Pequot Indian Chiefs and Leaders
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Sassacus (perhaps the equivalent of Massachuset Sassakusu, ‘he is wild’ (untamed), ‘fierce.’ Gerard). The noted and last chief of the Pequot tribe while yet in their integrity; born near Groton, Conn., about 1560, killed by the Mohawk in New York, June 1637. He was the son and successor of Wopigwooit the first chief of the tribe with whom the whites had come in contact, who was killed by the Dutch, about 1632, at or near the site of Hartford, Conn., then the principal Pequot settlement.
Soon after assuming the chiefship, in Oct. 1634 Sassacus sent an emissary to the governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony to ask for a treaty of friendship, offering as an inducement to surrender all the rights of the Pequot to the lands they had conquered, provided the colonists would settle a plantation among his people, an offer which he must have known he could not carry out, and perhaps had no intention of trying to fulfill, as he nourished bitter enmity toward the whites. This proposal had the effect of turning against him Uncas, the Mohegan chief, who was related to him by both blood and marriage. The domain of the Pequot during Sassacus’s chiefship extended from Narragansett bay to Hudson river, including the larger part of Long id., and it is said that at the height of his prosperity no fewer than 26 sachems were subordinate to him. Because of his depredations, especially on the neighboring tribes, the colonists decided in 1636 to make war on the Pequot. The name of Sassacus had inspired such terror among the surrounding tribes that the Indian allies of the whites could not believe the latter would dare to make a direct attack on the stronghold of this wily chief. The war was soon ended, and Sassacus, having suffered defeat and the loss of a large portion of his people, fled with 20 or 30 of his warriors to the Mohawk country. Even here he found no safety, for before the close of 1637 his scalp and those of his brother and five other Pequot chiefs were sent to the governor of Massachusetts by the Mohawk.
As Sassacus had carried with him in his flight a large quantity of wampum, a desire on the part of the Mohawk to possess this treasure may have led to the death of himself and his followers. Sassacus was spoken of by the commissioners in 1647 as “the malignant, furious Piquot,” while, on the other hand, De Forest styles him “a renowned warrior and a noble and high-spirited man.”
- De Forest, Inds. Conn., 1852;
- Stone, Uncas and Miantonomoh, 1842;
- Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc., 1st s., ix, 1804;
- Drake, Inds. N. A., 1880.