NARRAGANSETT Stars & Stripes Mouse Pad
The Narragansett tribe, or more accurately Nahahiganseck Sovereign Nation, are a Native American tribe who controlled the area surrounding Narragansett Bay in present-day Rhode Island, and also portions of Connecticut, and eastern Massachusetts. The Nahahiganseck culture has existed in the region for thousands of years, trading extensively, and the town of Narragansett, Rhode Island is named after them. Although they suffered greatly from King Philip's War, the Narragansett absorbed members of other tribes to reboost numbers, especially the Niantic tribe, now fully merged into the Narragansett. According to tribal rolls there are approximately 2,400 members of the Narragansett Tribe today. The museum of the Nahahiganseck is the Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum in Exeter, Rhode Island. The school for the Nahahiganseck children is the Nuweetooun School at the same museum. The word "Narragansett" means, literally, "[the people] of/at the small, narrow point." Some members still speak the original Algonquian language although it had died out and was only partially reclaimed from books in the early 20th century.***********In the 17th century, Roger Williams, a co-founder of Rhode Island, learned the tribe's language, documenting it in his 1643 publication A Key Into the Language of America. Williams gave the tribe's name as "Nanhigganeuck," of which "Narragansett" seems to be an English corruption. A number of loan words have been absorbed into the English language from Narragansett and other closely related languages such as Wampanoag and Massachusett; such words include quahog, papoose, powwow, squash, and succotash.***********When the English started colonizing New England (1620), the Narragansetts were the most powerful native nation in southern New England. Massasoit of the Wampanoag nation allied himself to the English at Plymouth as a way to protect the Wampanoags from Narragansett attacks. In the fall of 1621, the Narragansetts sent a "gift" of a snakeskin filled with arrows to the newly established English colony at Plymouth. The "gift" was really a threatening challenge. The governor of Plymouth, William Bradford, sent the snakeskin back, but this time it was filled with bullets. The Narragansetts understood the message and did not attack the colony. In 1636, the Narraganestt sagamores (leaders) sold the land that became Providence to Roger Williams. During the Pequot War, the Narragansetts were allied to the New England colonists. However, the brutality of the English shocked the Narragansetts, who returned home in disgust. In 1643 the Narragansetts under Miantonomo invaded what is now eastern Connecticut. The plan was to subdue the Mohegan nation and its leader Uncas. William Bradford reports in chapter 33 of his history of Plymouth Of Plymouth Plantation that Miantonomo had between 900-1000 men under his command. The invasion turned into a fiasco, and Miantonomo was captured and then executed by Uncas' brother with a hatchet.***************The following year, in order to keep the peace, Canonicus (the new leader of the Narragansetts) and his son Mixanno, signed a peace treaty with the New England colonists at Boston. The peace would last for the next thirty years, but the encroachement of the growing colonial population gradually began to erode any accords between natives and settlers. As missionaries began to convert tribal members, many natives feared the assimilation of native lifestyle into colonial culture. The colonial push for religious conversion collided with native resistance to assimilation, and in 1675, John Sassamon, a converted "Praying Indian," was found bludgeoned to death in a pond. Specifics surrounding Sassamon's death never surfaced, although it is widely accepted that Metacomet, the Wampanoag Sachem, may have ordered Sassamon's execution because of his cooperation with colonial authorities concerning the growing discontent among Wampanoags. Three Wampanoags were arrested, convicted, and hanged for Sassamon's death. Metacomet subsequently declared war on the colonists ********************************** Setting aside tribal tensions of the previous five decades, the Narragansetts decided to ally themselves with the Wampanoags under the leadership of Metacomet (Anglicanized as King Philip). The allied warriors of the Narragansetts and Wampanoags waged a guerilla war against the colonists of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. After just a few months of fighting, the native forces had burned the settlement of Newport to the ground and heavily damaged Providence. The natives also waged successful attacks on settlements in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The colonial leaders of the Massachusetts Bay colony declared war on the Narragansetts and Wampanoags. In spite of waging a successful campaign against the colonists, the allied native forces began to run low on supplies and retreated to northern Rhode Island to open a cache of corn. The Pequots of Eastern Connecticut, now allied with the English colonists, knew of this cache and helped the colonists ambush most of the native warriors en route to the cache. Subsequently, the Rhode Island colonists converged on southern Rhode Island, in the Great Swamp, where the Narragansetts has built a palisaded fort that housed the women, children and elderly of the tribe. Seeking retribution for the destruction of Providence and Newport, the Rhode Island colonists attacked the fort in what is now known as the Great Swamp Fight in December, 1675. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of women and children were killed in this conflict, which may be better labeled as a massacre. Following this event, the surviving Narragansetts were either sold into slavery or absorbed by other local tribes.**********************Many members of the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island (the official name used by the Bureau of Indian Affairs circa 2003) reside on or near the Narragansett Indian Reservation (population 60, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, although only nine of these residents were of Native American descent), land held in trust by the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and located in the Town of Charlestown, Rhode Island. The land area is 8.694 km² (3.357 sq mi). On July 14, 2003, Rhode Island state police raided a tribe-run smoke shop on the Charlestown reservation, the culmination of an ongoing dispute between the tribe and state over the tribe's right to sell tax-free cigarettes. In 2005 the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals declared the police action a violation of the tribe's sovereignty. The Narragansett Tribe is busy in negotiations with the General Assembly in order to allow them to build a casino in Rhode Island with their partner, which is currently Harrah's Entertainment. Currently, the Rhode Island Constitution declares all non-state run lotteries illegal. An amendment to the Constitution allowing the tribe to build the casino was voted down in November 2006. In December 2006 hundreds of Tribal members were told that they are no longer Narragansett Indians. The prospects of financial gain has caused this division within the tribe. Tribal elders are left with no medical coverage, and some have been denied meals on wheels, which is a great concern for this elderly population. Abolished members have banded together in an attempt to separate themselves from the southern faction.