Friday, September 25, 2009
As I was saying before I was interrupted by the weed incident, one of my favorite local runs is around Nanaquaket Pond. One of the reasons that I enjoy running so much is that it frees up the mind to wander in all sorts of directions. Hell, you have to think about something while you are pounding out the miles.
Running along Nanaquaket Neck, the narrow strip of land between Nanaquaket Pond and the Sakonnet River, always seems to trigger off some weird chain of thought for me. Must be all the ghosts...
In the mid-1600's most of this whole area was was heavily wooded, but on Nanaquaket Neck the local Native Americans, the Pocassets, had cleared the trees and were cultivating maize, beans and pumpkins and pasturing their cattle. The leader or sachem of the Pocassets was a woman, Queen Weetamoo.
Weetamoo might have led a untroubled life with her people here on the shores of the Sakonnet if it hadn't been for those dastardly English. Relations with the colonists had started off well enough. Massasoit, the native who participated in the first Thanksgiving feast with the Pilgrims, was in fact Weetamoo's father-in-law.
But those dastardly English messed things up, as usual. Having escaped England to find religious freedom in a new land, they immediately set out to impose their particular brand of religion on others. In some places, not too far from here, the native Americans were "encouraged" to renounce their native language, ceremonies, beliefs, traditional dress and customs and to effectively become "Red" Puritans living in so-called Praying Towns where they had to live by special "Rules of Conduct for the Praying Indians" which forbade such simple pleasures as a woman letting her hair hang loose or walking around with naked breasts. Those Massachusetts people are such killjoys!
Of course the dastardly English also wanted access to the best land, and Nanaquaket Neck with its fertile gardens and pastures must have been extremely tempting. Some English dude called Richard Morris apparently "bought" some parcels of land around here from the Indians during a downturn in the local real estate market and then (by the usual political machinations one assumes) managed to persaude the government of Plymouth Bay Colony to recognize him as the owner of all of Nanaquaket Neck by 1659.
Peaceful co-existence might still have been possible if it had not been for the unfortunate incident in 1662 when Weetamoo's husband Wamsutta went off to Plymouth to discuss some treaty issues with the dastardly English and then mysteriously died on the way home. The conspiracy theorists in the local population immediately assumed that Wamsutta had been poisoned by the dastardly English, and Weetamoo was naturally pretty ticked off about the whole situation. Apparently nobody thought to call in CSI to solve the case.
Wamsutta's brother, who went by the rather quaint name for an Indian of "King Philip", was pretty pissed off too and some years later things erupted into all-out war between the local natives and the dastardly English. King Philip secured naming rights for the war and, somewhat selfishly, decided to call it King Philip's War.
Weetamoo led a band of 300 warriors in King Philip's War and for a while things were going well for the home team. But then the dastardly English got their act together and started beating the natives by pioneering such counter-insurgency strategies as no-bid outsourcing to military contractors, bribing the opposition to change sides, and running up a huge tax deficit for future generations.
Weetamoo was drowned in the Taunton River in 1676 while trying to escape from the dastardly English. When her body washed ashore in Swansea they chopped off her head and displayed it on a pike in Taunton for a while. This was not as brutal as it sounds as it was fairly standard operating procedure in those days among the dastardly English to chop off the heads of kings and queens they didn't like, often while they were still alive...
Where was I? Where am I? What the hell is this story doing on a sailing blog?
Oh yes, I was running along the same ground where Weetamoo and her people grew their beans and pumpkins all those centuries ago. I thought you might be interested in the story. I mean, how many other small New England towns have their own headless queen?