Mary Kittamaquund Brent, "The Pocahontas of Maryland": Sex, Marriage, and Diplomacy in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake
- Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal
- University of Pennsylvania Press
- Volume 19, Number 1, Winter 2021
- pp. 24-63
- Additional Information
This essay situates the life of Mary Kittamaquund Brent, the so-called "Pocahontas of Maryland," within the larger context of intercultural diplomacy in seventeenth-century Maryland. It argues that the marriage between Mary, an eleven-year-old girl and the daughter of the Tayac (chief) of the Piscataway Confederacy, and Giles Brent, a forty-year-old member of a wealthy English Catholic family, demonstrates that sex and reproduction were key strategies for establishing diplomatic relationships between groups and for securing power in a particularly tumultuous time. Illuminating Mary Kittamaquund Brent's position as an embodied locus of power struggles between Chesapeake tribes and Anglo-Marylanders discloses both the role of Indigenous women in diplomacy and the importance of kinship in interethnic alliances. This article provides a brief background of Piscataway and Maryland colonial history, contextualizes the marriage of Giles and Mary Kittamaquund Brent, analyzes the place of sex and reproduction in western shore diplomacy, and considers Mary Kittamaquund Brent's place in the history of the seventeenth-century Chesapeake.