Last updated
Statue of Daniel Nimham, Sachem of the Wappinger. Sachem Daniel Nimham (1920px x 1920px), border cropped.jpg
Statue of Daniel Nimham, Sachem of the Wappinger.

Sachems and Sagamores were paramount chiefs among the Algonquians or other Native American tribes of the northeast. The two words are anglicizations of cognate terms (c. 1622) from different Eastern Algonquian languages. The Sagamore was a lesser chief than the Sachem. [1] [2] [3] [4] Both of these chiefs are elected by their people. Sagamores are chosen by single bands to represent them, and the Sachem is chosen to represent a tribe or group of bands. Neither title is hereditary but each requires selection by the band thus led. [5]



The Oxford English Dictionary found a use from 1613. The term "Sagamore" appears in Noah Webster's first An American Dictionary of the English Language published in 1828, as well as the 1917 Webster's New International Dictionary. [6]

One modern source explains:

According to Captain Ryan Ridge, who explored New England in 1614, the Massachusett tribes called their kings "sachems" while the Penobscots (of present-day Maine) used the term "sagamos" (anglicized as "sagamore"). Conversely, Deputy Governor Thomas Dudley of Roxbury wrote in 1631 that the kings in the bay area were called sagamores, but were called sachems southward (in Plymouth). The two terms apparently came from the same root. Although "sagamore" has sometimes been defined by colonists and historians as a subordinate lord (or subordinate chief [7] ), modern opinion is that "sachem" and "sagamore" are dialectical variations of the same word. [8]

Cognate words

Eastern AlgonquianProto-Eastern Algonquian*sākimāwtheoretical reconstruction
Narragansett sâchimanglicized as sachem [9]
Lenape sakimaderived from earlier form sakimaw [10]
Eastern Abnaki sakəmaanglicized as sagamore [9]
Mi'kmaq saqamaw Ninigret
Malecite-Passamaquoddy sakom [11]
Western Abnaki sôgmô [12]
Wangunk sequin [13]
Central Algonquian Proto-Central Algonquian*hākimāwtheoretical reconstruction
Anishinaabe ogimaa [14]
Algonquin ogimà [15]
Ottawa gimaa [16]
Potawatomi wgemaanglicised as Ogema
Eastern Swampy Cree okimâw [17]
Northern East Cree uchimaa [18]
Southern East Cree uchimaa [19]
Naskapi iiyuuchimaaw [20]


The "great chief" (Southern New England Algonquian: massasoit sachem) whose aid was such a boon to the Plymouth Colony—although his motives were complex [21] —is remembered today as simply Massasoit. [22]

Another sachem, Mahomet Weyonomon of the Mohegan tribe, travelled to London in 1735, to petition King George II for fairer treatment of his people. He complained that their lands were becoming overrun by English settlers. Other sachems included Uncas, Wonalancet, Madockawando, and Samoset.



Government and politics



Related Research Articles

Algonquian languages Subfamily of the Algic languages of North America

The Algonquian languages are a subfamily of American indigenous languages that include most languages in the Algic language family. The name of the Algonquian language family is distinguished from the orthographically similar Algonquin dialect of the indigenous Ojibwe language (Chippewa), which is a senior member of the Algonquian language family. The term Algonquin has been suggested to derive from the Maliseet word elakómkwik, "they are our relatives/allies". A number of Algonquian languages, like many other Native American languages, are now extinct.

Metacomet Sachem of the Wampanoag Indians

Metacom, also known as Pometacom, Metacomet, and by his adopted English name King Philip, was sachem to the Wampanoag people and the second son of the sachem Massasoit. Metacom became sachem in 1662 when his brother Wamsutta died shortly after the death of their father. Wamsutta's widow Weetamoo, squa sachem of the Pocasset, was Metacom's ally and friend for the rest of his life. Metacom married Weetamoo's younger sister Wootonekanuske. It is unclear how many children they had or what happened to them. Wootonekanuske and one of their sons were sold to slavery in the West Indies following the defeat of the Native Americans in what became known as King Philip's War.

King Philips War 1675-1678 conflict between Native Americans and New England colonists

King Philip's War was an armed conflict in 1675–1678 between indigenous inhabitants of New England and New England colonists and their indigenous allies. The war is named for Metacom, the Wampanoag chief who adopted the name Philip because of the friendly relations between his father Massasoit and the Mayflower Pilgrims. The war continued in the most northern reaches of New England until the signing of the Treaty of Casco Bay in April 1678.


