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The Last of Massasoit's Line


The statue of Massasoit by the American sculptor Cyrus Edwin Dallin in Plymouth, Massachusetts, was completed in 1921 to mark the three-hundredth anniversary of the colonists' landing. The sculpture is meant to represent the Pokanoket leader Massasoit welcoming the Pilgrims on the occasion of the first Thanksgiving. The last of Massasoit's line, Wootonekanuske, was invited to the unveiling of this statue in 1921. The following article was published in the New Bedford Mercury in 1921.



 

New Bedford, Mercury, Wednesday, September 21,1921


Wootonekanuske, Granddaughter of Massasoit in ninth generation, resented being taken to Plymouth to celebrate the coming of the white men---”King Philip was right.”


“The fandangos at Plymouth this summer were a farce. It was a celebration of the anniversary of the killing of the owners of the New England hills and plains –– the Indians.


Why should I have been dragged to Plymouth to celebrate such an event? Massasoit, my grandfather eight times removed, should have killed the so-called Pilgrims instead of helping them. Then my people would not have been killed and have died out, so that now there is but me, the Princess of [th eaWapm etaoii me], the Princess of the Wampanoags, to live out my life alone on the ground hallowed as the living place of my ancestors."

black and white image of Wootonekanuske at her home in Middleboro dressed in traditional Wampanoag attire.
Wootonekanuske (Charlotte Mitchell) 2 Nov 1848 - 2 May 1930

Thus spoke Princess Wootonekanuske, the squaw sachem, who, alone in Massachusetts has kept the faith of her forefathers, has refused to marry any but an Indian and has there held herself as the only Princess of the tribes that, but for the kindly feeling of Massasoit toward the Pilgrims, might have wiped out that band of adventurers, and left this land to its original owners, the Indian.


Princess Wootonekanuske lives alone in Lakeville, near Middleboro, in a small house in the woods bordering Lake Assawampsett, where her ancestors used to hunt and fish.


Up to two years ago she had a sister [Tewelema] with her, she too a princess of the royal blood of Massasoit. She was an invalid for 12 years and passed away two years ago, leaving her 73-year old sister to carry on the heritage of their illustrious forefathers.


The home of this Indian Princess stands alone in the woods, half a mile through a little used cart path, which leads to a grassy clearing, open to the sun and the wind, such a place as the Indians of 300 years ago chose of their abidingplace.


The cottage is a frame structure situated on the grant of land which was made to Tuspaquin, who married Amie, daughter of Massasoit. The original grant amounted 600 acres, but is not but 15 acres, the house, built mainly by the hands of the princess and her sister, fairly large garden and some woodland.


There, alone, this princess of the ancient Indian tribe lives a secluded life, peddling her few vegetables about Middleboro and her succulent grape jams and jellies.


She is a very spry, bright old lady, her complexion of copper showing without further proof that she is a full-blooded Indian. She is simple in thought, not a bit cranky, sensible in her way of looking at things and devoted to her home, in which she has lived for 50 years, and the garden which until the state granted her a small pension, served to support her and her invalid sister.


The princess is known as Charlotte Mitchell, but she prefers her Indian name of Wootonekanuske. Her pride is that of an Indian and, when she was persuaded this summer to visit Plymouth, her meeting with President Harding was more like a princess of a royal court greeting a servitor.


“King Philip was a real man,” says the princess. “He did his best to stamp out the white man from these shores and I honor him for it. He was my uncle seven times removed and a real prince of royal blood. He as well as MAssasoit hunted and fished in these lands, just as I have done all my life until lately.”


Many people wonder how the Indians could travel such long distances with so many ‘carrys’ in the old days. The canoes were made of light frames and covered with skins. When a portage was necessary the covering was removed and, while one Indian carried the frame of the canoe, the other could easily carry the skin covering.”


“I am the only titled descendant of Massasoit; I have never married. When a woman of our tribe marries other than an Indian she loses caste and no longer belongs to the tribe.”


“I used to raise a lot of flowers here, but of late I find myself too old to do more than raise a few vegetables and sell them occasionally. When we first came to live on this old grant of land we built a tent, but gradually we have erected this house and I guess it will last me until the call of the Great Father comes.”


“We had pigs and cows and quite a farm and served bacon and ham which we smoked ourselves, but now I am alone and not very strong, so I just work as much as I can and wait.”


“I live here with only my dog for company. He is part St. Bernard and part Collie. Teddy is a good watch dog, although no one has ever troubled me here. I have some Indian mortars and pestles and a few arrow heads that we found on this ground.”


“I took part in the parade at Plymouth and also the unveiling of the monument to Massasoit, only because some of my loyal friends persuaded me to. Why should I celebrate the landing of the men who wiped out my people?”


“I do not know of a person with Pilgrim blood in his veins who has respect for an Indian. The people who have come from countries other than England respect us and treat us right, the the original Mayflower blood still cries for our extinction.”


