Narragansett people

The Narragansett people are an Algonquian American Indian tribe from Rhode Island. The tribe was nearly landless for most of the 20th century, but it worked to gain federal recognition and attained it in 1983. It is officially the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island and is made up of descendants of tribal members who were identified in an 1880 treaty with the state.

The tribe acquired land in 1991 in their lawsuit Carcieri v. Salazar, and they petitioned the Department of the Interior to take the land into trust on their behalf. This would have made the newly acquired land to be officially recognized as part of the Narragansett Indian reservation, taking it out from under Rhode Island's legal authority. In 2009, the United States Supreme Court ruled against the request, declaring that tribes which had achieved federal recognition since the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act did not have standing to have newly acquired lands taken into federal trust and removed from state control.

Total population
2400 (1990s[1])
Regions with significant populations
United States (Rhode Island)
Formerly Narragansett, now English
Traditional tribal religion,
Related ethnic groups
Nipmuc, Niantic, Pawtuxet, Pequot, Shawomet[1]


The Narragansett tribe was recognized by the federal government in 1983 and controls the Narragansett Indian Reservation, 1,800 acres (7.3 km2) of trust lands in Charlestown, Rhode Island.[2] A small portion of the tribe resides on or near the reservation, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.[3] Additionally, they own several hundred acres in Westerly.[2]

In 1991, the Narragansetts purchased 31 acres (130,000 m2) in Charlestown for development of elderly housing. In 1998, they requested that the Department of the Interior take the property into trust on behalf of the tribe, to remove it from state and local control. The case went to the United States Supreme Court, as the state challenged the removal of new lands from state oversight by a tribe recognized by the US after the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. Rhode Island was joined in its appeal by 21 other states.[4][5]

In 2009, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Department of the Interior could not take land into trust, removing it from state control, if a tribe had achieved federal recognition after the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, and if the land in question was acquired after that federal recognition. Their determination was based on wording in the act which defines "Indian" as "all persons of Indian descent who are members of any recognized tribe now under federal jurisdiction."[6]


The tribe is led by an elected tribal council, a chief sachem, a medicine man, and a Christian leader. The entire tribal population must approve major decisions.[2] The administration in 2018 was:

  • Chief Sachem: Anthony Dean Stanton
  • Medicine Man: John Brown
  • First Councilman: Cassius Spears, Jr.
  • Second Councilman: John Pompey
  • Secretary, John Mahoney
  • Councilmen:
    • Yvonne Simonds Lamphere
    • Betty Johnson
    • Walter K. Babcock
    • Lonny Brown
    • Mary Brown


Some present-day Narragansett people believe that their name means "people of the little points and bays".[7] Pritzker's Native American Encyclopedia translates the name as "(People) of the Small Point".[8]

The Narragansett language died out in the 19th century, so modern attempts to understand its words have to make use of written sources. The earliest such sources are the writings of English colonists in the 1600s, and at that time the name of the Narragansett people was spelled in a variety of different ways, perhaps attesting to different local pronunciations. The present spelling "Narragansett" was first used by Massachusetts governor John Winthrop in his History of New England (1646); but assistant governor Edward Winslow spelled it "Nanohigganset", while Rhode Island preacher Samuel Gorton preferred "Nanhyganset"; Roger Williams, who founded the city of Providence and came into closest contact with the Narragansett people, used a host of different spellings including "Nanhiggonsick", "Nanhigonset", "Nanihiggonsicks", "Nanhiggonsicks", "Narriganset", "Narrogonset", and "Nahigonsicks".[9]

Underneath this diversity of spelling a common phonetic background can be discerned. Linguist James Hammond Trumbull explains that naiag or naiyag means a corner or angle in the Algonquian languages, so that the prefix nai is found in the names of many points of land on the sea coast and rivers of New England (e.g. Nayatt Point in Barrington, RI, and Noyack on Long Island). The word na-ig-an-set, according to Trumbull, signifies "the territory about the point", and na-ig-an-eog means "the people of the point".[10]

Roger Williams spent much time learning and studying the Narragansett language, and he wrote a definitive study on it in 1643 entitled A Key Into the Language of America. He traced the source of the word Narragansett to a geographical location:

Being inquisitive of what root the title or denomination Nahigonset should come I heard that Nahigonsset was so named from a little island, between Puttaquomscut and Mishquomacuk on the sea and fresh water side. I went on purpose to see it, and about the place called Sugar Loaf Hill I saw it and was within a pole of it [i.e. a rod or 16 ½ feet ], but could not learn why it was called Nahigonset.[11]

