Virginia Changemakers
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Cockacoeske (1656 - 1686)

VWH 2004 Cockacoeske.jpg


Middle Peninsula


Pamunkey Chief


Cockacoeske (also known as Cockacoeweske) was a descendant of Opechancanough, brother of the paramount chief Powhatan. She became leader of the Pamunkey after the death of her husband in 1656. During the summer of 1676 Cockacoeske appeared before a committee of burgesses and Council members at Jamestown and after reminding them that her tribe had earlier lost a hundred men fighting alongside the colonists, she reluctantly agreed to provide a dozen warriors to help defend the colony against frontier tribes. Despite a March 1676 treaty between the Pamunkey and the colony, Nathaniel Bacon and some of his followers attacked them, capturing and killing some of Cockacoeske's people and forcing her to hide in Dragon Swamp. In February 1677 she asked the General Assembly for the release of the captives and the restoration of destroyed property.

Cockacoeske was an astute leader and skillful politician. On May 29, 1677, when the Treaty of Middle Plantation was signed, at her request several tribes were reunited under her authority, and she signed the treaty on behalf of all the tribes under her subjection. Cockacoeske was unsuccessful in re-creating the chiefly dominance enjoyed by her people's leaders during the first half of the seventeenth century, but she continued to rule the Pamunkey until her death on an unrecorded date before July 1, 1686.

2004 Virginia Women in History honoree, Virginia Foundation for Women.

File Citation(s)

Image Courtesy of the Pepys Library, Magdalene College, Cambridge, Eng.