John L. O'Brien, Register 
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Title - Native American Deeds
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Introduction Narrative
Squaw Sachem Sculpure  

To suggest that a Sachem or any Native Americans inhabiting what is now Essex County were part of one tribe versus another can create a misunderstanding of the cultural relationships of the period. 

First, Native People could move between tribes and intermarry. Sachems would often come from a smaller band (or sub-tribe) to lead a larger group known as a tribe or even larger group a Federation of tribes. There was a hierarchy of family groups.  What can be confusing is that the Federations changed after significant events, like the death of a Grand Sachem.

Just before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1619 there were four significant Federations or alliances.

Click here for 1630 Chart of Tribes


or Pawtucket?

1630 - Chart of Tribes



Between 1614 and 1616 a great pandemic diseases Native Americans contracted from European adventurers, fishermen and traders, to which they had no immunity) occurred which decimated approximately 90% of the coastal Indians from the Saco River in the north, to near the area of the Cape cod Canal in the south and perhaps 30 miles inland.  For new European explorers there was much open land and little ability to defend it.  Subsequently, Massasoit in dealing with the Pilgrims opted to a "peaceful coexistence" which lasted for a while. For sure, the younger Pow Wow (Medicine Man) of the Pennacook was consulted and he after seeing the killing ability of the Englishman’s gun, agreed to a peace to protect his people.

To confuse the student of this period in history is the record of whom the English said they were dealing with. There were often cases of misspelling of Native names (phonetically), many Native aliases and to make the situation easier for settlers dealing with locals, many “nick names” often assigned to the Native people.  Sometimes aliases were used to reflect a mood or location.

As seen above there is a hierarchy of Native American family groups, the larger groups not drawn for subsistence or large economies but alliances were created for defense purposes against other tribes particularly the Tarrantines (Eastern Abenakis or Mic Macs) or Mohawks from the West.  While there is evidence of intertribal trading in Northeast America and Canada, there were other reasons for interaction among tribes --one that was warfare.  One tribe may another attack to gain food stores for winter survival or trade goods such as furs or kidnap for ransom (wampum).

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Additional confusion arises with the use of Algonquion names that describe a place, by which the inhabitants were also called. For example the Massachusetts tribe occupied a territory on the north and south of the Bay.  Pawtuckets were found in the north of the Massachusetts Bay about Saugus and Lowell. The term "refers to a "falls" or "junction of two rivers". Saugus has a junction of the Pines and Saugus (Aboutsett) Rivers at the Point of Pines (see In Lowell, formerly Chelmsford, formerly Wamesit there is a junction of the Concord and Merrimack Rivers referred to Pawtucket and Pawtucket Falls.  However, during the 17th century the existing tribes were not cognizant of any town or county boundaries and there was a strong filial relationship between the tribes of the North Shore (Saugus - Lynn) and could be considered one tribe. Passaconaway's daughters married sachems (Black Will of Nahant and Sagamore James of Saugus) from the North Shore.  Agawam Sagamore Masconomet was a cousin to Sagamore James.

Massachusetts or Pawtucket?

With consent of the Grand Sachem, Passaconaway, Cutshamakin was the Native American who sold Cochickawick (now Andover) to English settlers In 1643. Although Cutshamakin lived in Dorchester, he was quite a friend of the General Court and he was a kinsman of Passaconaway and had connections with the Governor and the General Court. He succeeded his brother (Chickataubet who died of small pox in 1633) as acting Chief of the Massachusetts Tribe which had switched its allegiance after Nanepashemet died. They became tributary to the Wampanoag from 1619-20 rather than to his Pawtucket widow Squaw Sachem.

There is ongoing debate as to whether Squaw Sachem and her offspring should be considered  Massachusetts or Pawtucket. Many scholars and present day Native Americans (Cowasuck Band of Abenaki) argue they are Pawtucket while a contemporary Native American researcher and publisher, Jim Porter of Arlington argues that they should be considered Natick Indians. (See Menotomy Journal, Episode Six which includes and in-depth article on the Massachusetts Tribe as well as and interesting presentation on the Cyrius E. Dallin Museum website

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