Berkeley anthropologist William Simmons, who specialized in the Narragansett people, explains the name as follows:

The name Narragansett, like the names of most tribes in this region, referred to both a place and the people who lived there. Roger Williams, the first English settler of Providence, wrote that the name came from that of a small island, which he did not locate precisely but which may have been in what is now Point Judith Pond. He went to the island but could not learn why the Indians called it Narragansett.[7]

But in fact Roger Williams's statement does enable a fairly precise localization: He states that the place was "a little island, between Puttaquomscut and Mishquomacuk on the sea and fresh water side", and that it was near Sugar Loaf Hill. This means it was between the Pettaquamscutt (or Narrow) river to the east, and the present town of Westerly to the west (the "sea side" and "fresh water side" being with reference to the land on the eastern side of the Narrow river and Point Judith Pond), and to the north of Point Judith Pond (where Sugar Loaf Hill is located). This statement suggests that the original Narragansett homeland was identified by 17th century natives as being a little island located near the northern edge of Point Judith Pond, possibly the unnamed island in Billington cove.[12]

And in fact, in 1987, while conducting a survey for a development company, archaeologists from Rhode Island College discovered the remains of an Indian village on the northern edge of Point Judith Pond, near to the place which Roger Williams had indicated. The site is now known as the Salt Pond Archaeological Site or site RI 110. Excavations revealed the remains of a coastal village from the Late Woodland period, inhabited between about 1100 and 1300 A.D. Human burials were found, as well as evidence of houses and other structures, cooking and food storage places, and a range of artifacts. The find turned out to be an important one, because no other American Indian coastal village has ever been found in the Northeastern United States.[13] A documentary film about the site was sponsored by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, with support from the Federal Highway Administration, and aired on Rhode Island PBS in November 2015. Excerpts can be seen on Vimeo.[14]


Traditionally, the tribe spoke the Narragansett language, a member of the Algonquian languages family. The Narragansetts spoke a "Y-dialect", similar enough to the "N-dialects" of the Massachusett and Wampanoag to be mutually intelligible. Other Y-dialects include the Shinnecock and Pequot languages spoken historically by tribes on Long Island and in Connecticut, respectively.

The Narragansett language became almost entirely extinct during the 20th century. The tribe has begun language revival efforts, based on early 20th century books and manuscripts, and new teaching programs.

In the 17th century, Roger Williams learned the tribe's language. He documented it in his 1643 work A Key Into the Language of America. In that book Williams gave the tribe's name as Nanhigganeuck though later he used the spelling Nahigonset.

American English has absorbed a number of loan words from Narragansett and other closely related languages, such as Wampanoag and Massachusett. Such words include quahog, moose, papoose, powwow, squash, and succotash.


Tribal Territories Southern New England
Narragansett tribal territory

The Narragansetts were one of the leading tribes of New England, controlling the west of Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island and portions of Connecticut and eastern Massachusetts, from the Providence River on the northeast to the Pawcatuck River on the southwest. The first European contact was in 1524 when explorer Giovanni de Verrazzano visited Narragansett Bay.

Between 1616 and 1619, infectious diseases killed thousands of Algonquians in coastal areas south of Rhode Island. The Narragansetts were the most powerful tribe in the southern area of the region when the English colonists arrived in 1620, and they had not been affected by the epidemics.[15] Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoags allied with the colonists at Plymouth Colony as a way to protect the Wampanoags from Narragansett attacks.[16] In the fall of 1621, the Narragansetts sent a sheaf of arrows wrapped in a snakeskin to Plymouth Colony as a threatening challenge, but Plymouth governor William Bradford sent the snakeskin back filled with gunpowder and bullets. The Narragansetts understood the message and did not attack them.

European settlement in the Narragansett territory did not begin until 1635; in 1636, Roger Williams acquired land from Narragansett sachems Canonicus and Miantonomi and established Providence Plantations.

Pequot War

During the Pequot War of 1637, the Narragansetts allied with the New England colonists. However, the brutality of the colonists in the Mystic massacre shocked the Narragansetts, who returned home in disgust.[17] After the Pequots were defeated, the colonists gave captives to their allies the Narragansetts and the Mohegans.

