Massachusetts Indian Tribes
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Massachuset. Meaning “at the range of hills,” by which is meant the hills of Milton.
Connections. The Massachuset belonged to the Algonquian linguistic stock, their tongue being an n-dialect, and formed one group with the Narraganset, Niantic (East and West), and Wampanoag, and probably the Nauset.
Location. In the region of Massachusetts Bay between Salem on the north and Marshfield and Brockton on the south. Later they claimed lands beyond Brockton as far as the Great Cedar Swamp, territories formerly under the control of the Wampanoag.
Johnson (1881) says that there were “three kingdoms or sagamoreships having under them seven dukedoms or petty sagamores.” Some of these undoubtedly correspond to the divisions recently worked out by Speck (1928) by means of provincial documents. He identifies six main divisions, two of them further subdivided, all called by the names of their chiefs, as follows:
(1) Band of Chickataubut (including the later bands of Wampatuck and some other of his heirs and a district and band earlier controlled by Obatinnewat or Obtakiest), all of the Massachuset territory south of Charles River and west of the neighborhood of Ponkapog Pond.
(2) Band of Nanepashemet, all the Massachuset territory north of Charles River. Nanepashemet’s domain was afterward divided among his three sons:
Winnepurkit, owning about Deer Island and in Boston Harbor
Wonohaquaham, owning about Chelsea and Saugus
Montowampate, owning about Lynn and Marblehead.
(3) Band of Manatahqua, about Nabant and Swampscott.
(4) Band of Cato, a tract 5 miles square east of Concord River.
(5) Band of Nahaton, around Natick.
(6) Band of Cutshamakin, Cutshamequin, or Kutchamakin, about Dorchester, Sudbury, and Milton.
Conohasset, about Cohasset.
Cowate, “Praying Indiana,” at the Falls of Charles River.
Magaehnak, probably “Praying Indians,” 6 miles from Sudbury.
Massachuset, location uncertain.
Mishawum, at Charlestown.
Mystic, at Medford.
Nahapassumkeck, in the northern part of Plymouth County, probably on the coast.
Natick, “Praying Indians,” near the present Natick.
Neponset, on Neponset River about Stoughton.
Nonantum, on Nonantum hill, in Newton.
Pequimmit, “Praying Indians,” near Stoughton.
Pocapawmet, on the south shore of Massachusetts Bay.
Punkapog, “Praying Indians,” near Stoughton.
Sagoquas, south of Cohasset.
Saugus, near Lynn.
Seccasaw, in the northern part of Plymouth County.
Titicut, “Praying Indians,” possibly Wampanoag, in Middleborough town.
Topeent, on the north coast of Plymouth County.
Totant, at or near Boston.
Totheet, on the north coast of Plymouth County.
Wessagusset, near Weymouth.
Winnisimmet, at Chelsea.
Wonasquam, near Annisquam, Essex County, perhaps a later outvillage.
History. The Massachuset were visited by several voyagers, beginning at least as far back as the time of John Cabot but were first particularly noted by Captain John Smith, who coasted their territory in 1614. In 1617 they were much reduced by a pestilence and about the same time they were depleted by wars with their northeastern neighbors. The Puritans settled in their country in 1629, and mission work was soon begun among them, and was pursued with particular zeal by John Eliot. The converts were gathered into separate villages, where they gradually declined in numbers and presently disappeared as distinct bodies, though a few descendants of the Punkapog town people are still living in Canton, Mattapan, and Mansfield.
Population. The number of Massachuset is estimated by Mooney (1928) to have been 3,000 in 1600. In 1631 it was reduced to about 500, and soon considerably below that figure by smallpox.
Connection in which they have become noted. The Massachuset gave their name to Massachusetts Bay and through that to the present Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Massachuset are also noted as the tribe in which the famous apostle to the Indians, John Eliot, labored, through whom a large part of them were gathered into villages of “Praying Indians.” The “Eliot Bible” and other works by him have preserved a knowledge of the Massachuset language to our own day. Crispus Attucks, who was killed in the Boston massacre and is generally regarded as the first victim of the American Revolution, was of mixed Negro-Massachuset ancestry. The marriage of Winnepurkit, a Massachuset chief whose lands were about Boston Harbor, to the daughter of Passaconaway, chief sachem of the Pennacook, was made by Whittier the subject of a poem, “The Bridal of Pennacook.”
