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Contributed by Margaret King and Cassandra Hradil
Here is Mather’s “account” of how Weetamoo died:August 6. An Indian that deserted his Fellows, informed the inhabitants of Taunton that a party of Indians who might be easily surprised, were not very far off, and promised to conduct any that had a mind to apprehend those Indians, in the rightway towards them ; whereupon about twenty Souldiers marched out of Taunton, and they took all those Indians, being in number thirty and six, only the Squaw-Sachem of Pocasset, who was next unto Philip in respect of the mischief that hath been done, and the blood that hath been shed in this Warr, escaped alone; but not long after some of Taunton finding an Indian Squaw in Metapoiset newly dead, cut off her head, and it hapned to be Weetamoo, i. e. Squaw-Sachem her head. When it was set upon a pole in Taunton, the Indians who were prisoners there, knew it presently, and made a most horrid and diabolical Lamentation, crying out that it was their Queens head. Now here it is to be observed, that God himself by his own hand, brought this enemy to destruction. For in that place, where the last year, she furnished Philip with Canooes for his men, she her self could not meet with a Canoo, but venturing over the River upon a Raft, that brake under her, so that she was drowned, just before the English found her. 
Mather writes Weetamoo, the “S---w-Sachem,” as a poetic victim. By placing her “in that place, where the last year, she furnished Philip with Canooes for his men,” and claiming that “she her self could not meet with a Canoo,” Mather symbolically links Weetamoo’s death to the outcome of the war itself. His emphasis on place suggests that the land itself turned against her - “that place” failed to provide her with a canoe, and the river itself drowned her. This is an especially symbolic detail, because Mattapoisett, where he claims her body was found, is Weetamoo's homeland. To Mather, who viewed this place as “land the Lord God of our Fathers hath given us,” it was a divine symbol - "God himself by his own hand" - for the land to betray its indigenous leader, allowing the “rightful” settlers to claim it.
Hubbard takes Weetamoo’s victimhood a step further. It is notable that in most ways he closely follows Mather’s account, but the changes that he does make emphasize Weetamoo’s role as a symbol:
Like Mather, Hubbard, focuses on the significance of Weetamoo’s death “just in that place where the year before she had helped Philip to make his escape.” But he also claims she was found naked. Hubbard is painting a picture of a female indigenous leader naked and dead in her own homeland. Unlike Mather, who suggests the land turning against Weetamoo, Hubbard seems to use her body as a symbol of the land - nude, defeated, defenseless. His image of Weetamoo’s exposed body mirrors painted and illustrated images of the American land, naked, vulnerable, open, her fruits available for the taking.
August 6th, an Indian willing to shift for himself, ﬂed to Taunton, offering to load any of the English that would follow him, to a party of Indians, which they might easily apprehend, which 20 persons attempted and accordingly seized the whole company, 26 in number all but the squaw Sachem herself, who intending to make an escape from the danger, attempted to get over the river, or arm of the sea near by, upon a raft or some pieces of broken wood ; but whether tired and spent with swimming or starved with cold and hunger, she was stark naked in Metapoiset, not far from the water side, which made some think she was ﬁrst half drowned, and so ended her wretched life just in that place where the year before she had helped Philip to make his escape ; her head being cut off and set upon a pole in Taunton, Was known by some Indians then prisoners, which set them into a horrible lamentation.
Hubbard’s and Mather’s “histories” have long been the only known contemporary sources that specifically address Weetamoo’s death. Yet, their narratives raise more questions than they can answer. Why would Weetamoo flee, rather than staying with her warriors, if they were captured? How likely is it that Weetamoo actually would have drowned - or, to take Hubbard’s ambiguous language, “half drowned” - while crossing a river that she spent her whole life navigating? If she actually did drown while escaping, rather than in battle, how could Mather have known the details of her death - particularly the exact point at which she tried to cross the river? What exactly does half-drowned mean? And how did the colonial soldiers happen to find her body, without knowing who she was?
Given the unusual documentary silence around Weetamoo’s death, and considering the biases and actual improbability of what Hubbard and Mather describe, the question remains: what really happened to Weetamoo? This path explores that question. Mather, qtd. in Schultz, Eric B., and Michael Tougias, King Philip’s War: The History and Legacy of America’s Forgotten Conflict, Woodstock, VT: Countryman Press, 1999, 20 Mather, Increase, A Brief History of the War with the Indians in New-England, Boston: Printed and sold by John Foster, 1676, 71 Hubbard, William, A History of the Indian Wars in New England, edited by Samuel Gardner Drake, Roxbury, MA: W.E. Woodward, 1865, 224
Pocasset and Pokanoket Placenames, Wampanoag Country
For Weetamoo and her neighboring sachems, their lands were dynamic, storied ecosystems, crucial for subsistence and ceremony, used in accordance with seasonal cycles. Myles Standish, the military leader of the Plymouth settlers, described Ousamequin’s central home of Sowams, in the Pokanoket homeland, as “the garden” of Wampanoag territory, a fertile meeting place of tributaries, freshwater springs and tidewater estuaries, ideal for fishing and gathering, as well as agriculture. But his description erased the labor of the Native women, like Weetamoo, who cultivated the many “gardens” in Wampanoag territory. Here, extended families of women planted intercropped mounds on peninsulas, fertile bowls, naturally bounded by water, that provided plenty of space to plant and minimized conflict and competition over resources.These planting peninsulas of Pokanoket included Annawomscutt, just east of the river Seekonk; Sowams, Chachacust and Montaup to the north and south; Kickemuit, at the narrows, to the west, where a spring fed the streams; and across the narrows, Toowooset. The waterways surrounding these peninsulas provided vital shellfish harvesting and fishing, especially as the alewife and herring runs came through in the spring. Wampanoag families inhabited all of these places, with usage rights determined through ancestral bonds and council negotiation; stories, ceremony and longstanding adapted practice enacted fair distribution and sustainability of resources. The peninsulas and families were connected by a network of trails, canoe routes and kinship. Through councils and exchange, Wampanoag leaders attempted to draw their English neighbors into this network of relationships.
However, English men viewed the Wampanoag territory with an eye to division, seeking deeds and conducting surveys through which parcels of land could be allotted for sale and patrilineal inheritance. For example, in seeking title from Ousamequin and Wamsutta in 1652 to “Sowams and parts adjacent,” Plymouth settlers sought to cut the planting peninsulas into “necks” which could be used for “mowable land” and pasture, and eventually, divided into lots for plowing and planting furrows. With the deed, they laid claim to salt and freshwater meadow on either side of the “great river” of Sowams, drawing an imaginary line from Moskituash brook, the estuary stream that flows into Popanomsat (now Bullock’s Cove) and the Seekonk (or Providence) River, to the planting ground of Kickemuit.
Beyond Kickemuit and Toowooset, to the east, was Weetamoo’s homeland of Pocasset, including Mattapoisett, where Weetamoo spent much of her childhood. Paths moved east to Shawamet, across the Kteticut river (a crossing often made by canoe “ferry”) to the planting grounds at Assonet, which hosted spring herring runs at the narrows near Assonet Bay. Trails led east and south through the dense woods and marshes of the Pocasset hunting grounds to Weetamoo’s town at the falls of Quequechand. The river’s source was the ponds of Watuppa, with streams and trails leading south to the Acoaxet river and the adjoining coastal rivers of Sakonnet, Apponaganset and Achushnet, interconnected Wampanoag communities with prime shellfish gathering and fishing places.