The Narrangansetts later had conflict with the Mohegans over control of the conquered Pequot land. In 1643, Miantonomi led the Narragansetts in an invasion of eastern Connecticut where they planned to subdue the Mohegans and their leader Uncas. Miantonomi had an estimated 1,000 men under his command.[18] The Narragansett forces fell apart, and Miantonomi was captured and executed by Uncas' brother. The following year, Narragansett war leader Pessicus renewed the war with the Mohegans, and the number of Narragansett allies grew.

The Mohegans were on the verge of defeat when the colonists came and saved them, sending troops to defend the Mohegan fort at Shantok. The colonists then threatened to invade Narragansett territory, so Canonicus and his son Mixanno signed a peace treaty. The peace lasted for the next 30 years.

King Philip's War

Christian missionaries began to convert tribal members, and many Indians feared that they would lose their traditions by assimilating into colonial culture. The colonial push for religious conversion collided with Indian resistance. In 1675, John Sassamon, a converted "Praying Indian", was found bludgeoned to death in a pond. The facts about Sassamon's death were never settled, but historians accept that the Wampanoag sachem Metacomet - to whom the English settlers gave the baptismal name "Philip" - may have ordered the execution of Sassamon because of his cooperation with colonial authorities. Three Wampanoag men were arrested, convicted, and hanged for Sassamon's death.

Roger Williams and Narragansetts
Roger Williams and the Narragansetts, a 19th-century engraving after a painting by A. H. Wray

Metacomet subsequently declared war on the colonists in what the colonists called King Philip's War. Metacomet escaped an attempt to trap him in the Plymouth Colony, and the uprising spread across Massachusetts as other bands joined the fight, such as the Nipmuc. The Indians wanted to expel the colonists from New England. They waged successful attacks on settlements in Massachusetts and Connecticut, but Rhode Island was spared at the beginning, as the Narragansetts remained officially neutral.

However, the leaders of the United Colonies (Massachusetts, Plymouth, and Connecticut) accused the Narragansetts of harboring Wampanoag refugees. They made a preemptive attack on the Narragansett palisade fortress on December 19, 1675 in a battle that became known as the Great Swamp Fight. Hundreds of Narragansett non-combatants, including men, women, and children, died in the attack and burning of the fort, but nearly all of the warriors escaped. In January 1676, colonist Joshua Tefft was hanged, drawn, and quartered by colonial forces at Smith's Castle[19] in Wickford, Rhode Island, for having fought on the side of the Narragansetts during the Great Swamp Fight.

The Indians retaliated for the massacre in a widespread spring offensive beginning in February 1676 in which they destroyed all Colonial settlements on the western side of Narragansett Bay. The settlement of Providence Plantations was burned on March 27, 1676, destroying Roger Williams's house, among others. Other Indian groups destroyed many towns throughout New England, and even raided the suburbs of Boston. However, disease, starvation, battle losses, and the lack of gunpowder caused the Indian effort to collapse by the end of March.

Troops from Connecticut composed of the colonists and Mohegan allies swept into Rhode Island and killed substantial numbers of the now-weakened Narragansetts. A force of Mohegans and Connecticut militia captured Narragansett sachem Canonchet a few days after the destruction of Providence Plantations, while a force of Plymouth militia and Wampanoags hunted down Metacomet. He was shot and killed, ending the war in southern New England, although it dragged on for another year in Maine.

After the war, the English sold some surviving Narragansetts into slavery and shipped them to the Caribbean; others became indentured servants in Rhode Island. The surviving Narragansetts merged with local tribes, particularly the Eastern Niantics. During colonial and later times, tribe members intermarried with colonists and Africans. Their spouses and children were taken into the tribe, enabling them to keep a tribal and cultural identity.

18th century

Ninigret, the chief sachem of the Narragansetts during King Philip's War, died soon after the war. He left four children by two wives. His eldest child, a daughter, succeeded him, and upon her death her half-brother Ninigret succeeded her. He left a will dated 1716-17, and died about 1722. His sons Charles Augustus and George succeeded him as sachems. George's son Thomas, commonly known as King Tom, succeeded in 1746. While King Tom was sachem, much of the Narragansett land was sold, and a considerable part of the tribe emigrated to the State of New York, joining other Indians there who belonged to the same Algonquin language group.[20]

Nevertheless, in the 1740s during the First Great Awakening, colonists founded the Narragansett Indian Church to convert Indians to Christianity. In the ensuing years, the tribe retained control and ownership of the church and its surrounding 3 acres (12,000 m2), the only land that it could keep. This continuous ownership was critical evidence of tribal continuity when the tribe applied for federal recognition in 1983.[21]

19th century

In the 19th century, the tribe resisted repeated state efforts to declare that it was no longer an Indian tribe because its members were multiracial in ancestry. They contended that they absorbed other ethnicities into their tribe and continued to identify culturally as Narragansetts.

