Queen of the Pamunkey
Cockacoeske was a Native American woman born on the land lying between the Pamunkey River and Mattaponi River in Virginia. Her father was Opechancanough, the Great Weroance of the Pamunkey Tribe. Each tribe was led by its own Weroance. (Weroance is an Algonquian word meaning tribal chief or king, notably among the Powhatan Confederacy of the Virginia coast and Chesapeake Bay region.)
Cockacoeske became the Queen of the Pamunkey after her husband Totopotomoy’s death in 1656 fighting as an ally of the English at what became known as the Battle of Bloody Run.
Native American, Dutch and English Women
Image: Lenape Woman
Native American Lenape women were the first New Jersey women. They lived in the Land of the Lenape for more than 12,000 years. They were a highly developed culture with communities that included a great hall, a central building for government, agricultural and spiritual meetings. Smallpox and other imported diseases ravaged the Lenape population. Although Lenape were known as a peaceful people, they were forced to defend themselves and their land against Dutch settlers in the 1600s.
Lenape communities included separate buildings for trade, food storage, cooking, children’s education, medical purposes, and a building for teaching war tactics. Lenape communities also included single-family dwellings for newlyweds and elders. The central and largest building was used for gatherings to celebrate engagements, weddings, births, spring festival, and annual harvest.
Squaw Sachem of the Wampanoag
Weetamoo was born in 1640 to the Sachem (chief) of the Pocassets, Corbitant, and one of his wives. Weetamoo’s name means sweet heart in the Pocasset language. She grew up in the Pocasset’s largest and main village, Mettapoisett, on the shores of Cape Cod. She had a younger sister, Wootonekanuske. Because Corbitant had no sons, Weetamoo was destined to become the next Sachem of the Pocassets.
Since Weetamoo would one day become Sachem, she would endure a vision quest. At the age of fourteen, she was sent alone into the woods and fasted until her child soul was killed. She became a skilled hunter, swimmer, and fisherman. She also learned the duties of other girls in her tribe—smoking fish, cooking, and preparing animal hides for clothing.
Native American Women in New England
The Wampanoag, a North American Indian tribe of Eastern Algonquian linguistic stock, inhabited the territory around Narragansett Bay in present-day Rhode Island and Massachusetts. They occupied approximately 30 villages in this region and controlled the lands east of the bay, including the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
Food and Shelter
Like other Algonquians in southern New England, the Wampanoag were a horticultural people. Families gathered together in the spring to fish, in early winter to hunt, and in the summer they separated to cultivate individual planting fields. The three sisters, corn, beans, and squash were the staples of their diet.