Sachem (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: The general term “sachem” was used to designate band leaders and tribal chiefs among the Algonquian-speaking peoples of southern New England
Along the coastal region of southern New England in the early contact period, the word sachem was used for political leaders. In northern New England, the corresponding term was sagamore. The sachem was most commonly the head or leader of a single village (or band). Some sachems, however, had a more extensive but ill-defined influence over an entire tribe or alliance of villages. Examples of sachems with this wider influence were Massasoit and his son Metacomet (King Philip) of the Wampanoag, and Miantonomo of the Narragansett. Whether a sachem’s authority was confined to a single village or was much wider, his power was limited by tribal traditions and exercised through persuasion. Important decisions were made in consultation with a council of important men (called pneises among the Massachusett and Wampanoag). Sachems were chosen from among men born into a chiefly lineage or family, the office descending most commonly from father to son. Occasionally women served as sachems (called “squaw sachems” by the English). Weetamoo of the Pocasset was an example. The sachem assigned agricultural fields, sentenced criminals, and was responsible for diplomacy and external trade. A sachem dwelt in an unusually large wigwam and was supported by the work of...
(The entire section is 270 words.)
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