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Massasoit's Family

 Native American Nations | Massasoit of the Wampanoags                    

     While nothing definite is known of Massasoit's ancestry, the fact that the Great Chieftaincy of the federation passed from him to his eldest son and then from the latter to a younger brother, together with what we know of the hereditary character of the position among the other Algonquin groups and tribes, establishes beyond question his connection with a line of kings. Whether his father occupied the position before him, or it was handed down collaterally, does not definitely appear, nor is it of any special interest, except as it might throw some light upon the customs and laws of descent of this particular federation, and as matter of genealogical research, which possesses a fascination for most men. Who the man is and whence he came are always questions that arouse our interest in connection with those who have occupied prominent positions in the affairs of nations, not so much that it matters, for it is the man that counts, but that we sometimes like to speculate upon the conditions which have contributed to the production of the character which leaves its impress upon the history of the times.

     At the beginning of the white man's history in New England, Massasoit was known to have had two brothers living. Whether there were other brothers or sisters does not appear. Of the two brothers mentioned in history, Quadequina accompanied him to Plymouth in March, 1621, and is described as "a very proper, tall young man of a very modest and seemly countenance." He is generally credited with being one of the two "Kings of Pokanoket" whom Captain Dermer interviewed at Nemasket in June, 1619, this conclusion undoubtedly being drawn from the fact that he appears to have been Massasoit's companion at and after the time of his first actual introduction to history. He was probably next in age to Massasoit, as the other brother does not appear to have been particularly noticed until a much later date.

     The part played by him in the affairs of the tribe or federation and in their dealings with their neighbors and the whites seems to have been an inconsequential one, which leads to the conclusion that he was simply a younger brother of the "King," and, in consequence of his royal blood, a close counselor and frequent companion. He died within a fete years of the landing of the Pilgrims.

     The second brother of the Great Sachem whose name is variously written, as Akkompoin, Uncompawen Woonkaponehunt, and Vucumpowet, does not appear prominently in history until King Philip's war, in which he was one of that Great Sachem's chief counsellors and war captains, although his name appears with that of Philip on an agreement made with the Plymouth authorities on August 6, 1662, where it is written under that of "Philip, Sachem of Pokanoket," as " Vucumpowet, unkell to the above said Sachem." As I shall not have occasion to refer to him again, a word concerning his position in the Chiefs' Council will not be out of place here. That he was an active participant in the affairs of the federation during Philip's reign is apparent from the fact that in addition to the treaty or agreement of August 6, 1662, he also signed with Philip two others, one at Taunton, April 10, 1671, and the other at Plymouth, September 9, 1671. He is known to have been with Philip as counselor and captain in the war that bears the name of the latter; and, in this capacity, he accompanied Philip on an expedition started against Plymouth in July, 1676. This project proving not feasible, the party turned back at Bridgewater, and having felled a tree across a river in the line of their march, to be used as a bridge, Akkompoin, who was one of the last to attempt to cross, was shot by the English who came up before he got away. This was on July 31, 1676, and it was this same bridge upon which Philip was seen sitting the next day, but escaped.

     The known children of Massasoit were Wamsutta, Pometacom or Metacomet, Sunconewhew, Amie, and possibly another daughter, as Philip had a sister who was captured on the same day that her uncle Akkompoin was shot, who may have been Amie, although Peirce says there is no reason to suppose it was she, and as she married Tuspaquin who had a wife living in September, 1676, there is very good reason for supposing that the one captured in July was not Amie.

     Wamsutta was first known as Mooanam, and both he and his younger brother Pometacom were given English names at the request of their father who brought them to Plymouth, apparently for that purpose, Wamsutta being then named Alexander and Pometacom, Philip, for Alexander the Great of Macedon and his father Philip, respectively. Wamsutta succeeded his father upon the death of the latter or possibly before. I have already called attention to the fact that he signed himself "Chief Sachem of the Pokanokets" some months before the last date at which some writers assert that Massasoit was still alive. This may be explained on the theory that the aged chief turned over the affairs of the federation to his son in his old age. Before he assumed the active management of the tribal affairs, he seems to have participated with his father in the sales of land and the making of treaties, whether in pursuit of some arrangement between themselves by which Wamsutta became associated in the government, or at the insistence of the English to guard against future contingencies, we do not know. At any rate, we find the deed of Pokanoket given in 1653 signed by both, to say nothing of the renewal in 1639 of the original league of Massasoit and Carver, or of Roger Williams' declaration that when he first came to the Narragansett country, in 1636, Massasoit and Mooanam, his son, gave him Seekonk, which the Plymouth colony claimed under their grant from the authorities in England, who, of course, had no title to it.

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Massasoit of the Wampanoags

Massasoit of the Wampanoags


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