The tribal leaders resisted increasing legislative pressure after the American Civil War to "take up citizenship" in the United States, which would have required them to give up their treaty privileges and Indian nation status. The Narragansetts had a vision of themselves as "a nation rather than a race", and they insisted on their rights to Indian national status and its privileges by treaty.[22]

While testifying about this issue in a meeting with a committee of the state legislature in 1876, a Narragansett delegation said that their people saw injustices under existing US citizenship. They noted Jim Crow laws that limited the rights of blacks despite their citizenship under constitutional amendments. They also resisted suggestions that multiracial members of the tribe could not qualify as full members of the tribe. The Narragansetts had a tradition of bringing other people into their tribe by marriage and having them assimilate as culturally Narragansett, especially as their children grew up in the tribe. According to a record of their statement, they said:

We are not negroes, we are the heirs of Ninagrit, and of the great chiefs and warriors of the Narragansetts. Because, when your ancestors stole the negro from Africa and brought him amongst us and made a slave of him, we extended him the hand of friendship, and permitted his blood to be mingled with ours, are we to be called negroes? And to be told that we may be made negro citizens? We claim that while one drop of Indian blood remains in our veins, we are entitled to the rights and privileges guaranteed by your ancestors to ours by solemn treaty, which without a breach of faith you cannot violate.[23]

From 1880-84, the state persisted in its efforts at "detribalization". The tribe had agreed to negotiations for sale of its land, but it quickly regretted the decision and worked to regain the land. In 1880, the state recognized 324 Narragansett tribal members as claimants to the land during negotiations. The state put tribal lands up for public sale in the 19th century, but the tribe did not disperse and its members continued to practice its culture.

20th century

The Narragansett Indian Church in Charlestown was founded in the 1740s. This building was constructed in 1859 to replace the one that had burned down.[24]

The Naragansetts lost control of much of their tribal lands during the state's late 19th century detribalization, but they kept a group identity. The tribe incorporated in 1900 and built their longhouse in 1940 as a traditional place for gatherings and ceremonies.

In the late 20th century, they took action to have more control over their future. They regained 1,800 acres (7.3 km2) of their land in 1978, and gained federal recognition as a tribe in 1983. According to tribal rolls, there are approximately 2,400 members of the Narragansett Tribe today. Like most Americans, they have mixed ancestry, with descent from the Narragansetts and other tribes of the New England area, as well as Europeans and Africans.

21st century

A 2006 survey conducted in preparation for development of a new residential subdivision revealed what archaeologists consider the remains of a Narragansett Indian village dating from 1100 to 1300. It is located at the top of Point Judith Pond in Narragansett, Rhode Island. This area had been identified in a 1980s survey as historically sensitive, and the state had a conflict with the developer when more remains were found. The state intervened in order to prevent development and to buy the 25-acre site for preservation; it was part of 67 acres planned for development by the new owner.[25]

Further archaeological excavation on the site quickly revealed that it was one of two villages on the Atlantic Coast to be found in such complete condition. The other pre-Columbian village (Otan in Narragansett Algonquin) is in Virginia. It has a high concentration of permanent structures.[25]

Preliminary surveys of the Narragansett tract, known as RI 110, have revealed a village with perhaps as many 22 structures, as well as three known human burial sites. There is also evidence of granaries, ceremonial areas and storage pits that may shed new light on the importance of maize agriculture to woodland tribes.[25]

Historians and archeologists knew that maize was cultivated by Algonquin tribes, but there has never been physical evidence before the discovery of this site. The tribe's method of grinding the kernels into a powder was not conducive to preservation. In the first week of excavation, 78 kernels of corn were found at this site, the first time that cultivation of maize could be confirmed this far north on the Atlantic Coast.

The current members of the Narragansett tribe have contributed through oral history to accounts about the ancient people who inhabited this site. They were members of the Turtle Clan, and the settlement was a conduit for trade in medicines. They used the surrounding pond and its many islands for hunting camps, resource collection, fishing, shellfish, burial sites, and herbal collections for medicine and ceremony.

