Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Massasoit Sachem-Leader of the Wampanoag
Massasoit Sachem or Ousamequin (c. 1581 – 1661), was the sachem, or leader, of the Wampanoag, and "Massasoit" of the Wampanoag Confederacy. The term Massasoit means Great Sachem. According to English sources, Massasoit prevented the failure of Plymouth Colony and the almost certain starvation that the Pilgrims faced during the earliest years of the colony's establishment. Moreover, Massasoit forged critical political and personal ties with the colonial leaders John Carver, Stephen Hopkins, Edward Winslow, William Bradford, and Myles Standish – ties which grew out of a negotiated peace treaty on March 22, 1621. Massasoit's alliance ensured that the Wampanoag remained neutral during the Pequot War in 1636. There was some tension between Massasoit and the colonists when they refused to give up Squanto whom Massasoit believed to have betrayed him. Further pressure on the alliance came in later years as the colonists were insistent upon the acquisition of new lands to support their growing colony. In 1649, to alleviate tension and maintain the peace between his people and the colonists, Massasoit sold a tract of land fourteen miles square to Myles Standish and others of Duxbury. The sale took place atop Sachem Rock, a rock outcropping on the Sawtucket River in what is now East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During his reign as grand sachem, Massasoit never permitted the Pokanoket to convert to Christianity, and with great diplomatic skill, managed to stay such efforts. The half century of peace that Massasoit so assiduously negotiated collapsed soon after his death.