Nauset. Meaning unknown. Also called: Cape Indians from their situation.
Connections. See under discussions of the Massachuset.
Location. All of Cape Cod except the extreme western end.
Speck (1928) has identified the following: Iyanough, Wiananno, or Hyannis (centering about Barnstable); Manomoy, or Monomoy (about Chatham); Nauset (from Eastham to Truro).
Aquetnet, at Skauton Neck, Sandwich, Barnstable County.
Ashimut or Ashimuit, at a large spring near the junction of Falmouth, Mashpee, and Sandwich Townships, Barnstable County.
Coatuit, near Osterville, Barnstable County.
Codtaumut or Cataumut, in Mashpee Township.
Cummaquid, at Cummaquid Harbor.
Manamoyik, near Chatham.
Mashpee, on the coast of Mashpee Township.
Mattakees or Mattakeset, in Barnstable and Yarmouth Townships.
Meeshawn, in Provincetown or Truro Township.
Nauset, near Eastham.
Nemskaket, on or near Nemskaket Creek.
Nobsqussit or Nobscusset, near Dennis.
Pamet, near Truro.
Pawpoesit, near Barnstable.
Pispogutt or Pispogutt, in the western part of Barnstable County, near Buzzards Bay.
Poponesset, near Poponesset Bay.
Potanumaquut, on Pleasant Bay near Harwich.
Punonaknit, at Billingsgate near Wellfleet.
Satuit, on Cotuit River near Mashpee.
Sawkatuket or Satucket in Brewster or Harwich.
Skauton, near Sandwich, probably on Buzzards Bay.
Sokones or Succonesset, near Falmouth.
Wakoquet, or Waquoit, near Waquoit or Weequakit, in Barnatable Township.
Wessquobs or Weesquobs, near Pocasset.
Many of these contained Wampanoag Indians and some Indians of other tribes.
History. From the exposed position of the Nauset on Cape Cod their territory came under the observation of many of the earliest explorers, but actual contact with the people was not so simple a matter. In 1606 Champlain had an encounter with them. In 1614. Hunt carried off 7 Nauset Indians and 20 Patuxet of the Wampanoag
tribe whom he sold into slavery. They seem to have escaped the great an England pestilence of 1617. Although they behaved in a hostile manner toward the Pilgrims at their first landing in 1620, they soon became firm friends and even rendered some assistance against King Phillip (1675-76). Most of them had been Christianized before this time and collected into churches. In 1710 many died of fever, but the number of Indians in Nauset territory was increased by additions from other tribes driven from their proper territories, so that the population of the principal Indian settlement at Mashpee has not fallen below 200 down to the present day, though a great deal of mixture with other races has taken place.
Population. The number of the Nauset was estimated by Mooney (1928) at 1,200 in 1600. In 1621 they were believed to number 500; in 1674, 462 were reported in the various inhabited centers on Cape Cod, containing Nauset, Wampanoag, and other Indians. In 1698, 515 Indians were reported from Mashpee, mainly Nauset and Wampanoag. In 1767, 292 were reported at the same place and the number has varied between 200 and 300 down to 1930. The United States Census of 1910 reported 206 Indians of this band, all but 5 in Massachusetts. Speck (1928) estimates that there were 230 in 1920, all of whom were mixed-bloods. The census of 1930 returned only 38 Indians from Barnstable County and 54 from Massachusetts, but it may be incomplete.
Connection in which they have become noted. As already remarked, it was in the Nauset territory and in considerable measure through their blood that the Massachusetts aborigines maintained their existence longest. Nauset Beach, Nauset Harbor, and Nauset Light perpetuate the name.
Nipmuc. From Nipmaug, “fresh water fishing place.”
Connections. The Nipmuc belonged to the Algonquian linguistic family, their language being an l-dialect. Their nearest relatives were the other tribes of Massachusetts and the tribes of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and the Hudson River Valley.