Providence founder Roger Williams was brought to the top of Sugarloaf Hill in nearby Wakefield when treating with the Narragansett tribe. They pointed toward this large settlement and told him that it was called Nanihigonset. This site is now believed to be the center of the Narragansett geography, where they coalesced as a tribe and began to extend their dominion over the neighboring tribes at different points in history.[26]

Land claim suit

In January 1975, the Narragansett Tribe filed suit in federal court to regain 3,200 acres (13 km2) of land in southern Rhode Island which they claimed the state had illegally taken from them in 1880. The 1880 Act authorizing the state to negotiate with the tribe listed 324 Narragansetts approved by the Supreme Court as claimants to the land.[27]

In 1978, the Narragansett Tribe signed a Joint Memorandum of Understanding (JMOU) with the state of Rhode Island, Town of Charlestown, and private property owners in settlement of their land claim. The state transferred a total of 1,800 acres (7.3 km2) to a corporation formed to hold the land in trust for descendants of the 1880 Narragansett Roll. In exchange, the tribe agreed that the laws of Rhode Island would be in effect on those lands, except for hunting and fishing. The Narragansetts had not yet been federally recognized as a tribe.[28]

Federal recognition

The tribe prepared extensive documentation of its genealogy and proof of continuity as descendants of the 324 tribal members of treaty status. In 1979 the tribe applied for federal recognition, which it finally regained in 1983 as the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island (the official name used by the Bureau of Indian Affairs).

Current events

The state and tribe have disagreed on certain rights on the reservation. On July 14, 2003, Rhode Island state police raided a tribe-run smoke shop on the Charlestown reservation, the culmination of a dispute over the tribe's failure to pay state taxes on its sale of cigarettes.[29] In 2005, the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals declared the police action a violation of the tribe's sovereignty. In 2006, an en banc decision of the First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the prior decision, stating that the raid did not violate the tribe's sovereign immunity because of the 1978 Joint Memorandum of Agreement settling the land issues, in which the tribe agreed that state law would be observed on its land.

In a separate federal civil rights lawsuit, the tribe charged the police with the use of excessive force during the 2003 raid on the smoke shop. One Narragansett man suffered a broken leg in the confrontation. The case was being retried in the summer of 2008. Competing police experts testified on each side of the case.[30]

The Narragansett Tribe is negotiating with the General Assembly for approval to build a casino in Rhode Island with their partner, currently Harrah's Entertainment. The Rhode Island Constitution declares to be illegal all non-state-run lotteries or gambling. A proposed constitutional amendment to allow the tribe to build the casino was voted down by state residents in November 2006.

The tribe has plans to upgrade the Longhouse that it constructed along RI Route 2 (South County Trail) to serve as a place of American Indian cuisine and cultural meeting house. These plans have been in the works for more than 15 years. The Longhouse was built in 1940 and has fallen into disrepair. Upgrades are also being planned for the Narragansett tribal medical, technological, and artistic systems.

The Narragansetts have undertaken efforts to review tribal rolls and reassess applications for membership, like numerous other tribes in the 21st century. They currently require tribal members to show direct descent from one or more of the 324 members listed on the 1880-84 Roll, which was established when Rhode Island negotiated land sales.

The current population numbers about 2,400 and the tribe has closed the rolls. They have dropped some people from the rolls and denied new applications for membership. Scholars and activists see this as a national trend among tribes, prompted by a variety of factors, including internal family rivalries and the issue of significant new revenues from Indian casinos.[31]

The US Supreme Court agreed to hear Carcieri v. Salazar (2009) in the fall of 2008, a case determining American Indian land rights. The Court ruled in favor of Rhode Island in February 2009.[32] The suit was brought by the state of Rhode Island against the Department of the Interior (DOI) over its authority to take land into trust on behalf of certain American Indians.[32]

The authority was part of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, but the state argued that the process could not hold for tribes that achieved federal recognition after 1934. The US Supreme Court upheld the state based on language in the act.[32] At issue is 31 acres (130,000 m2) of land in Charlestown which the Narragansetts purchased in 1991. The Narragansetts requested the DOI to take it into trust on their behalf in order to remove it from state and local control, after trying to develop it for elderly housing under state regulations in 1998.[5]

Cultural institutions

The tribe hosts their annual meeting powwow on the second weekend of August on their reservation in Charlestown, Rhode Island. It is a gathering of thanksgiving and honor to the Narragansett people and is the oldest recorded powwow in North America, dating back to 1675's colonial documentation of the gathering (the powwow had been held long before European contact).

