, although the date of birth and name are unknown. Wamsutta was also alternatively known by the English as Alexander.[1]
  • Quequequanachet was third. Little is known of him.
  • Petonowit was fourth. At the beginning of King Philip's War he sided with the English, prompting Weetamoo to leave their marriage.
  • Quinnapin was last, son of Niantic Narraganset sakem Ninigrat and grandson of powerful Narragansett sakem Canonchet. He was described as "a handsome warrior". This seemed to be a strong marriage. The pair had at least one child together, who died in 1676.

She became sunksqua because her father had no sons, and was defended by an army of more than 300 men that she commanded.[2] Her being a woman did not diminish her authority, despite many colonists’ lack of understanding of her position. It has been theorized that some of the lesser known sachems assumed to have been male may have been female sunksquas, especially since female leaders were not unheard of among the Algonquian tribes.[5]

Eventually, the English defeated the Wampanoag in August 1676. Weetamoo drowned in the Taunton River trying to escape. Her dead body was mutilated, and her head was displayed on a pole in Taunton, MA.[6][7] Little else is known about her final days or death, or of the deaths of her soldiers who traveled with her. The story of her corpse being beheaded comes from the writings of minister Increase Mather.[8]

Weetamoo's legacy[edit]

Weetamoo's adolescent life was made into a children's historical novel in The Royal Diaries series entitled Weetamoo, Heart of the Pocasetts: Rhode Island-Massachusetts, 1653.[9][10]

Weetamoo/Wattimore also appears in print in Mary Rowlandson's The Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. In 1676, Weetamoo and her relative Quinnapin, the sachem of Narragansett, attacked a colonial settlement in Lancaster, Massachusetts.[8] Rowlandson, who was captured and held by Quinnapin for three months, left a vivid description of Weetamoo's appearance as well as personality:

"A severe and proud dame she was, bestowing every day in dressing herself neat as much time as any of the gentry of the land: powdering her hair, and painting her face, going with necklaces, with jewels in her ears, and bracelets upon her hands. When she had dressed herself, her work was to make girdles of wampum and beads."[11]

Many places in the White Mountains of New Hampshire are also named after her, such as Weetamoo Falls, Mount Weetamoo, the Weetamoo Trail (which includes Weetamoo Glen and Weetamoo Rock), and the Six Husbands Trail, a reference to her marriages. However, there is no evidence that Weetamoo ever went to the White Mountains, and the area’s focus on her may come from John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem “The Bridal of Penacook,” which names her as being from the area.[12]

Weetamoo Woods Open Space in Tiverton, Rhode Island is named after Weetamoo.[13] A 50-foot vessel, Weetamoo, built in 1902, "was named after the daughter of an Indian Chief in John Greenleaf Whittier's poem Bride of Penacook." The vessel served on Lake Sunapee for 25 years before being scuttled.[14] Lowell YWCA Camp Weetamoo is located on Long-Sought-for Pond in Westford, MA.[15][16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Martinez and Williams Bordeaux, eds., Donna and Jennifer L. (2016). 50 Events That Shaped American Indian History: An Encyclopedia of the American Mosaic. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. p. 139. 
  2. ^ a b c d Sonneborn, Liz (2007). A to Z of American Indian Women. New York: Infobase Publishing. p. 268. 
  3. ^ a b Beals, Charles Edward (1916). Passaconaway in the White Mountains. University of Wisconsin - Madison: R.G. Badger. p. 54. 
  4. ^ "Myths and Legends of our Own Land: The White Mountains: The Loss Of Weetamoo". Retrieved 2013-04-24. 
  5. ^ Mays, Dorothy A. (2004). Women in Early America: Struggle, Survival, and Freedom in a New World. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. p. 207. 
  6. ^ Small, Dan. "What Exactly is a Weetamoo?". Friends of Lynn Woods, Lynn MA. Retrieved 2013-04-24. 
  7. ^ Sultzman, Lee. "Wampanoag History". First Nations Histories. Retrieved 2013-04-24. 
  8. ^ a b Appleby, Cheng, and Goodwin, eds., Joyce, Eileen K., and Joanne L. (2015). Encyclopedia of Women in American History. New York: Routledge. p. 199. 
  9. ^ "An Interview with Patricia Clark Smith about Weetamoo: Heart of the Pocassets". Scholastic.com. Retrieved 2013-04-24. 
  10. ^ "Weetamoo: Heart of the Pocassets Discussion Guide". Scholastic.com. Retrieved 2013-04-24. 
  11. ^ ""A Severe and Proud Dame She Was": Mary Rowlandson Lives Among the Indians, 1675". History Matters. Retrieved 2013-04-24. 
  12. ^ Boardman, Julie (2001). When Women and Mountains Meet. Etna, New Hampshire: The Durand Press. p. 141. 
  13. ^ "Recreation Department and Open Space Areas". Official Web Site of Tiverton, RI. Retrieved 2013-04-24. 
  14. ^ "Lake Sunapee History". Lake-Sunapee-Living.com. Retrieved 2013-04-24. 
  15. ^ "The Greater Lowell YWCA, One Hundred Years of Service and Advocacy 1891-1991". University of Massachusetts Lowell Center for Lowell History. Retrieved 2013-04-24. 
  16. ^ "Walter Cleven Obituary: Walter Cleven’s Obituary by the Lowell Sun.". Retrieved 2013-04-24.