Monday, May 25, 2020

Two Stories of Women of Power


PowhatanMuseum's design. It is taken from
Powhatan II's Mantle, a four deerskin-large
cloak with his totems of a mountain lion and 
deer flanking a man, surrounded by 34 circles.
The circles on the mantle are believed to be a
map of the Algonquian nations within his
confederation. The original mantle is in the
collection of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford,

© 2020 by Michael Auld
In the spirit of Land Acknowledgement on Memorial Day in Washington, DC, it is fitting to honor some notable Native American women leaders along with their many warriors, who with integrity gave their lives for the protection of their homeland's security. Two such notable figures come to mind. Cockacoeske, the Queen of Pamunkey and Keziah Powhatan (Tauxenent), the Fire Woman Warrior. Both women lead exemplary lives for which we who now occupy their territory can be proud.

Most Washingtonians and later arrivals to our Federal city assume that all people indigenous to our city became extinct not long after the 1607 European arrival under the leadership of Captain John Smith of London's Virginia Company. Not so. The Metropolitan Ares is rich in Native history. And in the time of Land Acknowledgement, we must give their many local descendants their due respect.


Idealized computer illustrated image of Cockacoeske, inheritor of the historic 
Powhatan Confederacy (recorded by the English at Jamestown, Virginia as a 

At 16 years old Cockacoeske (1640-1686) was the weroansqua (chief) or
Queen of Pamunkey, the leading tribe in the Powhatan "Kingdom", as the 17th century English called it. She governed over the extensive Powhatan Confederacy/Chiefdom for 30 years after succeeding her husband Totopotomoi who died in the 1656 war with the English invaders of Attan Akamik (Our Fertile Country).

Here she is next to her signature that was recorded in her 1677 treaty with the King of England when she was 37. After the Powhatan Wars of intended English expulsion, under her leadership she agreed to a peace treaty with the the King of England's representatives at Middle Plantation, today's Williamsburg, Virginia. In November of each year, a tribute recognizing the treaty is still held at the Mansion of the Governor of Virginia in Richmond. (Photo in tribute link is of Virginia Governor Tim Kane with Pamunkey representatives at the Governor's Mansion).


Was dubbed the “Firewoman Warrior” in an honoring poem by one of her descendants, Dr. Fredricka Daley. The plaque below was placed at Tyson’s Corner, Fairfax County, Virginia by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). It recorded her deeds, described as “Indian hostilities.” For generations, her descendants in DC and Northern Virginia proudly kept alive her name and the actions of protest against the British Colonial Empire.
*Idealized computer generated watercolor portrait 
representing Keziah Powhatan the 
Firewoman Warrior. 

The issue? 
A large swath of her Tauxenent land was, in Keziah's opinion, illegally given by King Charles to his cousin, Lord Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax (meaning "Blond hair") of Cameron. Fairfax County is now his place name in Northern Virginia, next to the Potomac River that borders Washington, DC. 

Unable to get satisfaction from the Colonial Government of Virginia, she and her 
"band" twice burned down the courthouse. Forcing the building to be moved to its present location.

When you visit Capitol Hill you are still in Tauxenent Territory

Born into leadership of a “band” of Tauxenents in the northernmost outpost nation of the powerful Powhatan Confederacy, Keziah's National Territorial jurisdiction was extensive.

Many of her descendants and relatives still live in the DC Metropolitan Area.

NOTES: About the illustrations.

(1) The model for this first idealized composite illustration of Cockacoeske, is the late Washington, DC Pamunkey descendant (painter, Georgia Mills Jessup, a DC Public School educator/administrator) who was a distant relative of Cockacoeske as well as to Opichancanoegh, brother and successor to Powhatan II. Georgia was the thirteenth Pamunkey descended child of twenty-one siblings. 

She is shown wearing a freshwater pearl adorned turkey feather headdress. (Powhatan freshwater pearls were "blackened" by the cooking process of the clam.) Around her neck she wears a sacred copper gorget while pearls adorn both her neck and wrist. She also wears an iridescent copper and green wild turkey feathered cape. Her face and arm are traditionally tattooed to show her high rank.
 Powhatan freshwater pearls became a part of the extensive American pearl trade that began in the Americas with pink conch pearls in the Bahamas (Lucaya TaĆ­no territory) and the rich pearl oyster beds from pre-Columbian tribal pearl-trade sites near Margarita Island off the coast of Venezuela, South America where the world's largest pearl, "the Orphan", was later found by an enslaved indigenous Amerindian pearl diver who then gained his freedom. The Orphan is owned by the late actress Elizabeth Taylor.

*This idealized version of the Tauxenent werowansqua (female leader), Keziah Powhatan's descendant Rose Boston Powhatan, is a Washington, DC Pamunkey/Tauxenent/Wampanoag painter, Algonquian storyteller, educator, researcher, historian and actress. Rose is Georgia's daughter. 

(2) Predating the American Revolution, the 1677 Treaty of Middle Plantation lead to the allowance of the United States of America to eventually come into being. This agreement also set up America's first Native American reservation, the Pamunkey Reservation in King William County, Virginia. The Pamunkey werowance (male leader), Wahunsennachaw (Powhatan II) was the father of  "Princess" Pocahontas.