In August 2017, the tribe held the 342nd powwow with events including the traditional grand entry, a procession of military veterans, dancers, and honored tribal representatives, and the ceremonial lighting of a sacred fire. There was also a church service, food vendors, and arts and crafts.[33]

Notable Narragansetts

The following are listed in alphabetical order by surname.

List of Narragansett Sachems

Name Regency Liaison Remarks
Tashtassuck Historically uncertain
Wessoum Son of Tashtassuck Historically uncertain, should marry his sister
Canonicus 1600s to 1636 Son of Wessoum First of two periods of Sachemdom for this famous chief
Miantonomo 1636 to 1643 Nephew of Canonicus
Canonicus 1643 to 1647 Uncle of Miantonomo Second Sachemdom of the same Canonicus
Mriksah 1647 to 1667 Son of Canonicus
Canonchet 1667 to 1676 Son of Miantonomo, Great-cousin of Mriksah
Ninigret 1676 to 1682? Sachem during King Philip's War
? [female] ? Daughter of Ninigret
Ninigret II ? - 1722 Son of Ninigret I, half-brother of his predecessor Depicted in the oil painting on display at the RISD museum
Charles Augustus 1722 - ? Eldest son of Ninigret II
George ? Second son of Ninigret II
Thomas ? - 1746 Son of George Known as "King Tom"

See also


  1. ^ a b Pritzker, 442
  2. ^ a b c Pritzker, 443
  3. ^ Narragansett Reservation, Rhode Island United States Census Bureau Archived March 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Ray Henry, "High court to hear case over Indian land: Usage of tribal property at issue", Associated Press, Boston Globe, 3 Nov 2008, accessed 11 Oct 2010
  5. ^ a b "Supreme Court will rule on Narragansett dispute with Rhode Island", Boston Globe, 25 Feb 2008, accessed 3 Aug 2008
  6. ^ Chris Keegan, "High court thwarts RI casino plan" Archived 2013-08-01 at the Wayback Machine, The Westerly Sun, 25 February 2009, accessed 21 March 2013
  7. ^ a b William S. Simmons, The Narragansett, "Indians of North America" series, New York: Chelsea House, 1989, p. 14.
  8. ^ Barry M. Pritzker, A Native American encyclopedia : history, culture, and peoples, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 442.
  9. ^ See references given in S. Rider, The Lands of Rhode Island As they were Known to Caunounicus and Miantunnomu When Roger Williams Came in l636, Providence, 1904, p. 200-201.
  10. ^ J. Hammond Trumbull, editorial note to Roger Williams's Key into the Language of America, Publications of the Narragansett Club, first series, vol. 1, 1866, p. 82.
  11. ^ Roger Williams testimony about Narragansett Indians, 18 June, 1682, manuscript in the collection of the Rhode Island Historical Society. Cited by E.R. Potter, The Early History of Narragansett, Providence, 1835, p. 4
  12. ^ For a more detailed analysis see S. Rider, The Lands of Rhode Island As they were Known to Caunounicus and Miantunnomu When Roger Williams Came in l636, Providence, 1904, p. 202-205.
  13. ^ Elizabeth Abbott, "Ancient Indian Village in Rhode Island Pits Preservation Against Property Rights", The New York Times, April 6, 2010.
  14. ^ Woven in Time: The Narragansett Salt Pond Preserve, Rhode Island PBS, series "Rhode Island Stories", first aired 22 November 2015.
  15. ^ Wright, Otis Olney, ed. (1917). History of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1667-1917. Town of Swansea. p. 20. OCLC 1018149266. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  16. ^ Wright, pg. 23
  17. ^ William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation, 1620-1647, ed. Samuel Eliot Morison (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966), p. 29; and John Underhill, Newes from America; or, A New and Experimentall Discoverie of New England: Containing, a True Relation of their War-like Proceedings these two yeares last past, with a figure of the Indian fort, or Palizado (London: I. D[awson] for Peter Cole, 1638), p. 84.
  18. ^ William Bradford, chapter 33, History of Plymouth Plantation
  19. ^ "The Celebrated Josua Tefft"
  20. ^ E.R. Potter, The Early History of Narragansett, Providence, 1835, p. 100.
  21. ^ Center Profile: Narragansett Indian Church
  22. ^ Ariela Gross, "Of Portuguese Origin": Litigating Identity and Citizenship among the "Little Races" in Nineteenth-Century America], Law and History Review, Vol. 25, No.3, Fall 2007, accessed 22 Jun 2008. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-07-09. Retrieved 2018-12-24.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) See also Ariela Gross, What Blood Won't Tell: a history of race on trial in America, Harvard University Press, 2008.
  23. ^ The Narragansett reply is recorded in "An Indian Opinion of Citizenship", in F. Moore, ed., Record of the Year, a reference scrap book, being a monthly record of important events worth preserving, Volume 1, New York: G.W. Carleton & Co., 1876, p. 165-166, at date of Feb. 15, 1876.
  24. ^ [1] Archived May 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ a b c ELIZABETH ABBOTT, "Ancient Indian Village in Rhode Island Pits Preservation Against Property Rights", New York Times, 6 April 2010; accessed 5 December 2016
  26. ^ Kirby, Shaun. "Salt Pond, center of the ancient Narragansett world". Rhode Island Central News and Information. Southern Rhode Island Newspapers. Archived from the original on 18 April 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  27. ^ "Paul Campbell Research Notes", Rhode Island Historical Society, April 1997, accessed 3 Aug 2008
  28. ^ Jana M. (Lemanski) Berger, "Narragansett Tribal Gaming vs. "The Indian Giver": An Alternative Argument to Invalidating the Chafee Amendment", Gaming Law Review - 3(1):25-37, 1 Feb 1999, accessed 3 Aug 2008
  29. ^ Gavin Clarkson (2003-07-25). "Clarkson: Bull Connor would have been proud". Indian Country Today. Retrieved 2009-12-14.
  30. ^ "Police experts testify in smoke shop trial" Archived 2013-08-01 at the Wayback Machine, The Westerly Sun, 25 Jul 2008, accessed 3 Aug 2008
  31. ^ Emily Bazar, "Native American? The tribe says no",, 28 Nov 2007, accessed 3 Aug 2008
  32. ^ a b c "Carcieri, Governor of Rhode Island, et al. v. Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, et al.", Supreme Court of the United States, Providence Journal, February 2009, accessed 8 Mar 2009 Archived March 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^ Farragher, Thomas (2017-08-09). "Meet the Narragansett leader who is still going strong at 99". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2017-08-10.
  34. ^ Arna Alexander Bontemps and Jacqueline Fonvielle-Bontemps (eds.), eds. (2001). "African-American Women Artists: An Historical Perspective". Black feminist cultural criticism. Keyworks in cultural studies. Malden, Mass: Blackwell. pp. 133–137. ISBN 0631222391.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)


