Massachuset Indian Tribe History
Massachuset (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 (Indians Conn., 1853) i n 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:
Mystic (Middlesex co.)
Naumkeag (Essex co.)
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of American Indians, 1906
Index of Tribes or Nations