Owaneco, 1640 - 1712

Owaneco was the eldest son of the Mohegan sachem Uncas.  Named after Uncas’ father, Owaneco may have had several other names as a youth, Kittatteash and Tatuphosuwut.   In 1661, John Eliot identified Kittatteash as the leader of a group of Indian ruffians, and in 1675, Tatuphpsuwut, accused of murdering a minor Narragansett sachem, was imprisoned for some time at the Hartford jail but subsequently released with a warning.  During King Philip’s War, Owaneco fought on the side of the English colonists but only after he had pledged his wife and young son Josiah as colonial hostages.  He saw much active service with allied Mohegan and Pequot forces and eventually assumed a leadership role over the Wongum and Nayaug Indians.  In the summer of 1677, a raiding party of Mohawk Indians captured him at Wagwanak and carried him off to Albany, where he was released after negotiations by New York’s governor Edmund Andros.  By 1684, after the death of Uncas, Owaneco became the sachem of the Mohegan.  His rule was not without controversy, as he often governed not for the benefit of the tribe but for his personal gain.  This was especially evident in the disposal of Mohegan land, which he did sometimes with reckless abandon.  Nevertheless, Owaneco fought for Mohegan autonomy from colonial control.  Capitalizing on Mohegan discontent with colonial appropriation of Indian land, in 1704 he took advantage of Nicholas Hallam’s trip to London and sent a complaint to Queen Anne, which initiated the Mohegan’s long-running case against the Colony of Connecticut.   Because of the interest generated in London over the cause, William Blathwayt, a member of the Privy Council, became his patron.  Yet, by 1710, Owaneco’s irresponsible behavior only worsened. His drinking made him prey to dishonest designs of land-hungry colonists, and by the end of the year, his son Cesar Uncas had replaced him as the de facto sachem of the tribe.  The actual date of Owaneco’s death is uncertain.  Court testimony in 1738 from Jonathan Wickwire indicated that he remembered the sachem dying about 26 years before, which would be in 1712.   LaFantasie, The Correspondence of Roger Williams, 439-40; 694.  Pulsifer, Acts of the Commissioners of the United Colonies, vol. 2, 269.  The Winthrop Papers: Correspondence of Fitz-John Winthrop, Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 6th ser., 3 (1889): 379.  Governor and Company of Connecticut, and Moheagan Indians, by their Guardians, Certified Copy of Book of Proceedings before Commissioners of Review, 1743 (London: 1769), 209.
c. 1712