  • Pritzker, Barry M. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1.
  • Simmons, William S. The Narragansett. Indians of North America series, New York: Chelsea House, 1989.

External links

Coordinates: 41°24′34″N 71°40′03″W / 41.40944°N 71.66750°W

Anthony–Kinney Farm

The Anthony–Kinney Farm is an historic farm and resort complex at 505 Point Judith Road in Narragansett, Rhode Island. The property, now a town-owned recreation area known as Sunset Farm, saw agricultural use for over 300 years, and was converted into a private resort around the turn of the 20th century. The Point Judith area was among the first in Rhode Island to be purchased from the local Narragansett people, in 1657. The farm was acquired by James E. Anthony in 1850, who sold it to Francis Kinney in 1897. Kinney maintained much of the land in agricultural use, but built an extravagant resort complex, including a distinctive East Indian bungalow as a clubhouse, and built a private nine-hole golf course. Kinney died in 1908, and the property was owned by the Chase family until 1991, when most of it was purchased by the town. It is managed by the town as an active farm, and the restored clubhouse is available for rent as function space.The farm was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.

Apponaug, Rhode Island

Apponaug is a neighborhood in central Warwick, Rhode Island, United States, situated on Apponaug Cove, a tributary to Greenwich Bay and nearby Narragansett Bay. The name Apponaug is a derivation of the Narragansett Indian word for "place of oysters". Indeed, Apponaug Cove holds one of the richest shellfish beds in the United States and was densely populated by the Narragansett people for many centuries prior to the arrival of European settlers.

