Saturday, December 6, 2008

Was Umpachenee Chief Sachem?

Konkapot and Umpachenee were the leaders of the two Housatonic Mohican villages in 1734 when two ministers approached them with the offer of a mission. At that meeting, the ministers conferred British military commissions on the two men and they subsequently become known as Captain Konkapot and Lieutenant Umpachenee. Konkapot may have gotten the better title because he was older than Umpachenee, or maybe it was because they already knew Konkapot was interested in Christianity.

Konkapot said he wanted the mission so the children could learn to read and he asked John Sergeant to Baptize him and also asked for a Christian marriage. Furthermore, he was what the Calvinists really wanted, an "industrious" Indian (by the 1740's he owned his own barn).

Meanwhile, Umpachenee was one of a few, or maybe even the only Housatonic Mohican who chose not to attend John Sergeant's ordination ceremony. The binges or benders that he went on - it is suggested by Nancy Lurie, former curator at the Milwaukee Public Museum - may have been a form of protest against the British influence. Umpachenee was a Christian too, but he seems to have preferred Moravianism to Calvinism. Clearly, the whites of Stockbridge [MA] preferred to treat Konkapot as a leader instead of Umpachenee.

Patrick Frazier is one historian who suggests that Umpachenee was the Chief Sachem in Stockbridge's early days (see pages 9, 56, and 254 of The Mohicans of Stockbridge). He married the daughter of "King" Etowaukaum at a time when matrilineality was not observed like it once was, so being the son-in-law of a former Chief Sachem at least gave him some influence. But, of course, having the favor of whites in a time and place where whites were gaining in number and power gave Konkapot influence.

I once received a message from Lion Miles in which he asserted that Konkapot was the Mohican Chief Sachem while the tribe was in Massachusetts. Why? He didn't really say why, but rather said he was skeptical becuse it was the Moravians who wrote that Umpachenee was "King of the Mohicans"(see Frazier, p. 254, footnote 63).

So who was Chief Sachem of the Mohicans in the 1740's? I think it remains an open question.



I think that:

Kon Ka Pot
Woman That Speaks was a woman. She, probably, was also the sachem the tribe the trusted the most.

Sachem is sort of like an expert who gives advice.

Um Pa Che Nee
Across Upon Sea New was an outsider. First generation outsiders rarely became the most trusted sachem.

[I have personal experience with that situation. I married into a Mennonite clan.

Mennonites are somewhat similar to Lenape, Both groups strongly believe that they should "treat your neighbor as yourself," which means your neighbor was/is free to decide the best actions for himself. But both groups recognize that it is wise to listen to an expert, especially one who knows many of the desires of most of the neighbors, before deciding what to do.]

My wife's relatives treat me as a respected sachem in friendly conversation, but when the key group decisions are made, her brother slips in to recommend what the group accepts. That is the way it should be, but I and other "outsiders" (we recognize each other and sometimes visit about the situation.) still feel like "outsiders" after five decades of fellowship with the relatives.

BTW. The Mennonites "treat your neighbors as yourself" way of life may have conditioned me to recognize that the Lenape (Shawnee and Mohicans) were following Christ's ethics. The more I examined situational actions from that viewpoint, the more convinced I became the Lenape (Mohicans) were/are Christians.

The European missionary problem with Lenapes was that they stopped preaching (as a sachem) and began to meddle by telling Lenape (Mohicans) what to do. (i.e. Cut your braids. Wear jackets. Bow to pray.)

Umpachenee, who may have come from somewhere on the Great Lakes near the Moravians, would have preferred Moravians to Calvin missionaries. Umpachenee may have been an influential sachem, capable of telling the Mohicans that the Moravians (without weapons) and not the Calvinists (always carrying weapons) were the good light skinned sachems of the fourth prophecy fire. But the tribe probably followed Konkapot's recommendations. SHE was the group sachem.

Eto Waw Kaum
Naturally Take Care was. probably. a medicine man, who became trusted enough to also function as a sachem. The Spanish and the English wasted their time trying to find a "king" and/or expecting to deal with one person to make an agreement for all. When you treat your neighbor as yourself you assume that he is capable of making his own decisions like you want to.

Glad you asked. I found the name look up interesting.

Jeff Siemers said...


Please be careful not to let your liguistic interpretations lead you to make assumptions about things.

Konkapot was a male. He married a woman and after he was baptized he also took on the "Christian" name of John.

From your comments it is clear that you make a lot of assertions and one has to wonder if you have also jumped to conclusions about them too.