FATE OF EASTERN
Let’s go back, now, and see what happened to our Native American ancestors. When the English arrived, the Naragansetts had two sachems, CANONICUS and Miantinomi, his nephew. Under them were several minor sachems. The several small tribes under these sub-sachems made up the great Naragansett Nation.
In his old age, CANONICUS had admitted Miantonomi, son of his brother, Mascus, into the government to administer jointly with him. At that same time, Massasoit, b. 1580, was the Chief Sachem of the Wampanoag, who governed most of what is now MA, and a small part of RI. Shortly after the Pilgrims arrived, in 1620, Massasoit and Gov. John Carver signed the earliest recorded treaty in New England. It established a peace between these peoples.
In 1621, it was Massasoit and some of his people who attended the first Thanksgiving. When Massasoit d., in 1621, his son, Wamsutta, became sachem and chief. Peace with the Pilgrims lasted until Wamsutta was succeeded by his brother, Phillip, after whom King Phillip’s War was named.
In 1675, about 54 years after the arrival of the Pilgrims, Phillip led an uprising against the settlers, because of their ever increasing demands for more and more Indian land.
The Naragansetts, too, maintained peace with the English during the years of CANONICUS’s rule in RI. They made room for the first four RI towns. They had been watching, as their hereditary enemies, the Wampanoag, made friends with the Pilgrims, and they became deeply alarmed as the Puritans began pouring in during the beginning of the Great Migration period.
CANONICUS found the traditional Native American diplomacy didn’t work with these folks in MA, but they finally reached a shaky understanding in 1636. This was possible, because for a few years both sides feared the Pequots, and their cousins, the Mohegans, to the west. In 1637, MA and the Naragansetts fought together against the Pequots.
So, when Roger Williams asked CANONICUS’ permission to occupy land at the head of Naragansett Bay, he was given a generous tract. Williams had made trading xpeditions to the bay earlier, and had won the confidence and respect of CANONICUS
and Miantonomi (also called Ousamequin). Williams had learned their language both for
trading and preaching. Once installed at Providence, he became the intermediary between MA and the two sachems.
CANONICUS and Miantonomi rewarded Williams for his services by giving land on their eastern borders to English settlers. After giving him the site of Providence, they gave Providence Island to Williams and Gov. John Winthrop. Then, at Williams’ prompting, they gave Aquidneck to the followers of Anne Hutchinson, who had been dispelled from MA. Later still, they gave Williams a place for a trading post on the west side of the bay.
This was how the chiefs secured access to trade with the English and set up a barrier of Europeans against the Wampanoag. In a few years, the Naragansetts solidified this buffer zone by selling territory (also claimed by Wampanoag) to other newcomers who created settlements south of Providence.
By 1647, both of the chief sachems had died. While the Naragansetts were arguing over who should now be their chief sachem, the MA colonists again began to have unfounded suspicions against them, especially since MA was allied with the Wampamoag.
In 1643, the MA colonists had joined with the Mohegans to fight Naragansetts and Yarmouth was captured by Uncas, sachem of the Mohegans, and executed. Pessecus, the brother of Miantonomi, was then admitted as sachem with CANONICUS, but he was put to death by the Mohawks in 1676. Canconchet, a son of Miatononmi, was the Naragansett’s last sachem.
CANONICUS had given his allegience to the king, and was at peace with the colonists. The RI colonists had received their charter from the king, and were taking no part in the war with Phillip. In spite of this, the “united colonies” of MA, Plymouth, and CT, (not RI), formed an army to attack this peaceful tribe located outside their jurisdiction. This army formed in Boston and marched through Providence and Warwick on their way to the Great Swamp.
The Naragansetts gave no resistance until their territory was actually invaded. On a Sunday night, 19 DEC 1673, the army arrived at the Naragansett village in a blinding snowstorm. After a short skirmish, they gained entrance to the rude stockade surrounding the Naragansett village of some 500 wigwams, or about 1500 people.
Then someone set fire to the wigwams, which burned rapidly. The entire village was quickly destroyed. Mothers with babies in arms and leading little children by the hand tried to escape into the woods, but were ruthlessly shot or knocked in the head. Many burned to death, but even more were killed by gun and sword.
By morning, the Naragansetts were exterminated, except for a few who escaped.
Over 1,000 Indians had been killed, while the Whites lost between 2 - 300. This really got King Phillip’s War underway.
Canonchet, the chief sachem of what was left of the Naragansetts, was captured and killed. His capture near the Blackstone River, came after the war. and he was executed for the “crime” of defending his country and refusing to surrender the territories of his ancestors by a treaty of peace.
He was offered life, upon the condition that he would treat for the submission of his few remaining people. He indignantly refused. When told he must die, he answered:
“I like it well, that I shall die before my heart grows soft, or that I have said anything unworthy of myself.”
Ninegret was the sachem of the Ninantes, or westerly tribe under the Naragansetts, and since the division of the town, was called the Charlestown Tribe. Ninegret’s sister had m. Moranno, son of one of CANONICUS’ sons. The English purchased his neutrality during King Phillip’s War, and for this treachery the “tribe land” in Charlestown was allotted to him and his heirs forever. The Ninegrets were then called Naragansetts.
Our three English ancestors who m. Indians before King Phillip’s War must have had very divided feelings over the horrible slaughter of the Neragansetts.
Chief Sachem IYANNOUGH, who m. Mary NOEPE, was head of the Cummquid Tribe, friends of the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims. He helped the Pilgrims with supplies and hunting. His grave, discovered in 1960, is now maintained by a historical group named Tales of Cape Cod.
One interesting fact brought out in the BEARSE History was that Wampanoag means “White Indian”. It seems that when the Vikings came abt. 1001 - 1016, they were “fierce, red-headed, pale faced men who came, in some cases mixed blood with the Wampanoag, and went back to the endless waters and were never seen no more.”
Mary HYANNO was of light complexion and had flaming red hair. This story was written for record from the legends passed down over the generations by the Wampanoag Tribe.