Location. The Nipmuc occupied the central plateau of Massachusetts, particularly the southern part of Worcester County, but they extended into northern Rhode Island and Connecticut. (See also Connecticut and Rhode Island.)
Subdivisions and Villages
Acoomemeck, location uncertain.
Attawaugan, near Attawaugan in the town of Killingly, Conn.
Chabanakongkomun, near Dudley.
Chachaubunkkakowok, location uncertain.
Coweset, in northern Rhode Island west of Blackstone River.
Hassanamesit, at Grafton.
Magunkaquog, at Hopkinton.
Manchaug, near Oxford.
Manexit, near Thompson, Conn.
Mashapaug, at Mashapaug Pond in the town of Union, Conn. Medfield, at Medfield, native name unknown.
Menemesseg, near New Braintree.
Metewemesick, near Sturbridge.
Missogkonnog, location uncertain.
Muskataquid, location uncertain.
Nashobah, near Magog Pond, in Littleton.
Nichewaug, about Nichewaug, near Petersham.
Okommakamesit, near Marlborough.
Pakachoog, near Worcester, probably in Millbury.
Quabaug, near Brookfield.
Quadick, near the present Quadick Reservoir, Thompson County, Conn. Quantisset, on Thompson Hill, near Thompson, Conn.
Quinebaug, on Quinebaug River near Quinebaug Station, town of Thompson,
Quinetusset, near Thompson in northeast corner of Connecticut.
Segunesit, in northeastern Connecticut.
Tatumasket, west of Mendon, in the southern part of Worcester County. Wabaquasset, about 6 miles from Quinebaug River, south of Woodstock, Conn.,
sometimes regarded as an independent tribe.
Wacuntug, on the west side of Blackstone River, near Uxbridge.
Wenimesset, at New Braintree.
History. There was no coherence among the people bearing the name of Nipmuc and some of them were from time to time attached to the more powerful tribes in their neighborhood, such as the Massachuset, Wampanoag, Narraganset, and Mohegan. The Whites first met them after Plymouth and the Massachusetts Bay were settled. In 1674 there were seven villages of Christian Indians among the Nipmuc but in 1675 practically all took part with King Philip against the colonists and at its close fled to Canada or to the tribes on Hudson River.
Population. Mooney (1928) estimates that there were 500 independent Nipmuc in 1600. If we consider as Nipmuc the Indians returned from Worcester County, Mass., and Windham and Tolland Counties, Conn., in 1910, there were then 81.
Pocomtuc. Meaning unknown.
Connections.-The Pocomtuc belonged to the Algonquian linguistic family, and spoke an r-dialect, their nearest relatives probably being the Wappinger.
Location. The Pocomtuc home was in the present counties of
Frank in, Hampshire, and Hampden, Mass., and in the neighboring parts of Connecticut and Vermont.
Subdivisions and Villages
Agawam, about Springfield, their principal village of the same name being on Long Hill.
Mayawaug, near W. Suffield, town of Suffield, Conn.
Nameroke, in the town of Enfield, east of Thompsonville, Conn.
Nonotue, a division and village about Northampton.
Pocomtuc, a division in Deerfield River Valley and the adjacent parts of the Connecticut River Valley, the principal town of the same name being near
Deerfield. (See also Vermont.)
Scitico, near the place of that name in the eastern part of the town of Enfield, Conn.
Squawkeag, on both sides of Connecticut River in the northern part of Franklin County, their principal village, of the same name, being near Northfield.
History. The fort of the Pocomtuc proper, on Fort Hill near Deerfield, was destroyed by the Mohawk in 1666. The Pocomtuc combined with the Narraganset and Tunxis in attacks on the Mohegan chief, Uncas, and later joined the hostile Indians under King Philip. At the close of the war they fled to Scaticook on the Hudson, where some of them remained until 1754, going then to St. Francis, Canada.
Population. Mooney (1928) estimates that there were 1,200 Pocomtuc in 1600. If we count as Pocomtuc the Indians returned from Hampden and Hampshire Counties in 1910, there were then 23 left, but they may have been of quite other origin.
Wampanoag. The name has the same meaning as Abnaki, “eastern people.” Also called:
Massasoits, from the name of their famous chief. Philip’s Indians, from King Philip.
