(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved. Contact us for information about using this image.
This document is a deed for land that would become the town of Deerfield, Massachusetts. A group of men from Dedham, Massachusetts, delegated John Pynchon, a well-known and powerful Englishman in Springfield, Massachusetts, to represent them in this land transfer. A sachem called Chauk represented the Pocumtuck, the Native group whose homelands encompassed the land described in the deed. Whether or not the Pocumtuck Sachem, Chauk, could or intended to sell land to the English is debatable. To alienate land completely may have been beyond the authority of any one individual in Native American societies of the Northeast. The language of the deed suggests that Chauk viewed the agreement as a traditional transfer of land use. For example, he reserved for the Pocumtuck fishing, hunting and gathering rights on the very land he had just "sold." European notions of exclusive land ownership and Native beliefs of land stewardship and usage 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.