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Turns of the Centuries Exhibit > The Land 1680-1720 > Understanding Landscapes
This theme in other eras: 1680-1720 | 1780-1820 | 1880-1920

These presents Testifie That Chauk alias Chaque the sachem of
Pacomtuck for good & valluable consi=
dirations him there unto moveing, hath Given Granted Bargained & sold, & by these presents doth (for himself &
his Brother Wapahoale) fully clearely & absolutely give grant Bargaine & sell unto Capt John Pynchon of Springfeild
for ye use & behoofe of Major Eleazer Lusher & Ensign Daniel ffisher & other English of Dedham their associates & successsors &
to them & theire heires for ever Certaine persels of Land at Pacomtuck on ye further side or upper side or North side of Pa=
comtuck river, that is to say beginning a little above where Pukcommeagon river runs into Pacomtuck river and so a little
way up Puckommeag river & then leaving Puckcomeagon river runs off to ye hill Sunsick westward: All ye land from ye
hill Sunsick on westward, downe ye River Pacomtuck eastward below Nayyaocossick to Pochewee, neare ye Mouth
of Puckcomeagon river, wch persells of Land are called Nayyyocossick, Tomholissick, Masquomcossick, vssowwack
Wusquiawwag & so to Sunsick hill, or by what ever other Names ye sd Land is or may be called: All ye aforedescri
bed Tract of Land, being called by several names as aforesd viz. Nayyocossick Tomholissick Masquomcossick vssowwack
Wusquiawawag & Sunsick, or by what ever names it may be called, Togither wth the Trees, waters, mea=
dows, woods, Brooke, upland, stone, proffits, comoditys & advantages thereoff & there unto belonging or in any wise
appertaining, the aforesd Major Eleazer Lusher & Ensign Danl ffisher of Dedham, theire Associates & successors, & their
Heires are to Have Hold & Injoy & that forever, only the sd Chauk alias Chaque doth reserve Liberty of fishing
for ye Indians in ye Rivers or waters & free Liberty to hunt Deere or other Wild creatures & to gather Walnuts
chestnuts and other nuts things &c on ye commons: And the sd Chaque doth hereby covenant & promise to & wth ye sd Maj
Eleazer Lusher & Danl ffisher, That he will saue ye sd Major Lusher & Danl ffisher, therire Associates & theire
Heires & assignes, Harmless or & from all manner of Claimes of any person or persons Lawfully claiming any
right Title or Interest in any of ye sd lands hereby Sold or in any part or parsell thereof & will Defend the same
from any molestation or Imcumbrance by Indians otherwise than as before reserved. In witness whereoff the sd
Chaque hath hereunto set his hand this 24th ffebr 1666-7 The marke of Chaque
In presence of
Jon Pynchon Jur
Wequanock an Indian witness The day aforementioned Chaque acknowledged
his V mark who helped ye this Instrumet to be his act & Deed
Sachem in making ye Bargaine Before me
John Pynchon, Asist

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.

Understanding Landscapes : A Howling Wilderness?


In 1631, John Winthrop of Boston spent a terrifying night walking up and down in front of his fire, singing psalms to keep up his spirits in the dark and frightening forest in which he had lost his way--a half mile from his house. For John Winthrop and his fellow colonists, they had immigrated to a "howling wilderness." The land was not under active, European-style cultivation and there were no permanent, year-round dwellings. In their minds, the land was empty, there for the taking. Roger Williams, a Puritan minster who eventually helped to found Rhode Island, was unusual in his insistence that the King of England had no right to grant land that belonged to Native inhabitants. John Cotton, another minister and immigrant to Massachusetts Bay, expressed the more common belief when he wrote, "In a vacant soyl, he that taketh possession of it, and bestoweth culture and husbandry upon it, his Right it is."

In actuality, the original inhabitants had modified this supposedly vacant landscape through thousands of years of hunting, gathering, planting, and settlement. The way in which Native Americans moved across the land for different purposes and at different seasons was, however, an unfamiliar concept to the sedentary English. Too, epidemics of Old World diseases had ravaged many native groups and depopulated many areas before the first European settlers arrived. This encouraged newcomers like Robert Cushman of Plymouth to consider the land they saw as "spacious and void."

This document is a deed for land purchased from the Pocumtuck Indians in 1666. The land transferred in the deed became the present-day town of Deerfield, Massachusetts. Whether or not the Pocumtuck Sachem, Chauk, could or intended to sell land to the English is debatable. Sachems were Native American leaders who commanded considerable religious and economic authority over a community. Evidence exists that some Sachems dispensed land use rights to various tribal members and negotiated treaties with other groups. To alienate land completely, however, may have been beyond the authority of any one individual. Some of the language in the deed suggests that Chauk viewed the agreement as a traditional transfer of land use. Note how he reserved for the Pocumtuck fishing, hunting and gathering rights on the very land he had just "sold." The contradictory language of the deed exposed the differences between European notions of exclusive land ownership and Native beliefs of land stewardship and usage. These ideas were ultimately incompatible. Disagreements immediately arose as settlers moved into Deerfield and elsewhere and asserted what they saw as their exclusive rights to the land they had purchased. These conflicts over the land yielded tragic results.


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Deed of Pacomtuck land granted by Chauk to Dedham residents

creator   Chauk alias Chaqve, sachem of Pacomtuck (1665-1703)
date   Feb 24, 1667
location   Deerfield, Massachusetts
height   7.5"
width   12.0"
process/materials   manuscript, paper, ink
item type   Legal Documents/Deed
accession #   #L98.012

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See Also...

Lot Survey of Deerfield

Deed of Pacomtuck land granted by Ahimunquat to Dedham residents

Deed of Pacomtuck land granted by Mashalisk to John Pynchon

Deed of Pacomtuck land granted by Chauk to Dedham residents

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