Connections. The Wampanoag belonged to the Algonquian linguistic stock, speaking an n-dialect like the neighboring Massachuset, Narranganset, Niantic (East and West), and the Nauset.
Location. The Wampanoag occupied Rhode Island east of Narragansett Bay; Bristol County, Mass.; the southern part of Plymouth County, below Marshfield and Brockton; and the extreme western part of Barnstable. The Indians of Martha’s Vineyard should also be added to them, and it will be convenient to treat under the same head those of Nantucket and the Saconnet, or Sakonnet, of Sakonnet Point, R. I., whose connection was more remote. They controlled Rhode Island in Narragansett Bay until the Narraganset tribe conquered it from them. (See also Rhode Island.)
Speck (1928) gives the following mainland subdivisions:
(1) Band of Massasoit, in a territory called Sowwams on the east side of Narragansett Bay; the western part of Bristol County, Mass.; all of Bristol County, R. I.; and the eastern part of Providence County, R. I.
(2) Band of Annawon, about Squannaconk swamps in Rehoboth Township.
(3) Band of Weetamoe, a chieftainess, their territory being called Pocasset, in southeastern Rhode Island, about Tiverton and adjacent parts of Bristol County, Mass.
(4) Band of Corbitant or Caunbatant, about Swansea.
(5) Band of Tispaquin or Tuspaquin, lands called Assawampset, about Assawampset Pond.
(6) Band of Tyasks or Tyashk, about Rochester and Acushnet.
(7) Band of Totoson, in a territory centering about Mattapoisett and Rochester.
(8) Band of Coneconam or Cawnacome, in a territory known as Manomet, extending from Manomet to Woods Hole.
(9) Band of Piowant or Piant, between Assonet Bay and Taunton River.
There were several vacant tracts not occupied by any of the above. In 1861 there were bands of Wampanoag at Herring Pond, Dartmouth, Mamatakesett pond, Tumpum Pond, and Watuppa Pond.
Speck (1928) gives the following bands on Martha’s Vineyard, but the classification applies to a time when Indians from various parts of the mainland had begun to settle there:
(1) Band of Nohtooksaet who came from Massachusetts Bay, about Gay Head.
(2) Band of Mankutquet (including the bands of Wannamanhut who came from near Boston (Christian town) and Toohtoowee, on the north shore of Chilmark), in the western part of Martha’s Vineyard excluding the preceding.
(3) Band of Tewanticut (including the bands of Cheesehahchamuk, about Homes’ Hole; Wampamag, of Sanchakankachet; and Tom Tyler, about Edgartown), in the eastern section of Martha’s Vineyard.
(4) Band of Pahkepunnasso, on the island of Chappaquiddick.
There were two bands on Nantucket, the names of which are unknown, and we must also add the Sakonnet, on Sakonnet Point, R. I., and the Indians of the Elizabeth Islands.
Acushnet, about Acushnet.
Agawam, about Wareham.
Assameekg, probably near Dartmouth.
Assawompset, in Middleborough Township.
Assonet, conjectural village near the present Assonet.
Coaxet, near Little Compton, R. I.
Cohannet, about Fowling Pond near Taunton.
Comassakumkanit or Herring Pond,
Herring Pond, Plymouth County.
Cooxissett, probably in Plymouth County.
Cowsumpsit, in Rhode Island. Jones’ River, in Kingston Township.
Kitteaumut, near Monument Pond, Plymouth County.
Loquasquscit, near Pawtucket, R. I.
Mattakeset, near Duxbury.
Mattapoiset, near Mattapoiset, Plymouth County
Munponset, location unknown.
Namasket, about Middleboro.
Nasnocomacack, on the coast and probably a few miles north of Plymouth.
Nukkehkummees, near Dartmouth.
Pachade, near Middleboro.
Patuxet, at Plymouth.
Pocasset, near Tiverton, R. I. Pokanoket, on Bristol Peninsula, R. I.
Quittaub, in the southwestern part of Plymouth County.
Saltwater Pond, in Plymouth County.
Shawonet, near Somerset.
Wauchimoqut, probably near Seekonk.