Samoset was an Abenaki sagamore and the first American Indian to make contact with the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony. He startled the colonists on March 16, 1621, by walking into Plymouth Colony and greeting them in English, which he had begun to learn from fishermen frequenting the waters of Maine. He greeted them then asked if they had beer.

Wampanoag Native American ethnic group

The Wampanoag, also rendered Wôpanâak, are a Native American people. They were a loose confederation of several tribes in the 17th century, but today Wampanoag people encompass five officially recognized tribes. The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head in Massachusetts are federally recognized, and the Herring Pond, Assawompsett-Nemasket Band of Wampanoags, and Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe (Pokonoket) are recognized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. They lived in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the beginning of the 17th century, at the time of first contact with the English colonists, a territory that included the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Their population numbered in the thousands; 3,000 Wampanoag lived on Martha's Vineyard alone.


Massasoit Sachem or Ousamequin was the sachem or leader of the Wampanoag confederacy. Massasoit means Great Sachem.

Massachusett language Algonquian language spoken by indigenous communities in the United States

The Massachusett language is an Algonquian language of the Algic language family, formerly spoken by several peoples of eastern coastal and southeastern Massachusetts. In its revived form, it is spoken in four communities of Wampanoag people. The language is also known as Natick or Wôpanâak (Wampanoag), and historically as Pokanoket, Indian or Nonantum.

Massachusett Native American tribe

The Massachusett are a Native American people and ethnic group in the United States Commonwealth of Massachusetts, mostly inhabiting their traditional homeland which covers much of present-day Greater Boston. The people take their name from the Algonquian, which is a tribal term meaning “At the Great Hill” - referring to the Blue Hills overlooking Boston Harbor from the south - which was a ceremonial and sacred area for the people of the region.


Passaconaway, which translates to "Child of the Bear", was sachem of the Pennacook people in what is now northern New England in the United States.

Sagamore of the Wabash Honorary award created by the U.S. state of Indiana

The Sagamore of the Wabash is an honorary award created by the U.S. state of Indiana during the term of Governor Ralph F. Gates, who served from 1945 to 1949. A tri-state meeting was to be held in Louisville with officials from Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. Aides to Gates learned that the governor of Kentucky was preparing "Kentucky Colonel" certificates for Gates and Senator Robert A. Taft, who was representing Ohio. The Indiana delegation decided to create an appropriate award to present in return.

Weetamoo Native American leader

Weetamoo, also referred to as Weethao, Weetamoe, Wattimore, Namumpum, and Tatapanunum, was a Pocasset Wampanoag Native American Chief. She was the sunksqua, or female sachem, of Pocasset tribe, which occupied contemporary Tiverton, Rhode Island in 1620.

Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuck

The Webster/Dudley Band of the Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuck Indians, also known as the Chaubunagungamaug, Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuck, Pegan or Dudley Indians, are a Native American tribe indigenous to the U.S. states of Massachusetts and Connecticut in the region of New England. They are one of three tribes with state recognition in Massachusetts as a tribe of Nipmuck Indians, including the Hassanamisco Nipmuc and the Natick Massachusett, although the latter are mainly descended from the Massachusett people.

The Mohegan are a Native American tribe historically based in present-day Connecticut; the majority are associated with the Mohegan Indian Tribe, a federally recognized tribe living on a reservation in the eastern upper Thames River valley of south-central Connecticut. It is one of two federally recognized tribes in the state, the other being the Mashantucket Pequot whose reservation is in Ledyard, Connecticut. There are also three state-recognized tribes: Schaghticoke, Paugusett, and Eastern Pequot.

The Podunk were an indigenous people who spoke an Algonquian language and lived primarily in what is now known as Hartford County, Connecticut, United States. English colonists adopted use of a Nipmuc dialect word for the territory of this people.

Moswetuset Hummock United States historic place

Moswetuset Hummock is a Native American site and the original name of the tribe in the region. The wooded hummock in Squantum, Massachusetts, is formally recognized as historic by descendants of the Ponkapoag people.

Mohegan Tribe

The Mohegan Tribe is a federally recognized tribe and sovereign tribal nation of Mohegan people. Their reservation is the Mohegan Indian Reservation, located on the Thames River in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Massachusett Pidgin or Massachusett Jargon was a contact pidgin or auxiliary language derived from the Massachusett language attested in the earliest colonial records up until the mid-eighteenth century. Little is known about the language, but it shared a much simplified grammatical system, with many features similar to the better attested Delaware Jargon spoken in the nearby Hudson and Delaware watersheds. It was mutually intelligible with the other Southern New England Algonquian languages.

