Sunksqua of the Sakonnet Tribe
Born: c.1620-1640, Most Likely Present-day Rhode Island, United States of America
Died: after 1683, Present-day United States of America
Awashonks means “She who is Queen” and was her title, not her name. Unfortunately, her actual name has been lost to history.
Sunksqua is the feminized term for Sachem, meaning chief or leader of a certain tribe. The Sakonnet people lived in what is today, Rhode Island. Awashonks became Sunksqua of her people after her husband, who was the previous Sachem, died. Her father had served as Sachem before her husband, but Awashonks did not inherit the position purely through her heritage, but rather instead through her own power and wisdom.
Awashonks is most known for having signed a Peace Treaty between the native tribes and Plymouth Colony during King Philip’s War. She also supported Weetamoo and Metacom, Indigenous leaders during that war in the beginning, but switched sides to support the colonists after it was clear that was what was best for her people. Awashonks sided with the colonists on the condition that none of her people would be killed or sent away as slaves.
Sadly, that peace was not to last, and later on the Sakonnet people would see their land seized and members of their people enslaved.
Awashonks is said to have married twice and had three children.
According to Historic Women of the Southcoast (article linked below): “The name Awashonks appears in official records more than the name of any other Native American woman.”