A Problem In Ethnohistory (In Two Parts): PART B



What, who, & where was “K-C-O”? What is simple to answer: K-C-O is only my own acronym for three ways of spelling the name of what was most likely only one Wabanaki sakamo, who died in either 1606 or 1607. Spelled with the first letter K, the name appeared as KASHURAKENY; with the first letter C, CASHEROKENIT; and with the first syllable Omitted, SHUROKINIT. Who he was is more complex to say, and depends upon where his people were when they were seen (or at least heard-about) by members of the short-lived Popham-Sagadahoc Colony (1607-08). Thereby hangs this tale.

Each spelling occurs only once, in a separate primary-source and context. Trying to connect all of the three spellings-sources-contexts into one sakamo apparently has not occured to any other scholar previously, but making that attempt is my major theme in this present report.

All three of these primary-sources (along with many others) are reprinted in David B & Allison M Quinn, editors (1983), The English New England Voyages 1602-1608, London: The Hakluyt Society. Therein, for K, C, & O, respectively, see pages 351, 475, & 311 – but do be wary of some of the editors’ notes, because they have not seen the connections that I have, and accordingly (from my perspective) make some misleading non-sequiturs.

Nonetheless, the Quinns’ 1983 book is truly the very most useful single collection of data available on its topic, and the Quinns themselves are the true deans of the specialty-study of North Atlantic New World European exploration-discovery-colonization. So, it is with great respect that I try here to add-to, certainly not detract-from, their prior major contributions.


(Continued from PART A)

Consideration of my own interpretation, & some possible alternatives, below, takes one thing for granted: namely, that KASHURAKENY, CASHEROKENIT, & SHUROKINIT are variations of the name of only one Wabanaki sakamo (whom I call K-C-O), who died soon after the 1605 information was obtained from Captain Waymouth’s five captives, & which eventually was published as Description of Mawooshen in 1625.

The scenario that I have synthesized from all of the Part A data is as follows. K-C-O was a sakamo of an Abenaki-Pennacook band using Presumpscot River (called Ashamahaga River in Description) to its mouth & beyond into Portland Harbor & Casco Bay, where his mourners were seen by the exploring Popham Colonists in either 1607 or 1608. (Archaeological evidence of an Early-Historic-Period Native fishing site has been found at Presumpscot 1st Falls in today’s Falmouth. Historically, in 1624 Skedraguscett was known to be a sakamo there, and had “a house” by the 1st Falls, according to English entrepreneur Christopher Levett.)

K-C-O’s residence (in the town of Agnagebcoc) might yet be found near the mouth of Presumpscot River. Alternatively, it may have been either very far inland on an arm of Sebago Lake, or on the Presumpscot where its location has been hidden by either major mudslides since 1605 or early major mill constructions. Perhaps both of these obscurations occurred if it was in the vicinity of Presumpscot 2nd & 3rd Falls & industrial sites in downtown Westbrook, where local historians tell of Indian cornfields. K-C-O’s band name certainly would be either Agnagebcoc or Ashamahaga, but if I am right, that updates to Sebago-Presumpscot. Only a breakthrough in archaeological evidence can tell more about this Native town, or any other nearby Historic-Period Native town-village-community in Sebagoland / the Lakes Region of Maine.

I believe my Presumpscot scenario to be the simplest possible explanation. However, the reality of K-C-O may be more complex: the Popham Colonists may have seen K-C-O’s people mourning him much closer to Fort St George than Casco Bay, either because the Description of Mawooshen data or the interpretation of Sebago-Presumpscot as Ashamahaga are wrong, or because K-C-O had another sakamoship in addition to Sebago- Presumpscot. (I discuss plural-sakamoship among the Wabanakis online in MM-SS-3A & 3B. Often it resulted from marrying into another community, and some 17th-century Wabanaki sakamos were polygynous.)

So, what Wabanaki town-village-community was close-by to Fort St George? The answer is elusive, because the known Popham Colony records say nothing about Natives living nearby. Indeed, French explorer Samuel de Champlain earlier had designated today’s Sabino Head only as “Place where the savages camp when they come to fish”, and ongoing archaeological evidence at the site of Fort St George confirms only seasonal Native occupation there.

