I know this is the third time I’ve written today, but I’ve been wanting to share with you this story I wrote recently. Please tell me what you think.
“Governor, the army is returning. Victoriously they bring many captives, and – sir, we have the victory! Stripped from their glory, the Wampanoag nation will hang their heads im shame dismally, and we will be draped in splendour! Weetamoo is dead!” “She’s – dead?!?” Josiah Winslow, governor of the Englishmen in New England, looked startled for a moment, and then exploded with excitement for his country. “Well don’t just stand there, Captain!” Winslow bellowed, “For this is a glorious day for New England!” Triumphantly the returning army crowed at the site of Weetamoo’s head carried on a stick, weathered and badly beaten, although a slight aroma of dignity still hung around her. For that face, told a story, a story portraying a woman continually persevering for her people, the Wampanoag nation.
When Weetamoo (my older sister) was born, the English had well and truly started to invade the Native Indians, hopeful that they might tame the tribes of their ‘peculiar’ ways and conquer more land. Originally, all tribes held against the invasion, but as the years went on, several tribes softened towards the coat men and even signed alliances with them. But not the Pocassets. Corbitant, the Pocasset chief, or Sachem, regarded the Englishmen as unworthy to share a part of their culture and change history. Throughout the years, Englishmen have continually pushed their boundaries, trying to win us over in fear, although in vain. Being the daughter of the mighty Sachem Corbitant, I saw things others mightn’t have dreamt could happen. Although I’m only Wootonuneske, his second child, and its Weetamoo who succeeded the throne, she and I spied many times on father’s courtroom and the Whiteman, who stationed themselves a little away from our village. By the time I was born, Englishmen were crawling everywhere throughout the forests. Probably they still do, freely now though, but as a slave in east Africa, I will never know.
“Quickly – eat your dinner.” A grubby-looking boy shoved a small tray onto my lap. Glaring at him, I quickly gobbled the small serving of food into my mouth. “When do we leave?” I asked between mouthfuls – I was only told to eat quickly when we were on the move. Although I was a woman and he appeared no more than nine or ten, I had learnt the hard way not to address any Native – man, woman or child – without respect. For nearly three months I had been held captive – me, an Englishwoman, Mary Rowlandson, and had been forced to travel with them wherever they went to escape the English – my people! Although they are generally good to me, being kept prisoner is not pleasant. Despite that, I am constantly amazed at Weetamoo’s skill to deftly escape our army’s ‘sieges’ – I must admit, they seem no match for her. Before a capable Englishmen could take one step into her territory, she arranges for every single human to reach safety – which makes me wonder how capable my countrymen really are. Weetamoo’s skill is remarkable. Too remarkable.
“Amie!” Weetamoo cried out to me as she saw me walk up the slope, and without hesitation, she ran towards me. Giggling, I waved, and started running also, for I was glad beyond words to once again see my friend, future Sachem to the Pocasset tribe. When we finally reached each other, we embraced and turned to walk slowly back to her village. “Quickly” Weetammoo urged me, “tell me how long you’ll be staying for, because I have so many wonderful things to do with you.” “Despite pleading my father to change his plans, we will only be staying for one night, and leaving early in the morning.” I sighed heavily. Weetamoo was not deterred. “We’ll just make up for it the best we possibly can,” she grinned, “Let’s go hunting! My father has given me a new bow and arrow, and with any luck, we might actually catch something! When it is dark, we can listen to the stories around the campfire. No doubt your family will have stories to tell.” “Can we?” I asked, my eyes shining. “I’m sure we can. We’d better go soon though, so we can be away for longer.” We exchanged glances and together started to run towards the bamboo and grass huts where we’d no doubt sleep tonight, if we didn’t sneak out to star gaze in the long grass. Our bare feet soaked in the rich moist soil and our hands brushed past the green corn fields. Weetamoo led a beautiful life, raised to be a leader throughout the darkest circumstances.
“Goodbye father.” Silently people watched from the shadows as the heir to the Pocasset’s throne wept quietly at Corbitant’s bedside, now a still form. Another young figure ran inside and also crouched beside her father. “We’re too late, Wootonensuke,” Weetamoo didn’t even turn to look at her sister, “For father is now sleeping with our forefathers. Today – I shall finally be sachem.”
“Arise, Queen Weetamoo, Sachem of the Pocasset tribe, leader in the future of the Wampanoag nation.”
“Weetamoo, they’re coming!” a voice yelled out to me in complete anguish. His cry alarmed the other roaming villagers, panic suddenly aroused, and I was cut off from hearing the rest of the messenger’s words. “War… run west… hide oth…”was all I could make out above the din. Instantly I realized what I needed to do: take leadership. Running towards the village centre, my heart pounded. As the English called the years, it was 1675, and we had been on the brink of war for too long – they wanted action. At the centre, I tried desperately to grab my people’s attention, but to no avail. My mind raced. From the platform, I could just make out the dust from the treacherous band of coat-men, riding towards us, for which my not-so-dearly-loved husband was probably cheering.
“You’re getting married again?!? M’lady Weetamoo, how many times do you intend to get married?” The scribe exploded at her news. Weetamoo had decided to marry for the forth time in her lifespan. “What about Quequequanachet?” he protested. “My husband has disappeared, with no record of where or why he left, nor how long he’d be gone.” The Sachem spoke clearly and raised her determined chin just the tiniest bit. “Although Petononowit doesn’t seem to quite grasp our demand for freedom and space from the English, he has a peaceful spirit, one which I hope will help stop any nonsense about war with the English.” The scribe sighed, “Winnepurket didn’t last long after your marriage, and although you had a lovely marriage with Wamsutta when you became Sachem, he died mysteriously –“
”The English’s fault.” Weetamoo confirmed.
“Most likely. He only went to see the English when his life was put in jeopardy, and then it seemed they took it anyway.”
“Since Quequequanachet is missing, I feel I must have another helper at my side to help me guide my people the Pocasset tribe in Mettapoiset.”
“I will settle the wedding details for you hastily then, your majesty.” The two important figures exchanged smiles, and bowing, he rose to leave the persuasive Sachem…
“Attention – listen people!” I called as loud as I could, but it made no difference. Again my mind searched for some loud way to… the gong! Although I knew it was very heavy and had never personally touched it, there was no time for second thoughts. A leader must not think about herself, but raise the followers to safety. Swiftly I grabbed hold of the baton, and swung the heavy stick to the plate, causing a large vibration, startling everyone’s attention. “Run NOW!” I screamed to the dazed crowd, “Run to the west – don’t stop! For the English are upon us in WAR!” Once more, panic and rush surged through the Pocasset’s. As they all left, myself coming up the rear, I stole one more glance at my home village. “Good bye, home. Farewell, comfort. No more, Petononowit.”
Many moons later…
Slowly, yet with a sense of urgency, we travel across the land, hiding in swamps and trenches whenever the army came near. Several times we have had to split up to dilute suspicion on the enemy’s behalf. Metacom, Wootonensuke’s husband, is the leader of our army, which combined with my people, makes a near-invincible armed force. Quinnapin, my fifth husband, lovingly helps Metacom and myself lead the people all he can, and my two children are my pride and joy. Although we can only stay in one place as long as the English army permit, in eighteen months, we have managed to stay alive and keep up defences, dodging the scouts and soldiers in whatever hiding places we can find that will accommodate one and all. Bravely my men fight the enemy’s army time and time again, even capturing one woman during a raid, although after three months decided to let her return home. Living as fugitives is no easy task. I yearn for my home, for peace, but deep inside, I know my life will never be the same.