Nanyehi / Nancy Ward: Cherokee Woman
From the English rendition of Nanyehi, One Who Goes About, named for the mythological Spirit People, Nanyehi was a major Cherokee figure of the Southern frontier who became an almost legendary person due largely to her queenly manner and resolute personality. In her youth, Nanyehi had the nickname Tsistunagiska, Wild Rose, from the delicate texture of her skin which was likened to rose petals.
Nanyehi (nan yay hee) was born into a powerful family of the Wolf clan about 1738 at Chota, near Fort Loudon in eastern Tennessee. Her father was Fivekiller, a Cherokee-Delaware man, and her mother was Tame Deer, the sister of Chief Attakullakulla. Nanyehi’s childhood was one of constant terror, as warfare with European settlers and with other tribes meant that no day passed without the threat of violence.
Captured at the Deerfield Massacre
Image: Depiction of Eunice Being Led Away from Deerfield
Eunice’s captor hurried her toward the north gate
Illustration copyright Francis Back
Eunice Williams was born in Deerfield, Massachusetts, on September 17, 1696, the daughter of Puritan minister the Reverend John Williams and his wife Eunice Mather Williams. The girl who would grow up to become the most famous “unredeemed captive” had a conventional New England Puritan upbringing until the age of seven. Her family’s wealth and prominence made her early life a bit more privileged than that of other young Deerfield girls, and her fate as an adopted Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) better known.
On February 29, 1704, in the pre-dawn hours, a force of about 300 French and Native allies launched a daring raid on the English settlement of Deerfield, Massachusetts, that became known as the Deerfield Massacre.
Illinois Native American Woman
Image: Kaskaskia House in French Illinois
Marie Rouensa, aka Aramepinchone – daughter of Mamenthouensa, Chief of the Illiniwek Confederation – might have lived and faded into utter obscurity had it not been for her conversion to the Catholic faith and her subsequent role in the church and the community of Kaskaskia. Over the course of her lifetime, she not only served as the vehicle for the conversion of others to the Catholic faith, but she also accumulated significant wealth, status, and power, which she subsequently left to her offspring.
At that early time, women, particularly Indian women, were important contributors to a family’s financial success, and race didn’t seem to matter as much as connections. Marie had no difficulty finding French husbands (she married twice), and her descendants were well received at every level of society – two of her granddaughters married aristocratic officers from France and Switzerland.
Abenaki Healing Woman
Image: Abenaki Village
This late 16th century drawing of an East Coast Algonquian village conveys something of Pigwacket’s appearance in the decades before Molly Ockett’s birth. A description of the semi-abandoned Pigwacket village made in 1703 by an English scouting party: “an acre of ground, taken in with timber [palisaded], set in the ground in a circular form with ports [gates], and about one hundred wigwams therein.”
Her Indian name was Singing Bird. Her Christian name was Marie Agatha. She probably pronounced it Mali Agget which sounded like Molly Ockett to the English settlers. Many Abenaki in this region were Catholic and received Christian names at their baptism by French Catholic missionaries. These names were written phonetically from the Indian pronunciation. A major focal point of Molly’s world was Pigwacket, the ancient Indian enclave at present-day Fryeburg, Maine, a short distance east of the present border between Maine and New Hampshire.
Queen of the Creek?
Image: General James Oglethorpe
Meeting with Tomochichi and Mary Musgrove
Mary Musgrove was born Coosaponakesee sometime around 1700, at Coweta Town on the Ockmulgee River in northern Georgia. Her father was an English trader from the South Carolina Colony and her mother was a Creek Indian of royal blood – a niece of the emperor of the Creek Nation. Mary spent her first 10 years among her mother’s people, becoming thoroughly acquainted with the Creek language and ways. Despite her mixed heritage Musgrove was considered a full member of Creek society and the Wind Clan. In this matrilineal society children took the clan identities of their mothers.
The Year: 1727
Elizabeth Catherine Montour, better known as Madame Montour, was born in 1667 at Three Rivers, Canada, the daughter of Frenchman Pierre Couc and his Algonquin Native American wife (name unknown). Madam Montour spent several years in the early 1700s at Forts Mackinac and Detroit where her relatives were engaged in the Indian trade.
Catherine acquired the Montour surname when she married a Seneca brave named, Roland Montour. He appears to have been the father of some of her children, but little is known about him, not even details of his death. By this point in her life, she was known as Madame Montour, was living in New York in the area of the Genesee River.
Queen of the Pamunkey Native Americans
Image: Pamunkey Sarah Langston Major and her family
The Pamunkey Native American tribe were the most powerful tribe in the great Powhatan Confederacy, which consisted of 35 tribes with a population of some 10,000 people under the leadership of Chief Powhatan. His territory encompassed the entire coastal plain of Virginia, from south of the James River to near Washington, DC. The chief was living among the Pamunkey when the English colonists first arrived in Virginia.
Queen Anne (ca. 1650 – ca. 1715) became the chief of the Pamunkey tribe when her aunt Cockacoeske died. Due to her authoritative position, she was always called Queen Anne by the colonists.
Women in Iroquois History
Head Clan Mother of the Iroquois
The Iroquois were one of the most powerful Indian races, controlling land all the way down the eastern seaboard of North America and several hundred miles inland. A woman’s place in Iroquois culture was very different from that in European cultures. Iroquois women enjoyed social equality and respect that was not shared by colonial American women.
The Iroquois Confederacy was composed of five different tribes, who banded together shortly before European contact. The tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy and other Northern Iroquoian-speaking peoples, including the Huron, lived in the region including what is now New York State and the Great Lakes area.
Native American Roman Catholic Nun
Lily of the Mohawks, as she is popularly known, was the first recorded Native American Roman Catholic nun in North America. She was born in 1656 at Gandawague Castle near Fonda, New York, to a Mohawk father and a Christianized Algonquin mother. Her mother had been taken captive by the Iroquois and given as wife to the chief of the Mohawk clan, the boldest and fiercest of the Five Nations.
When she was four, Kateri lost her parents and little brother in a smallpox epidemic that left her disfigured and half blind. She was adopted by two aunts and an uncle, who succeeded her father as Mohawk chief, but she was left largely on her own.
Native American Leader
Image: Squaw Sachem Sells Her Land to John Winthrop, from a mural painting by Aiden L. Ripley, 1924
When the first English colonists arrived in the Boston area, the only inhabitants of the region were members of the Massachuset tribe. The Massachuset occupied valleys of the Charles and Neponset Rivers in eastern Massachusetts, including the present site of Arlington, which the natives called Menotomy, meaning place of swiftly running water. The name Massachuset means those of the great hills, probably with reference to the ring of hills surrounding the Boston Basin.