Guide to New England Tribes from UMassBoston’s Native American & Indigenous Studies Association
Tribes relevant to Chelsea in the years 1600 to 1650
Abenaki (Abenaki: Wαpánahki) - these are an Indigenous peoples of the Northeastern Woodlands of Canada and the United States. They are an Algonquian-speaking people and part of the Wabanaki Confederacy. This is the broader term for the people living in this area, comparable to saying one is a New Englander.
Pawtucket People, also know as the Pawtucket Confederation of Aberanki Peoples or the Naumkeag: The Pawtucket were a federation of bands of 10-50 people identified through their distinct dialect and shared ancestry. They migrated seasonally throughout their territories in present day Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. The Pawtucket do not exist in any organized band, tribe, or nation today, but many Wampanoag, Nipmuck, and Massachusett tribes claim Pawtucket ancestry. In the early colonial years the confederation was led by Sachem Nanepashemet. Following his death in 1619, his widow, Saunkskwa of Missitekw (called Squaw Sachem of Mistick by the colonists) led the tribes in this area Pawtucket areas included: Winnisemet (Winnisimmet) with Rumney Marsh and Pullen Point (Chelsea), Saugus or Swampscott (Lynn), Naumkeag (Salem), Agawam (Ipswich), Pentucket (Haverhill), from the coast going up the Merrimack. Perhaps also Piscataqua (Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Eliot, Maine) and Accominta (York, Maine), Mishawum (Charlestown), Mistic (Medford), Musketaquid (Concord, MA) and Pannukog (Concord, New Hampshire). Sagamore Hill (aka Mount Washington in Everett) likely a primary fort.
Read more about the Pawtucket leadership here.
Massachusett Tribe: This is the tribe from which the Commonwealth of Massachusetts derived its name. It is a tribe made up of individual bands or communities of people that today is located in Ponkapoag, MA, but historically had territories all of over Massachusetts. Ponkapoag was a "Praying Indian Town" first formed in 1657 by the Rev. John Elliot as a protected space for his "Praying Indians" or converted Christians. In exchange for this protection, the Massachusett were forced to assimilate to English lifestyles and religious beliefs, resulting in drastic loss of culture.
Wampanoag Nation: Centered in Plymouth and eastern Rhode Island Historically the Wampanoag Nation had as many as 69 recognized tribes and lived throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island for over 12,000 years. Today, the Mashpee Wampanoag and the Aquinnah Wampanoag are two Wampanoag Nation tribes living in Massachusetts that are Federally recognized. The Aquinnah Wampanoag originally lived in what is now Martha's Vineyard, traditionally known as Noepe. Massasoit, also known as Usamquin or Yellow Feather was leader in 1620 ruling over eight large villages and 30 lesser villages. He sent Squanto, a Patuxet Indian who mastered English during his enslavement in England, to assist the colonists in Plymouth. Massasoit’s son Metacomet/Philip leads an Indian war against the colonists.
Nipmuc Nation, Chaubunagungamaug and Hassanamisco Nipmuc Tribes: Central and western Massachusetts. Historically the Nipmuc were a nomadic tribe that lived in small villages throughout Massachusetts including Wabaquasset, Quinnebaug, Quaboag, Pocumtuc, Agawam, Squawkeag, and Wachusett. These tribes linked together as Nipmuc nation through kinship and trade. The English settlers began establishing praying villages on Nipmuc lands in an effort to convert the Nipmuc to a Christian lifestyle. As a result to conflicts between the English and Native Americans that would develop into King Phillip's war, the Nipmuc and other Native tribes were systematically forced out of their land into smaller areas that did not allow for their ways of hunting and gathering. To avoid hardship, many adopted English habits and ways of life. The Nipmuc tribes currently live on their ancestral land at the Hassanamisco Reservation in Grafton, Massachusetts and the Chaubunagungamaug Reservation in Fiskdale, MA.
Narragansetts: Western Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut. The Tribe and its members were considered warriors and offered protection to smaller tribes. Certain Nipmuck bands, the Niantics, Wampanoag, and Manisseans all paid tribute to the Narragansett tribe.
Nashaway (or Nashua or Weshacum) - upstream portions of the Nashua River valley in what is now the northern half of Worcester County, Massachusetts. Were a tribe of Algonquian Indians that is now extinct. Remaining members merged with other tribes, such as the Pennacook or the Nipmuc.
Mohegans: At the time of colonial contact the Mohegans were a unified tribe in southeastern Connecticut. The tribe split as individual groups become independent through trade. The Pequot came to be defined as a separate group.
Algonqiuans of the Connecticut River Valley and Long Island
Pocomtuc: Along the Connecticut River
Pennacooks: An Algonquian-speaking Indigenous peoples of the Northeastern Woodlands who lived in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and southern Maine. They were not a united tribe but a network of politically and culturally allied communities. The Pennacook were related to but not a part of the original Wabanaki Confederacy, which includes the Miꞌkmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot peoples. Sachem in the early years of colonialism was Passaconaway, memorialized in Lowell.
Tarratines of the Mi'kmaq tribe: In northern New England, mostly coastal Maine east of the Penobscot. Fur trading in Maine and Quebec provided them with access to firearms. Instead of practicing agriculture they supplement hunting by raiding stores of other tribes. In 1617, Nanepashemet of the Pawtuckets sent a party of warriors to aid the Penobscot tribe in their conflict with the Tarrantine. Tarratines sought revenge so Nanepashemet built a log fort near the Mystic River in present-day Medford where he lived with his wife and children. Epidemics of European disease hit the Pawtuckets in this period but Nanepashemet was spared because of his isolation in the fort. By 1619, the Tarrantines discovered his whereabouts, laid siege to the fort and ultimately killed Nanepashemet. Two years later, a party from the Plymouth Colony including Edward Winslow came across his fort and his grave.