"Swindler Sachem" by Jenny Hale Pulsipher

Swindler Sachem The American Indian Who Sold His Birthright, Dropped Out of Harvard, and Conned the King of England Jenny Hale Pulsipher

Publication date:
19 Jun 2018
Yale University Press
384 pages: 235 x 156mm
15 b-w illus.

Indians, too, could play the land game for both personal and political benefit

John Wompas was, by the account of his kin, “no sachem,” although he claimed that status to achieve his economic and political ends. His efforts, including visiting and securing the assistance of King Charles II, were instrumental in preserving his homeland when he went before the Crown and used the knowledge acquired in his English education to defend the land and rights of his fellow Nipmucs. Jenny Hale Pulsipher’s biography offers a window onto seventeenth-century New England and the Atlantic world from the unusual perspective of an American Indian who, though he may not have been what he claimed, was certainly out of the ordinary. Drawing on documentary and anthropological sources as well as consultation with Native people, Pulsipher shows how Wompas turned the opportunities and hardships of economic, cultural, religious, and political forces in the emerging English empire to the benefit of himself and his kin.

Jenny Hale Pulsipher is associate professor of history at Brigham Young University and author of Subjects unto the Same King: Indians, English, and the Contest for Authority in Colonial New England. She divides her time between Los Angeles, CA and Salt Lake City, UT.

“Pieced together from scraps of evidence from dozens of archives, Jenny Pulsipher’s startling story of John Wompas is a tour de force of historical imagination and reconstruction.”—Richard Lyman Bushman, Gouverneur Morris Professor of History Emeritus, Columbia University

"In an act of archival wizardry, Jenny Hale Pulsipher has recreated the life of John Wompas, a trans-Atlantic traveler and one-time Harvard student whose personal experiences reveal how one remarkable Nipmuc took control of his life in the midst of never-ending challenges. Swindler Sachem expands our understanding of indigenous New England in unexpected ways."—Peter C. Mancall, author of Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson—A Tale of Mutiny and Murder in the Arctic