Wawayontat, on Weweantitt River near Wareham.
Chaubaqueduck, on the main island or on Chappaquiddick Island.
Gay Head, at Gay Head,
Nashamoiess, in the southeastern part of the island.
Nashanekammuck, at Chilmark.
Nunnepoag, location uncertain,
Ohkonkemme, near Tisbury.
Sanchecantacket, near Edgartown.
Seconchqut, location uncertain.
Miacomit, location uncertain.
Podpis, a district and probably village.
Quays, a district and probably village.
Sasacacheh, a district and probably village.
Shaukimmo, a district and probably village, south of Nantucket Harbor
Siasconsit, a district and probably village, including the site of the present Siasconset.
Squam, a district and probably village.
Talhanio, location uncertain.
Tetaukimmo, a district and probably village.
Toikiming, location uncertain.
History. With many older writers on the Norse voyages to America, Mount Hope Bay, in the territory of the Wampanoag, was a favorite site for the supposed Icelandic colony (ca. 1000-1010), but the theory is now less popular. In 1602 Gosnold touched at Martha’s Vineyard and was kindly treated by the natives. Soon after the Pilgrims had established themselves at Plymouth in 1620 they made a treaty of friendship with the Wampanoag head chief, Massasoit, who played a great part in the early history of the colony. He died in 1662 and was succeeded by two sons in succession, the second of whom, Metacomet or Metacom, is the King Philip of history. Observing the steady influx of White colonists into Indian lands, King Philip organized a native confederacy against them and a bloody war followed (1675-76), in which King Philip was killed and the power of the tribes of southern New England finally destroyed. The Wampanoag survivors settled with the Sakonnet, who had remained neutral, and formed towns with the Nauset in the western part of Barnstable County. In 1763 they suffered severely from an epidemic, but a number of bands have preserved their autonomy, in a much mixed condition, to the present day. The Indians of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, like the Sakonnet, had refused to join the confederacy and consequently maintained their numbers relatively intact for a longer period. They continued to decline, however, and in 1764 two, thirds of the Nantucket Indians were destroyed by a fever. Two of three mixed-bloods were left in 1809, and in 1855 Abram Quary, the last of these, died. The Indians of Martha’s Vineyard, on the other hand, received considerable accessions from the mainland and have maintained themselves down to our day though, like the mainland Indians, much mixed with other tribes and other races.
Population. Of Wampanoag proper Mooney (1928) estimated that there were 2,400 in 1600. They probably suffered severely in the epidemic of 1617, but in 1630 they are said to have had about 30 villages. In 1700 the Sakonnet Indians, including most of the Wampanoag remnants, were estimated at 400. In 1861 a partial census gives 258, and we may suppose that the total was about 300. Martha’s Vineyard: The estimates of the Indian population of Martha’s Vineyard vary greatly. Mooney (1928) estimated the number of Indians at 1,500 in 1600, perhaps taken from an estimate of 1642, which gives the same figure, while a later writer places their number as “not less than 3,000” (Hare, 1932, p. 44). An estimate made in 1698 gave 1,000. In 1764, 313 were returned; in 1807, 360, only about 40 of whom were full-bloods. In 1861, 393 were returned, but in 1910 only 147.
Nantucket: Mooney estimates the Indian population of Nantucket to have been 1,500 in 1600 and Mayhew (Speck, 1928) gives the same number in 1642. Hare (1932, p. 44) also estimates the Indian population to have been 1,500. In 1763 there were 358; in 1790, 20; in 1809, 2 or 3.
An informant of Dr. Speck gives the total number of Indians in Barnstable, Plymouth, and Bristol Counties in 1928 as 450.
Connection in which they have become noted. The Wampanoag made their mark in history chiefly through the activities of their chiefs, Massasoit and King Philip. One of the two largest bodies of Indians in southern New England to maintain their identity, down to the present day were the Wampanoag of Martha’s Vineyard.
Additional Massachusetts Indian Resources
- Massasoit Great Sachem of the Wampanoag Indians
- History of the Indians of Connecticut from the Earliest Known Period to 1850
- Indian Children put to service that came in (to Boston) with John of Packachooge