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Narraganset Indian Chiefs and Leaders
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Canonicus. A chief of the Narraganset, who died in 1647, aged perhaps 80 years. Although in 1622 he sent to the people of Plymouth the customary Indian challenge to war, he early sought the friendship of the English. It was into the country of Canonicus that Roger Williams went, and from him he received the title to the land he afterward held. Canonicus was at war against the Wampanoag until in 1635, when the dispute was settled through the efforts of Williams. He never fully trusted the English, nor they him. Durfee, in his poem “What cheer?” calls Canonicus “cautious, wise, and old,” and Roger Williams styles him a “prudent and peaceable prince.” He is highly praised in John Lathrop’s poem “The Speech of Canonicus,” published at Boston in 1802. His name, which is spelled in a variety of ways, appears to have been changed, perhaps by contagion with the Latin canonicus, from Qunnoune (Drake, Inds. of N. Am., 118, 1880). He is not to be confused with Canonchet, a later Narraganset sachem. (A. F. C.)
Miantonomo. A noted chief of the Narraganset, nephew of Canonicus. In 1632 he visited Boston and was received by the governor. He was more than once suspected of disloyalty to the English, but managed to clear himself when summoned to Boston in 1636. He helped the English against the Pequot the next year and warred against the Mohegan. In 1638 he signed the tripartite agreement between the English of Connecticut, the Narraganset, and the Mohegan. He is said to have been impressed by the preaching of Roger Williams in 1643. During the years 1640-42 he was suspected of treachery to the English, but again made satisfactory explanations. In 1643 war broke out between the Mohegan and the Narraganset, and in a battle in which the latter were defeated Miantonomo was taken prisoner. He was delivered to the English at Hartford, was tried at Boston in September, 1643, by the Court of Commissioners of the United Colonies of New England, who, after referring the platter to the convocation of the clergy, which condemned him, sentenced hint to death at the hands of Uncas. This sentence was barbarously executed by Wawequa, the brother of Uncas, in the presence of the latter. For this disgraceful proceeding the English authorities were to blame, as otherwise Uncas would never have taken his prisoner’s life. De Forest (Hist. Inds. of Conn., 198, 1852) takes a rather high view of the character of Miantonomo, whole he characterizes as “respected and loved by everyone who was not fearful of his power.” Theological bias against Roger Williams and his Indian friends played some part in the matter of his treatment by the commissioners.
He was buried where he fell, and the spot on which a monument was erected in 1841, has since been known as Sachem’s Plains. Miantonomo is praised in Durfee’s poem, “What cheer.” Nanantenoo was a son of Miantonomo.
Mriksah. The eldest son of Canonicus, the celebrated Narraganset chief; known also as Mexam, Mixam, Mixanno, and Meika. After the death of his father in 1647 he was made chief sachem of the tribe. He married a sister of Ninigret, who was the noted Quaiapen, called also Old Queen, Sunk Squaw, and Magnus. Mriksah was one of the sachems to whom the English commissioners at Boston sent interrogations regarding their connection with the Dutch of New York. He was in close relations with Ninigret in his movements.
Nanuntenoo. A sachem of the Narraganset, son of Miantonomo, called also Canonchet or Quananchit. He was the first signer of the treaty of Oct. 1675, but supplied the strength of the Narraganset war against the English, his young men having long secretly supported Philip. He escaped with his life from the fight of Dec. 1675, and in Mar. 1676 defeated the English under Capt. Peirse; but in April of that year he was surprised by an English force and surrendered. He was taken to Stonington, Conn.. and was shot by representatives of his allied enemies under the eyes of the English. His head was sent as a trophy to the magistrates of Hartford (De Forest, Inds. of Conn., 282, 1852). Nanuntenoo was tall and strongly built and was a man of courage and ability. His fame at times was hardly less than that of King Philip. Some of his savings have been preserved.
Additional Narraganset Indian Resources
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