Puneet Varma (Editor)


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A Sachem and Sagamore are 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. Both of these chiefs are chosen 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 selected by the bands.


Map of Sachem School District, NY, USA


One 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), modern opinion is that "sachem" and "sagamore" are dialectical variations of the same word.


The "great chief" (Southern New England Algonquian: massasoit sachem) whose aid was such a boon to the Plymouth Colony is remembered today as simply Massasoit.

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 sachem included Uncas, Wonalancet, Madockawando, and Samoset.

Government and politics

  • Theodore Roosevelt named his home near Oyster Bay, New York on Long Island, Sagamore Hill.
  • "Sachem" was a title adopted by leaders of the Tammany societies, notably in Tammany Hall in New York City. The eponymous Tammany was a sachem of the Lenape. A fraternal society arose out of the Tammany societies which was named the Improved Order of Red Men, and to this day two of their national officers are known as the "Great Senior Sagamore" and the "Great Junior Sagamore."
  • In the 1940s, the legislature of Indiana created the honorary title of "Sagamore of the Wabash", analogous to Kentucky Colonel. In 1996, the government designated "Sachem of the Wabash" as a higher honor.
  • Journalism

  • One of the oldest weekly newspapers in Canada is called The Grand River Sachem. It has been publishing since 1856 and is located in Caledonia, Ontario.
  • Literature

  • James Fenimore Cooper featured a character called "The Sagamore" in his novel The Last of the Mohicans.
  • Rick, the protagonist of Simon Spurrier's novel, The Culled (2006, book 1 of The Afterblight Chronicles), belongs to the Haudenosaunee people and is guided through crises by the sachem. Another character, named Hiawatha, saves Rick's life and advises him the Tadodaho have said Rick and Hiawatha's courses are "aligned".
  • The 1838 poem "Sachem's-Wood" by James Abraham Hillhouse (son of United States Senator James Hillhouse) describes the demise of the free sachem and his people.
  • There's a passage in Moby Dick by Herman Melville, page 71, saying : " [...] where the loose hairy fibres waved to and fro like the topknot on some old Pottowattamie Sachem's head."
  • Schools

  • Algonquin Regional High School, in Northborough, MA, named its art and poetry magazine Sachem after this Algonquin word.
  • Laconia High School, in Laconia, NH, refers to all of its athletic teams as the "Sachems".
  • Middleborough High School, in Middleboro, MA, refers to all of its athletic teams as the "Sachems".
  • Pentucket Regional High School, in West Newbury, MA, refers to all of its athletic teams as the "Sachems".
  • Saugus High School, in Saugus, MA, refers to all of its athletic teams as the "Sachems".
  • Winchester High School, Massachusetts, refers to all of its athletic teams as the "Sachems".
  • RHAM High School, in Hebron, CT, refers to all of its athletic teams as the "Sachems".
  • References

    Sachem Wikipedia

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