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Colonel Caverly, who has written a very interesting
account of the early Indian wars in New England, seems to extend the
territory or dominion of the Wampanoags much further than any other writer
with whose works I am familiar, and further, I fear, than there is any
well grounded warrant for, as he speaks of the Massachusetts as being of
that federation, as though the fact were established beyond peradventure,
and at least suggests that Massasoit's rule extended to and covered the
Pennacooks, speaking of Passaconaway as holding sway "under, from and
after Massasoit, from the Penobscot to the Merrimack." As we have already
seen, Gookin, who wrote only fifty-three years after the landing of the
Pilgrims, speaks of the Massachusetts and the Pawtuckets or Pennacooks as
independent federations, and it is probable that their relations with the
Wampanoags were nothing more than those of allies.
Some authors, who put out their works with the intent to convey exact information to their readers, tell us that this federation numbered not more than three hundred in 160, having been reduced to this state from a former strength variously estimated at anywhere from eighteen thousand to thirty thousand, their five thousand warriors mentioned by some, leaning towards the higher rather than the lower of these two figures. This three hundred may be construed in so many ways that before rejecting it as an absurdity, it may be well to consider to what the number may have referred. If by it is meant the entire numerical strength of the federation, it seems to be capable of complete refutation, and, on the other hand, if it is limited to the warriors rather than the entire tribal membership, it is open to grave doubt. Another view is that it may have been intended to be confined to the village where their Great Sachem maintained his lodge, or to the three villages between which he seems to have divided a large part of his time. Before proceeding to a more general discussion of the numerical strength of the tribe or federation, let us look for a moment at these three villages. We find Massasoit sometimes spoken of as the Sachem of the Pokanokets. Pokanoket is or was the geographical name of all that territory now included in the towns of Bristol, Warren, Barrington and East Providence, Rhode Island, and parts of Swansea, Rehoboth and Seekonk, Massachusetts. The Great Sachem seems to have had a more intimate connection with this portion of his domain than with other parts; and while the tribes in other localities had their sub-sachems or sagamores, who acknowledged some sort of allegiance to the Great Chief, there is nothing from which we would be justified in inferring that the Pokanokets were under the direction or control of any of these secondary chiefs; and it may well be that the Great Sachem of the Wampanoags either in Massasoit's early days, or in the time of some of his predecessors, was simply the sachem of the Pokanokets, with hunting grounds limited to the territory already defined; and that at some time a federation of related, neighboring and conquered tribes was formed under the name Wampanoag, and that he retained the government of his original tribe, and governed the other tribes through their sachems.
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Massasoit of the Wampanoags
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