On Thanksgiving, we always tell the story about how the native people
helped the pilgrims to survive and ultimately thrive in the new world.
This is well and good, but there are so many other inspiring stories
that could be told about the many purposeful, powerful Native American
women who influenced the formation of this country.
I recently came across Woman Spirit, a fascinating web page by Julia White, of Cherokee and Sioux heritage. She writes:
“From the beginning of time, Native women have been a driving force in
their cultures. When the explorers came to the shores of North America,
they provided valuable information and services, which still carries
their mark today. Sadly, little has been written about these women, and
little is known.”
In honor of Native American Heritage Month, this week I will share in
my own words some information that I gleaned about exceptional native
Sheros thanks to Julia White’s research
Wetamoo translates into English as “Sweetheart,” which the English believed meant that she was easily led. Not so!
Wetamoo was born in the 1700s to the Pocasset Nation on land that is around present day Rhode Island. Her father was the sachem, or high chief of the nation. When Chief Corbitant died, Wetamoo became the Squaw Sachem.
When Wetamoo’s husband, Wamsutta, died a mysterious death, she became convinced that he had been poisoned by the English. This initiated her life-long hatred of the whites. She married several more husbands over the years, but sent one after the other away as soon as he declared sympathy for the whites.
She was known for her great beauty and for diplomatic skills as well as her skills as a warrior. Wetamoo was a dedicated fighter for her people against the unfairness of white rule. She was a powerful and regal Sachem, commanding some 300 warriors.
During the great war of the northeast against the Pilgrims/Puritans/English, Wetamoo joined forces with the great Wampanoag Sachem, Chief Philip, whom the whites called “King Philip.” History books refer to this war as “King Philip’s War.”
Wetamoo and her warriors conducted many raids on the offending colonists and they in turn were hunted relentlessly by the Plymouth settlers during King Philip’s War, but they always managed to evade the conquering enemy. Until, during an attempted escape down the Fall River, she lost her footing and drowned. The Pilgrims promptly cut off her head, and displayed it on a pike in the town of Taunton.
The most complete history of Wetamoo and her leadership as Sachem of the Pocasset can be found in the memoirs of Mary Rowlandson, a white woman given to Wetamoo as a servant by one of her husbands who was a Narragansett chieftain captured by Wetamoo during King Philip’s War.
Tomorrow Native Sheros – Part 3
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