Bessabez or Bashaba
(? - 1615)
The fur trade had grown into a burgeoning business for the Wabanaki Indians by the early 1600s. Bessabez was the chief of a large region of land between Mount Desert Island and the Saco River, known as Mawooshen. Historians believe Bessabez controlled much of the trade that went on between Europeans and Indians in most of western Maine. Champlain met Bessabez on a journey he made up the Penobscot River in 1604. Bessabez welcomed him in a ceremony Champlain describes here:

On the sixteenth of the month, some thirty Indians came to us . . . . Bessabez also came to see us with six canoes. As soon as the Indians on shore saw him arrive, they all began to sing, dance, and leap, until he had landed, after which they all seated themselves on the ground in a circle, according to their custom when they wish to make a speech or hold a festival. . . . Bessabez, seeing us on shore, bade us sit down, and began with his companions to smoke. . . .

Father Biard also met Bessabez, in 1611, and describes him this way:

The most prominent sagamore [chief] was called Betsabes, a man of great discretion and prudence; and I confess we often see in these savages natural and graceful qualities which will make anyone but a shameless person blush, when they compare them to the greater part of the French who come over here.

Bessabez was killed in a Micmac raid on Mawooshen in 1615. According to an English document,

after his death the publique business running to confusion for want of a head, the rest of his great Sagamores [chiefs] fell at variance among themselves, spoiled and destroyed each other's people and provision, and famine took hould of many.
Source: Dawnland Encounters: Indians and Europeans in Northern New England, ed. Colin Calloway. Hanover: University Press of New England. 1991.

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