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 Native American Nations | Massasoit of the Wampanoags                   

DECEMBER 7, 1620 (December 17, new style) found the Mayflower lying inside of Cape Cod. This locality, and particularly "the place that on Captain John Smith's map is called Plimoth," had been highly recommended to them as a suitable location for the establishment of a permanent settlement. They had been on shipboard for a long time, the life was becoming irksome, and they were desirous of effecting a landing before the Sabbath which was approaching, and on which, in their religious zeal, there could be no question of work. So they sent their shallop ashore in search of a suitable spot. The shallop made a landing at Nauset, now Eastham, a place which derived its name from that of the tribe of Indians located there, which we find mentioned frequently in the writings of the early chroniclers. The boat's crew spent the night there, and in the early morning they were alarmed by the sentry whom they had posted, and who announced the presence of Indians. This alarm was followed by a demonstration against the camp. The natives were soon driven off by the discharge of the muskets of the English, who then returned to their ship. After this, their first encounter with the aboriginal inhabitants of the land, they were not further annoyed by them until the following February, when they began to show themselves from time to time about the settlement at Plymouth, always holding themselves aloof, however, until the sixteenth of March, when Samoset made his memorable visit with the details of which every reader of American history is familiar.
     Colonel Robert B. Caverly in his account of the early Indian wars speaks of Aspinet, who was sachem of Nauset at that time, as a Mohandsick. The people of this name were located on Long Island and the question naturally arises, how came this detached tribe of Mohandsicks, whose war strength in 1621 was said to be one hundred warriors, to be so separated from the rest of their kindred? The Mohandsicks, like the Manhattans of lower drew York, probably were Mohicans, or at least more closely related to the latter than to any other of the numerous branches of the Algonquin family; and, while it does not appear that there had been any hostility between the Mohicans and the Wampanoags, perhaps because of the fact that their hunting grounds were separated by those of the Narragansett, it seems rather out of the ordinary course that we would expect migrations to take for this tribe to separate itself from the remainder of its people and isolate itself down on the end of Cape Cod in Wampanoag territory. There would be but two ways for them to have reached that point, one by water, which with their limited facilities for making such long journeys seems impracticable, though not impossible, and the other by crossing Narragansett and Wampanoag territory, which could be done only if they were on friendly terms; unless, indeed, they were a detached body of Mohandsicks, who had settled on the mainland very early in the period of migration and had been swept down to the extreme end of the Cape by succeeding waves, and had there been able to maintain themselves, or had been allowed to remain unmolested.
     None of these theories is impossible, as we have seen the Tuscarora separating themselves from the other nations of the Iroquois and, either crossing leagues of Algonquin territory, or following the coast in their frail canoes, settling on the coast of the Carolinas.
     Whatever may have been the most intimate racial connection of the Nauset, there can be no doubt that at the time of which I am writing, they were subjects of the Great Sachem of the Wampanoags, although, as we shall see hereafter, they did not hesitate at times to engage in conspiracies against the whites without the sanction of their great chief. It may be that other tribes in the eastern part of the Wampanoag domain, such as the Manomet, Monamoyick, Paomet, Sawkattucket, Matake, Nobsquosset, and Sokone, and perhaps the Nantucket and the Capawack, were more closely related to the Nausets than to the western tribes of the Wampanoag federation, which seem to have centered about the Pokanoket. They were all Algonquin, and probably, originally all of the Totem of the Wolf, the various subdivisions resulting from the spreading out process by which a group became separated from the parent stock, thus forming a nation within the family, and eventually acquiring a distinct dialect; and no doubt, in many instances, absorbing tribes that had originally formed a part of some other wave of migration, and so belonged to some other nation.
     In any event, the Nausets, with all the other tribes on the cape and the islands, were, to all intents and purposes, Wampanoags at the time of their demonstration against the crew of the shallop on December 8, 1620; and so it was the Wampanoags who first greeted the Pilgrims, though the greeting was far from being a welcome, the actual welcome being extended nearly three months later by a sagamore of Monhigan "two days' sail with a strong wind" to the northeast.
     If our conclusion as to the reasonable inferences to be drawn from the writings of early historians is correct, this would place him in the group designated by Gookin, Drake, and Schoolcraft as Abenaki.
     Reference has already been made in general terms to the location of the Wampanoags as described by Gookin and Drake, but some doubt exists as to the exact extent of their territory. All are agreed that they held sway from the Islands and Cape Cad to Narragansett Bay and Providence River, and from the Atlantic Ocean north to the southern boundary of the Massachusetts, who as we have seen lived around the bay that bears their name. Just where that boundary ran is not clear, but it is certain that the counties of Nantucket, Dukes, Nantucket, Dukes, Barnstable, Plymouth, Bristol, and a considerable part of Norfolk, in Massachusetts, together with all of Bristol and Newport counties and the town of East Providence in Rhode Island have been carved out of the ancient hunting grounds of the Wampanoags.

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Massasoit of the Wampanoags

Massasoit of the Wampanoags


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