Squaw Sachem

When Nanapashemet's enemies began their relentless assault on the coastal villages of Massachuset Federation territory, Nanapashemet sent his wife and four children inland for protection. After Nanaspashemet's death, his wife and children came out of hiding and she took over his former domain.

It was a customary sign of respect for the Massachuset to avoid speaking the real name of their sachems. They always referred to them by their titles. It was because of that respect that we know Nanapashemet's wife only by her title. In the Eastern Algonquian language of the Massachuset her name translates simply as, "female chief." She's known to us as Squaw Sachem. It is her respectful title.

Squaw Sachem and her young children must have come home to a horrible sight. Not only had they lost their beloved husband and father, but entire villages of people had been wiped out by disease. Those who survived the disease were ravaged by war. Where just five years earlier an entire culture of people thrived in magnificent numbers, there was utter desolation.

But Squaw Sachem pressed on. Only a few surviving villages remained loyal to her. She tried, in vain, to raid the disloyal villages for a period of a few years. Obatinua, the sachem of present-day Boston, told the Puritan settlers that he was in fear of Squaw Sachem.

Afraid of attack by enemies from the north, in fear of the growing Narraganset Federation from the south, concerned about their old enemy the Mohawk from the west, devastated by disease, and pressured from the growing English settlements from the east, Squaw Sachem did the only thing she could do to ensure her people's survival. She made friends with the musket-trading English at Thomas Morton's Merry-Mount near present-day Quincy.

But tragedies would continue to befall Squaw Sachem and her people. In 1633 another plague decimated their population. This one would claim the lives of two of her sons, Wonohaquaham and Montowampate. With the fur trade collapsing and wampum losing value, Squaw Sachem had little choice but to give her only protectors whatever they wanted. What they wanted was her land.

Squaw Sachem sold all of her land except for one beautiful parcel west of the Mystic Lakes in the present-day towns of Winchester and Arlington, Massachusetts. She reserved that land for her and her people to plant, hunt, and fish. It was on that land in 1650 that Squaw Sachem passed away. She never lost her title as, "Queene of Mistick."

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