At the beginning of the 17th century, Connecticut
was the home of a number of different Native American
groups, all of whom spoke related Algonquian
languages. Archaeological sites indicate these people
lived largely by hunting deer, catching fish and shellfish,
and growing corn, beans, and squash. They migrated
from forest to coastal areas to take advantage of
seasonal resources. The total native population is
estimated at about 7,000 people in the early 1600s,
after an epidemic that decimated Native Americans
throughout New England.
powerful among the Connecticut people were the Pequot,
who lived in the east and along the shore of Long
Island Sound, an area they had conquered from other
native groups at the end of the 1500s. Early in the
1600s, a number of Pequots split off from the main
group. Led by a chief named Uncas,
they called themselves Mohegan,
and controlled an area near the Thames River.
native groups were the Nipmuc in the northeastern
sections of Connecticut; the Niantic
along the eastern coast; and the Hammonasset,
Quinnipiac, Paugussett, Siwanoy, Podunk, Poquonock,
Massacoe, and Tunxi in the central and western sections.
of the Native Americans were generally friendly to
the colonists. Some native groups invited the English
to settle nearby, hoping for trade and for allies
against the aggressive Pequots, who dominated the
area. Settlers purchased land from the native people,
and though whites often encroached on native territory,
disputes were usually settled without violence.
exception to these friendly relations was friction
between the Pequots and settlers, which soon escalated
into New England's first major war, the Pequot War
of 1637. The causes of the war are unclear, but it
involved a series of killings, raids and reprisals
on both sides. In May 1637 Connecticut declared war
on the Pequots. With the help of both the Mohegan
and the Narragansett to the east, the colonists launched
a surprise attack on a Pequot village at Mystic River.
They set the village on fire and killed Pequot inhabitants
as they fled the flames. Hundreds of native villagers
died, including many women and children, and most
of the remaining Pequots were killed or captured.
The few who survived were scattered throughout New
England or sold into slavery, and the Pequot all but
"Connecticut," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia
© 1997-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
Island, History, Native Americans
Algonquian-speaking groups of Native Americans inhabited
what is now Rhode Island when the first white explorers
arrived in the 16th century and early 17th century.
The Narragansett occupied
most of the region and were the largest and most powerful
group, numbering about 5,000. The Wampanoag
lived in the area east of Narragansett Bay. The Nipmuc
lived in northern Rhode Island and adjacent areas
of Massachusetts and Connecticut. The Niantic
inhabited southwestern Rhode Island and coastal areas
of Connecticut. The Pequot
held land along Rhode Island's western border but
lived mostly in what is now Connecticut.
sites indicate the native inhabitants lived largely
by hunting deer, catching fish and shellfish, and
growing corn, beans, and squash. They migrated between
inland and coastal areas during the year to take advantage
of seasonal resources. The principal social unit was
the village, led by a village chief called a sachem.
Some sachems apparently held power over larger confederacies
made up of several villages, and over some of the
smaller, weaker native groups.
"Rhode Island," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia
© 1997-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
Are the original people of central New England, and
are among the "Eastern Woodlands" or Algonquian Indians
of the Eastern United States. Before the arrival of
European settlers in the 1600s, the Nipmuc (or "Fresh
Water People") lived in numerous band encampments,
or ‘villages’, near bodies of fresh water in a territory
(called ‘Nipnet’) which extended from the present
day Vermont and New Hampshire borders, through Worcester
County in Massachusetts, into northern Rhode Island,
and into northeastern Connecticut as far south as
'The Nipmuc Indian Association of Connecticut' site,
for complete history and more information, please
Nipmuc Indian Association of Connecticut is dedicated
to our Nipmuc ancestors, to our future seven generations,
and to all who have helped our People.
generally lived along rivers or on the shores of small
lakes and seem to have occupied the area for as far
back as can be told. Like other New England Algonquin,
the Nipmuc were agricultural. They changed locations
according to the seasons, but always remained within
the bounds of their own territory. Part of their diet
came from hunting, fishing, and gathering of wild
food, but as a rule they did not live as well as the
coastal tribes who had the luxury of seafood.
of the pre-contact population of the Nipmuc are at
best confusing, because there is no agreement as to
which groups belonged to the Nipmuc. The numbers vary
between 3,000 and 10,000 with as many as 40 villages.
Some Nipmuc tribes were subject to the Pequot
and sometimes have been included as part of the Pequot
Confederacy. Freed in 1637 after the destruction of
the Pequot by the English, they were classified in
later years as Nipmuc. Similar problems exist with
members of the Narragansett,
Western Abenaki, and Pennacook.
None of which is important until totals are taken,
and several thousand people have not been counted
...or else several times.
first really accurate count of the Nipmuc occurred
in 1680 following the King Philip's War. A little
less than 1,000 Nipmuc survived, and these were confined
to praying villages along with the remnants from other
tribes. How many Nipmuc escaped to the Abenaki and
Mahican and how many were
killed during the war is anyone's guess. Within a
few years it became impossible to assign tribal membership
within the mixed populations at the praying villages.
two identifiable groups of Nipmuc have survived to
the present day. Both are recognized by the Commonwealth
of Massachusetts and have nearly 1,400 members, 250
of whom live in Connecticut (which has not recognized
the Nipmuc). The Hassanamisco have the small (two
acre) Hassanamesit Reservation at Grafton, Massachusetts.
The Chaubunagungamaug (Webster, Massachusetts) have
a privately owned ten acre reservation in northeast
Connecticut. Although goth groups have applied, neither
is federally recognized.
never was a Nipmuc tribe as such. Nipmuc is a geographical
classification given to the native peoples who lived
in central Massachusetts and the adjoining parts of
southern New England. They lived in independent bands
and villages, some of which at different times were
allied with, or subject to, the powerful native confederacies
which surrounded them. Massomuck, Monashackotoog,
and Quinnebaug were Nipmuck, but they were subject
to the Pequot before 1637. In like manner, the Nashaway
at one time belonged to the Sokoni and Pennacook,
while Squawkeag was originally part of the Pocumtuc.
group was ruled by its own sachem, but there was very
little political organization beyond the village or
band level. This lack of a sophisticated system of
government may seem to imply the Nipmuc were not as
sophisticated as neighboring tribes, but this was
not really the case. Few villages were fortified,
so what little warfare there was had to have been
low-level. The Nipmuc obviously lived in peace with
each other and just didn't have problems that required
a lot of complicated government.
First Nations, for complete history and much more
information, please visit the First
return to index Native