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James H. O’Donnell III

Ann (fl. 1706–1718), queen of Pamunkey, may have ruled as late as 1723. The Pamunkey people of Virginia were part of the larger grouping that had once been known as Powhatan’s confederacy. In the century after the arrival of the Europeans not only had the larger tribal polity declined but also the population had diminished and the land base had dwindled. The collapse of the confederacy had presented leadership challenges to the several tribes. One crisis that emerged was the death of tribal leaders in intertribal wars, struggles largely precipitated by their support of the English colonial governments. The best-known example of this, the death of Totopotomoy in 1656 in battle with the Rickohokans, brought his widow Cockacoeske to the position of queen of the Pamunkeys, a role she played for almost thirty years. Following in this tradition were two more Pamunkey queens, Betty and Ann, whose leadership was exercised early in the eighteenth century. By that time, moreover, their ascendance to leadership may also have been a function of declining population that left women of prominent families as the only choice to lead the tribe....

Article

Aquash, Annie Mae (27 March 1945– December 1975), First Nations (Mi'kmaq) activist and American Indian Movement leader, First Nations (Mi’kmaq) activist and American Indian Movement leader, was born Annie Mae Pictou in the Shubenacadie band (now Indian Brook First Nation) reserve in central Nova Scotia, Canada, the youngest daughter of Mary Ellen Pictou and Francis Thomas Levi. (Most contemporary sources refer to her as Anna, but family members confirmed that Annie is the accurate form of her given name.) Her father left the family shortly before her birth, and Annie Mae spent the first four years of her life in the Shubenacadie reserve. Her mother remarried and brought her three daughters to live in the small Pictou Landing reserve near New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, where she also gave birth to a fourth child....

Article

Davis, Alice Brown (10 September 1852–21 June 1935), Seminole leader and merchant, was born in Park Hill, Cherokee Nation (now in Cherokee County, Okla.), the daughter of John F. Brown, a physician, and Lucy Redbeard, a Seminole of the Panther clan (Kachaki). Her parents met while her father was employed as a contract physician for the federal government during the removal of most of the Seminoles from Florida to the Indian Territory in the 1840s. One of seven children, Alice was educated at home and also attended schools in the Cherokee Nation and the Presbyterian mission school near Wewoka....

Article

Hiawatha (fourteenth century–?), Onondaga warrior and orator, was spokesman for Deganawidah in the campaign for the formation of the League of the Hau-De-No-Sau-Nee, or People of the Longhouse. In the absence of contemporary sources, our current information is based on oral traditions handed down by the elders, some of which were recorded and published only in the late nineteenth century. Oral tradition is transmitted through storytelling, ritual reenactments, and sacred symbols carved on wooden sticks or embroidered on wampum belts. The so-called myths are of historical importance because they reflect the traditional values of the past and are called on to resolve present issues....

Article

Nampeyo (1859–20 July 1942), Native American potter, was born in Tewa Village (Hano), First Mesa, Hopi reservation, Arizona, the daughter of Qotsvema, a Hopi farmer from Walpi, and Qotcakao of the Corn Clan at Hano. She was named Tcumana (Snake Girl) by her paternal grandmother because her father was of the Snake Clan; however, her Tewa name, Numpayu (“Snake that does not bite”), was more commonly used because she lived at Hano....

Image

Nampeyo. Gelatin silver print, c. 1926, by Arnold Genthe. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

Article

Ward, Nancy (1738?–1822), Cherokee War Woman, was born Nanye’hi in the Overhill Cherokee settlements in present-day eastern Tennessee. The identities of her parents have not been firmly established. In the early 1750s she married Kingfisher, a Cherokee warrior; they had two children. In 1755 she joined a war party against the Creeks, performing tasks customary for Cherokee women, such as cooking, carrying water, and gathering firewood. After her husband died in battle, she defied normal gender roles by seizing his gun and helping rout the enemy. The Cherokees designated such women as “War Women,” who traditionally had the right to speak in councils and determine the fate of prisoners. Nanye’hi became the War Woman of her town of Chota. Although the historical sources include vague references to other War Women, Nanye’hi is the only War Woman whose history is known, owing to her long relationship with Anglo-Americans. Nevertheless, there is much we do not know about her life, particularly about the ritual that invested her with the War Woman’s authority. Non-natives did not attend these ceremonies, and Cherokees had no writing system for recording accounts of them....