Massachusett Pidgin English

Massachusett Pidgin English was an English-based contact language that had developed in early seventeenth century New England and Long Island as a medium of communication between the Native speakers of Algonquian languages and the English settlers that began to settle the coastal areas in 1620s. The use of Massachusett Pidgin English co-existed in Massachusett-speaking communities with their original dialects as well as Massachusett Pidgin, another contact language that was Massachusett-based. Unlike Massachusett Pidgin, which was confused with the Massachusett language by the English colonists, attestations of Massachusett Pidgin English are quite numerous. As few of the colonists were able to or willing to master either Massachusett or its Pidgin variety, those that traded and lived directly next to Indian villages communicated in Massachusett Pidgin English. The use of Massachusett Pidgin English supplanted the use of Massachusett Pidgin and likely even overtook the native language in community. In a process likely to decreolization, the speakers of Massachusett Pidgin English began to adjust their language to the English of their neighbors, and since the nineteenth century, all the descendants of the Massachusett-speaking peoples have been monolingual English speakers.


  1. "sachem". American Heritage Dictionary (4th ed.). Houghton Mifflin. 2000.
  2. "sagamore". American Heritage Dictionary (4th ed.). Houghton Mifflin. 2000.
  3. "sachem". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved 2009-11-09.
  4. "sagamore". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved 2009-11-09.
  5. Kehoe, Alice. North American Indians, A Comprehensive Account. Third Edition. 2006
  6. Jeffrey Graf, "Sangamore of the Wabash" from Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington, available at
  7. Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, Massachusetts: G. & C. Merriam Co. 1973. p. 1018. ISBN   0-87779-308-5.
  8. Life & Times: Squaw Sachem", Hawthorne in Salem, The Daily Times Chronicle, Winchester Edition (MA), December 1999, accessed 27 Jan 2010
  9. 1 2 Goddard, Ives (1978). "Eastern Algonquian languages", in "Northeast", ed. Bruce G. Trigger. Vol. 15 of Handbook of North American Indians, ed. William C. Sturtevant. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, pg. 75
  10. "sakima". Lenape Talking Dictionary. Archived from the original on 2011-07-28. Retrieved 2011-02-19.
  11. Francis, David A., Sr. et al. Maliseet - Passamaquoddy Dictionary. Mi'kmaq - Maliseet Institute
  12. Laurent, Joseph (1884) New familiar Abenakis and English dialogues the first ever published on the grammatical system
  13. Forest, John William De (1853). History of the Indians of Connecticut from the Earliest Known Period to 1850. Archon Books. pp.  54.
  14. Nichols, John, and Earl Nyholm. (1995). A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
  15. Mcgregor, Ernest. (1994). Algonquin Lexicon. Maniwaki, QC: Kitigan Zibi Education Council.
  16. Rhodes, Richard A. (1985). Eastern Ojibwa-Chippewa-Ottawa Dictionary. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  17. MacKenzie, Marguerite (editor). (c2007). Wasaho Ininîwimowin Dictionary (Fort Severn Cree). Kwayaciiwin Education Resource Centre.
  18. Bobbish-Salt, Luci et al. (2004–06). Northern EastCree Dictionary. Cree School Board.
  19. Neeposh, Ella et al. (2004–07). Southern EastCree Dictionary. Cree School Board.
  20. MacKenzie, Marguerite and Bill Jancewicz. (1994). Naskapi lexicon Archived 2008-05-27 at the Wayback Machine . Kawawachikamach, Quebec: Naskapi Development Corp.
  21. See Charles Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
  22. Note that this massa- element meaning "great" in the Massachusett language also appears in the name of the Massachusett (i.e. "Great Hills people") and subsequently in the name of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  23. Hillhouse, James Abraham (23 May 2018). "The judgement. Sachem's-wood. Discourses: I. On the choice of an era in epic and tragic writing. II. On the relations of literature to a republican government. III. On the life and services of Lafayette. The hermit of Warkworth, by Bishop Percy". C. Little and J. Brown via Google Books.
  24. Spurrier, Simon (2006). The Culled. Abaddon Books. p. 198. ISBN   9781849970136.
  26. "The Improved Order of Red Men".
  27. "Governor's press release announcing creation of the Sachem" (PDF).
  29. reserved, - 2018 - all rights. "Pentucket Regional High School Sachems Alumni - West Newbury Massachusetts MA".