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Massachuset Tribe

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Massachuset Indians (Mass-adche-es-et, ‘at or about the great hill’; from mossa ‘great’, wadchu ‘hill or mountain’, cs ‘small’, at the locative.-Trumbull. In composition wadchu becomes adchu and adds ash for the plural. The name refers to the Blue Hills of Milton. Williams substitutes cuk for et in forming the tribal designation, and uses the other as the local form. Cotton in 1708 translated the word ‘a hill in the form of an arrowhead’).

An important Algonquian tribe that occupied the country about Massachusetts Bay in eastern Massachusetts, the territory claimed extending along the coast from Plymouth northward to Salem and possibly to the Merrimac, including the entire basin of Neponset and Charles Rivers. The group should perhaps be described as a confederacy rather than as a tribe, as it appears to have included several minor bodies. Johnson described the group as formerly having “three kingdoms or sagamoreships having under them seven dukedoms or petty sagamores.” They seem to have held an it important place among the tribes of south New England prior to the coming of the whites, their strength being estimated as high as 3,000 warriors, although it is more likely that the total population did not exceed that number. Capt. John Smith (1614) mentions 11 of their villages on the coast and says they had more than 20. In consequence of war with the Tarratine and the pestilence of 1617 in which they suffered more than any other tribe, the English colonists who arrived a few years later found them reduced to a mere remnant and most of the villages mentioned by Smith depopulated.

In 1631 they numbered only about 500, and 2 year, later were still further reduced by smallpox, which carried off their chief, Chickatabot. Soon thereafter they were gathered, with other converts, into the villages of the “Praying Indians,” chiefly at Natick, Nonantum, and Ponkapog, anal ceased to have a separate tribal existence. As they played no important rode in the struggles between the settlers and natives, the chief interest that attaches to them is the fact that they owned and occupied the site of Boston and its suburbs and the immediately surrounding territory when the whites first settled there. In 1621, when Standish and his crew from Plymouth visited this region, they found the Indians but few, unsettled, and fearful, moving from place to place to avoid the attacks of their enemies the Tarratine.

Although the Algonquian Indians of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, taken as a whole, formed a somewhat homogeneous group, yet there were linguistic differences which seem to justify De Forest[1] in doubting Gookin’s statement that the languages were so much alike that the people of the different tribes could easily understand one another. The Massachuset were more closely allied to the Narraganset than to any other of the surrounding tribes whose languages are known, the people of the two being able to understand each other without difficulty. For their customs, beliefs, etc., see Algonquian Family.

Following are the villages of the Massachuset Indians so far as known, some of them being more or less conjectural:

  • Conohasset
  • Cowate
  • Magaehnak
  • Massachuset
  • Mishawum
  • Mystic (Middlesex co.)
  • Nahapassumkeck
  • Mystic Natick
  • Naumkeag (Essex co.)
  • Neponset
  • Nonantuni
  • Patuxet
  • Pequimmit
  • Pocapawmet
  • Punkapog
  • Sagoquas
  • Saugus
  • Seecasaw
  • Titicut
  • Topeent
  • Totant
  • Totheet
  • Wessagusset
  • Winnisimmet
  • Wonasquam

Massachuset Chiefs and Leaders

Chickataubut (‘house afire’) A Massachuset sachem of the region about Weymouth, Mass., whose enmity against the English was early aroused by their depredations on the tribal cornfields and desecration of his mother’s grave[2] In 1621, with several other chiefs, he submitted to the English authority, and in 1631 visited Gov. Winthrop at Boston, behaving  “like and Englishman.” In 1632 he served against the Pequot and ied the next year of smallpox.  He was a man of note and influence.

Footnotes

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  1. De Forest, Indians Conn., 1853
  2. Drake, Inds. B. Am. 107, 1880

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