“Why, my ancestor, my seven times removed uncle, King Philip, a son of Massasoit, was drawn and quartered by these very people at Mt. Hope, in what is now Rhode Island, and up to not over 50 years ago his hand was preserved in Pilgrim hall in Plymouth, for the palefaces to gloat over.”


“Massasoit made a great mistake when he signed a treaty with the white men. He signed the doom of his people right there and, although King Philip tried to right our wrongs, by that time the white men were too strong for us and, as a result, I am the only full caste representative of our tribe still alive.”


“The way Germany went through Belgium was nothing compared to what the Pilgrims did to the Indians

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Simply trying to get through ––the Pilgrims were attempting to stamp out all of Indian blood so they could have our lands for their own.”


“An Indian is always loyal to a friend and so, when Mrs. Holmes, of Middleboro, vice regent of the D. A. R., pleaded with me to go to Plymouth, I went. They rode me up the street in a monkey cart and then left me. I met a friend who took me to see the president, but I didn’t feel right toward the white men and was glad to get home again.”


“I told the president I came to meet him, and not to celebrate the wiping out of the Indians by the white men. Why the Pilgrims burned the squaws, the old men and the papooses right in the wigwams. Why should I celebrate such doings?”


There was a time when numerous descendants of Massasoit considered theirs the land stretching as far as the eye could reach from the little cottage on Lake Assawampsett. And before that, in the old days of the old chief himself, a day’s travel would not carry one off the land he considered his dominion. Gradually the demands of the white men have cut down the original grant to the small patch on which the princess holds her court.


You remember from history the story of the first terrible winter spent by the Pilgrims at Plymouth, how their crops failed and starvation threatened them. Just when things looked the blackest and there was slight hope of survival, the Indians, headed by Massasoit, came marching out of the forest. Some of the braves carried haunches of venison, others bore skins filled with Indian corn, and this food was given, without charge to the settlers.


Then the council house of the tribe was pitched right where Princess Wootonekanuske’s cottage is now and far and wide came chiefs of the tribes for conference. Then the lodges of the braves were many, now the sole remnant of the tribe is represented by this tiny, little old lady who lives alone on the hunting grounds of her forefathers.


“About my ancestors?” said the princess, when questioned. “Many people have the idea that I am descended from King Philips, but I am not, except he was my uncle seven generations removed. I trace my blood to Massasoit through my mother, who came in direct line from Amie, the daughter of Massasoit, and the sister of King Philip.

“My mother’s name was Zervia Gould before her marriage. Her father traced his lineage to Massasoit and her mother to the Black Sachem, brother-in-law to King Philip.”


“My father was Thomas Mitchell, a full-blooded Cherokee Indian, who for many years followed the seas sailing out of Boston in the Chinese trade. He died in Fall River in 1859.”


“I am proud of my ancestry and have striven to live up to the best of the Indian’s standards, the standards which caused Governor Winslow to write 300 years ago that he had found the tribe of Massasoit faithful in their covenants and absolutely honest to their dealings.”



 

Poem by Rev. Timothy Otis Paine (1824-1895)


TEWELEMA

Postcard image of Tewelema, It reads Tee-We-Lee-Ma the last living descendant of Massasoit, whose friendship and generosity saved the Pilgrims from starvation.
Tewelema (Melinda Mitchell) 11 Apr 1836-7 Oct 1919

Princess Mdssas6it, Daughter of the chieftain, Long descended, hail I Thee the lineal ruler Of these natal wildwoods. The Satucket River And her bordering valleys And the hills above them Crowned by Wdnnocooto Claim their pristine monarch. Spindles of the cornfield Fingers multitudinous To the Indian heavens, Silent and unanimous, Raise in attestation. Every year the flowers, With traditional memory Of thy great grandsire And new childlike wonder, Open to behold thee. And the great-eyed squirrel In the sinewy oak top. Mindful of thy fathers. Holds the acorn breathless Watchful of thy fingers. I, too, lore instructed,

Newspaper clipping from New Bedford Mercury, 1921

See the awful moccason On thy foot imperial. And dread Metacomet Rises up in vengeance. In the flying car train. Sitting at a window Looking on the woodland, Thoughts of Oiisam^quin Smooth thy troubled forehead. Merciful and pitying Was the mighty peace king Sent to make it easy For the band of pilgrims Driven to thy forests. In thy crown of feathers, Lonely T^wel^ma, Thou art going silent To the Nahteawdmetc On the A^sowamsett ; To the Reservation Held by old tradition ; Wo6ton6kaniiske And thy aged mother Looking from the cabin. Gone to the Pon^mah We shall miss you absent. When the sparrow twitters Then will we remember Thee, O Chid-chic-ch^wee. And when fairs are crowded On the Nunckat^sett, Then thou, Indian maiden, Shalt appear in vision From the isles of chieftains.


 

Let us pause and recognize the suffering and loss the Indigenous people of Massachusetts have endured over the last 401 years since the colonists first arrived in Plymouth during the winter of 1620.



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