The next step would be to follow that up with careful analysis of the extremely-complex accounts of both the Kennebec and Androscoggin Rivers which join at Merrymeeting Bay into the Sagadahoc River (estuary), as given in Description of Mawooshen. These accounts total: for Kennebec — 4 towns, 3 sakamos, 228 houses, 620 men; for Androscoggin — 3 towns, 4 sakamos, 198 houses, 820 men. (See Quinn & Quinn 1983:473-475.)

However, the enigmas of these two rivers could drown us far deeper than the much shallower Presumpscot situation described earlier – a tantalizing 1605 word-picture of one large village, but archaeological evidence found near the mouth of the Presumpscot only for a fishing site at 1st Falls, and no evidence yet found for any Historic-Period Native town on that river — so I choose to stop right here, and bow-out using the old Yiddish expression “You should live so long” as to be able to find the true answer to the question of which band(s) mourned K-C-O, and where they belonged.

It is ironic that, despite our current uncertainty about him, K-C-O is remembered for certain as being certainly remembered (even mourned) by his own people, in Samuel Purchas’s supplement to his & Richard Hakluyt’s combined works, which together have been called “the great prose-epic of the English nation”.* Whoever & wherever Wabanaki sakamo K-C-O was, he has an honorable personalized place in “History” far above most persons’ aspirations.

Samuel F Manning, artist —copyright Maine’s First Ship

My sincere thanks to Bud Warren, President of Maine’s First Ship: The Virginia Project, for his very helpful comments on an earlier draft of this report. He is in no way responsible for my speculations or errors. And I am extremely grateful to MFS for allowing us to reprint here Sam Manning’s fine illustrations.

Visit Maine’s First Ship’s website.

Also visit Popham Colony’s Fort St George archaeological dig’s website: http://www.pophamcolony.org

And, for details of how to join in that dig, at Popham Colony’s Fort St George, visit Maine State Museum’s website: http://www.state.me.us/museum/friends/popham.html

*What has been called “the great prose-epic of the English nation” collectively consists of Richard Hakluyt’s The Principal Navigations Voyages Traffiques & Discoveries of the English Nation (modern reprint of 2nd Ed., 1598-1600, is a 12-volume set), and Samuel Purchas’s Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas his Pilgrims (modern reprint of 1625 Edition is a 20-volume set), plus Samuel Purchas’s Purchas his Pilgrimage or Relations of the World & the Religions Observed (2nd Ed., 1614, in 4 parts). Do not confuse, as many have, Purchas’s Pilgrims with his Pilgrimage; it is the latter which contains the statement about mourning Kashurakeny, as an example of a Wabanaki religious custom reported to Purchas by someone(s) among the Popham Colonists in 1607 or 1608.

Although it depicts a rather pompous sakamo, the following passage (written by an Englishman residing in coastal Pennacook country in the early 1630s) is too vivid to ignore. It appears internally in Chapter 5 (titled Of Their Apparel, Ornaments, Paintings, & Other Artificial Deckings) of William Wood’s (1635) NEW ENGLAND’S PROSPECT*. It well exemplifies the genre of biased antique Euramerican accounts from which ethnohistorical anthropology must seek data about Frontier-Encounter-Era Native Americans.

“xxx But a sagamore with a humbird in his ear for a pendant, a black hawk on his occiput for his plume, mowhacheis for his gold chain, good store of wampompeag begirting his loins, his bow in his hand, his quiver at his back, with six naked Indian spatterlashes** at his heels for his guard, thinks himself little inferior to the great Cham. He will not stick to say he is all one with King Charles. He thinks he can blow down castles with his breath and conquer kingdoms with his conceit xxx”

The logo shown at the right and used here for this Sakamo Series of Mawooshen Memos is a silhouette of a 19th-century drawing (probably based on Wood’s 1630s statement, just quoted) supposedly depicting 17th-century Pennacook paramount-sakamo Passaconaway.

*NEW ENGLAND’S PROSPECT. William Wood [1635, 2nd Ed]. Edited by Alden T Vaughan (1977). Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press [1993, 1st Paperback Ed]. Pages 84-85.

** “A variant of ‘spatterdash’—a kind of legging worn to protect trousers from spatter. Here used figuratively.”—p 85 of Vaughan (1977).