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New England Indian Neighbors

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Such were the neighbors on the west of the Indians of New England in whom we are more particularly interested in connection with this work, but whose history is such a mixture of wars among themselves resulting from what appear to be successive waves of migration, constantly driven down to the New England coast through their inability to plant their feet on the lands preempted by the Iroquois; and wars with the Mohawks themselves, who crowded them so close on the west that no sketch of the eastern Algonquin is quite complete without considering briefly these neighbors who had succeeded in some way in planting themselves upon or within the Algonquin territory, where they remained, a pestilential thorn in the flesh of the tribes surrounding them.
     Of the three eastern groups or families, the Algonquin were undoubtedly the most numerous and extended over the largest expanse of territory. Their dominion, excepting the region south of Lakes Erie and Ontario, and the peninsula between these lakes and Lake Huron, which was occupied by the Iroquois, extended from Hudson's Bay to the Carolinas and from the Atlantic to the Mississippi and Lake Winnipeg. To quote again from Parkman: "They were Algonquin who greeted Jacques Cartier, as his ships ascended the St. Lawrence. The first British Colonists found savages of the same race hunting and fishing along the coasts and inlets of Virginia, and it was the daughter of an Algonquin chief who interceded with her father for the life of the adventuresome Englishman. They were Algonquin, who, under Sassacus the Pequot and Philip of Mt. Hope, waged deadly war against the Puritans of New England, who dwelt at Pennacock under the rule of the great magician, Passaconaway, and trembled before the evil spirits of the Crystal Hills; and who sang Aves and told their beads in the forest chapel of Father Rasles, by the banks of the Kennebec. They were Algonquin, who under the great tree at Kensington, made the covenant of peace with William Penn."
     In the year 1000 when Thorvald with his viking crew sought to establish a colony at Vinland, this group of the American Indians was limited to much narrower confines. The skroellings whom he encountered and at whose hands he met his fate, during the five centuries that elapsed between his adventurous attempt and the next recorded visits of Europeans, had been driven north by advancing waves of Algonquin migration; and their descendants are still occupying the frozen regions of the far north. Esquimau, we call them, signifying in the Algonquin tongue, "Eaters of Raw Fish." What took place during those five centuries is matter of conjecture; but there are certain historical facts that make it possible to draw inferences supported by reason.
     The Leni Lenapee, in their own tongue, the Loups of the French, the Delawares of the English, call themselves the parent stock of the Algonquin group, and their claim seems to be admitted by the other branches. The name by which they designate themselves means "original men," and in speaking of or to the members of other tribes of the family, they used the terms, little brothers, children, grandchildren or nephews, and the other tribes referred to them as father or grandfather.
     So it is likely that the Algonquin group had its origin, or at some remote time had established itself, in the vicinity of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and eastern Pennsylvania, and as its original limits became too narrow it spread out to the North, the East, the South and the West in successive waves of migration, each driving the preceding one further and further away from the home of its fathers.
     Schoolcraft believes that the Wolf Totem, or Mohicans, were the first of the three clans of the Lenapee to migrate, locating near Albany, whence they were driven over the Hoosic and Pekonet ranges into the valley of the Housatonic; and Gallatin says this was the only one of the subdivisions to leave their ancient hunting grounds. Neither expresses any opinion whether they were forced eastward from the Hudson by other migratory bands of Algonquin from the parent stock or by the Iroquois; and there appears to be nothing in the works of early historians that furnishes any evidence, gathered by men who have made a study of Indian lore and traditions at their sources, whether the Iroquois were there before the Algonquin in such strength that they could not be forced back, but allowed the latter to sweep around them, or came down from the west or north and met the advancing movement of the Algonquin migration and drove a wedge in it which could not be dislodged.
     Schoolcraft thinks it probable that the Pequot, who, in the beginning of the seventeenth century were in the ascendancy in the Mohican federation, were true Mohicans, and that the wars waged between Sassacus the Pequot and Uncas the Mohican were family rows for the sovereignty of the federation. In speaking of the Pequot war in which that tribe, with its six or seven hundred fighting men, was wiped out he says, "By this defeat the Mohicans, a minor branch of the federation, under the government of Uncas gained the ascendancy in Connecticut." The whole matter of tribal relations is so much in doubt that speculation is almost useless, and yet it has a fascination that makes it difficult to leave.
     Major Daniel Gookin, who commanded the Middlesex regiment in King Philip's war, writing in 1674, which would be just before that war broke out, enumerates as the five principal "nations" of New England, the "Pequot, including the Mohicans, and occupying the eastern part of the state of Connecticut; the Narragansett, occupying nearly all of Rhode Island; the Pawkunnawkut or Wampanoags, chiefly within the jurisdiction of Plymouth Colony; the Massachusetts, in the bay of that name and adjacent parts; and the Pawtuckets north and east of the Massachusetts, including the Pennacooks of New Hampshire, and probably all the northeastern tribes as far as the Abenakis or Tarrateens, as they seem to have been called by the New England Indians." The Nipmucks he mentions as living north of the Mohicans and west of the Massachusetts, occupying the central part of that state, and acknowledging to a certain extent, the supremacy of the Massachusetts, the Narragansetts or the Mohicans. Other writers also assert that some of their tribes were tributary to the Wampanoags, and there is very good reason for believing this to be true.

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Massasoit of the Wampanoags

Massasoit of the Wampanoags

 

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