Apponaug consists of what is effectively a large rotary. In the 1960s, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation was in need of a faster way to feed the increasing number of cars through Apponaug that were en route to West Shore Road and other locations. Traffic patterns were rerouted in what was supposed to be a temporary solution, creating a one-way hub in the center of the village.Apponaug is located at the intersection of three of Warwick's primary streets: Post Road (U.S. Route 1), Greenwich Avenue (R.I. Route 5), and Centerville Road (R.I. Route 117). It is considered downtown or central Warwick, as Warwick City Hall is located here, plus police and fire headquarters, the Apponaug branch of the Warwick Public Library, a museum, and the post office. The cluster of municipal buildings in the center of Apponaug is designated as the Warwick Civic Center Historic District, while a cluster of stately homes in the southern part of the neighborhood is designated as the Apponaug Historic District.


Canonchet (or Cononchet, died 1676) was a Narragansett Sachem and leader of Native American troops during the Great Swamp Fight and King Philip's War. He was a son of Miantonomo. In 1676, having been surprised and captured, his life was offered him on condition of making peace with the English, but he spurned the proposition. When informed that he was to be put to death, he said: "I like it well. I shall die before my heart is soft, and before I have spoken a word unworthy of myself." He was executed by the Mohegan sachem Oneco and the Pequot warrior Robin Cassacinamon and the Niantic sachem Harman Garrett (or his son).


Canonicus (c. 1565 – June 4, 1647) was a Native American chief of the Narragansett people. Although wary of the European newcomers, he bowed before superior armaments and surrendered a portion of the territory of his people to the immigrants without war. He ultimately proved to be a firm friend of Roger Williams and other English settlers.


Cautantowwit (also known as Kytan) is the penultimate deity and creator god in the traditional religion of the Narragansett people. Cautantowwit was one of a pantheon of deities observed by the Narragansett, though all were ultimately created by him.According to the Narragansett, Cautantowwit lived in "the southwest". They attributed the "Indian summer" to a wind that came from "the court of their great and benevolent god Cautantowwit".


Cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines in the subgenus Oxycoccus of the genus Vaccinium. In Britain, cranberry may refer to the native species Vaccinium oxycoccos, while in North America, cranberry may refer to Vaccinium macrocarpon. Vaccinium oxycoccos is cultivated in central and northern Europe, while Vaccinium macrocarpon is cultivated throughout the northern United States, Canada and Chile. In some methods of classification, Oxycoccus is regarded as a genus in its own right. They can be found in acidic bogs throughout the cooler regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

Cranberries are low, creeping shrubs or vines up to 2 meters (7 ft) long and 5 to 20 centimeters (2 to 8 in) in height; they have slender, wiry stems that are not thickly woody and have small evergreen leaves. The flowers are dark pink, with very distinct reflexed petals, leaving the style and stamens fully exposed and pointing forward. They are pollinated by bees. The fruit is a berry that is larger than the leaves of the plant; it is initially light green, turning red when ripe. It is edible, but with an acidic taste that usually overwhelms its sweetness.

In 2016, 98% of world production of cranberries resulted from the United States, Canada, and Chile. Most cranberries are processed into products such as juice, sauce, jam, and sweetened dried cranberries, with the remainder sold fresh to consumers. Cranberry sauce is a traditional accompaniment to turkey at Christmas dinner in the United Kingdom, and at Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners in the United States and Canada.

Ellison Brown

Ellison Myers Brown (September 22, 1913 – August 23, 1975), widely known as Tarzan Brown, and Deerfoot amongst his people, was a two-time winner of the Boston Marathon, in 1936 (2:33:40) and 1939 (2:28:51). He also participated in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. He was scheduled to participate in the 1940 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but these were canceled due to the outbreak of World War II. Tarzan Brown is still one of only two Native Americans to have won the Boston Marathon (the other being Thomas Longboat of the Onondaga Nation from Canada, in 1907) and the only Native American to have more than one victory in Boston. He was inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame in 1973.

Brown set the American men's record for the marathon at the 1939 Boston Marathon (2:28:51) and at a 1940 marathon in Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts (2:27:30).

Historic Village of the Narragansetts in Charlestown

The Historic Village of the Narragansetts in Charlestown is an historic district in Charlestown, Rhode Island encompassing what were for nearly two centuries the reservation lands of the Narragansett people. The district covers 5,600 acres (23 km2) and is bounded by Route 112 on the east, U.S. Route 1 on the south, King's Factory Road (Bureau of Indian Affairs Route 411) on the west, and Route 91 on the north. These lands served as the Narragansett reservation between 1709 and 1880, when the tribe sold the land to the state and was formally detribalized. Because of this long period of Native occupation, the area is archaeologically important, containing both historic and prehistoric artifacts. The Narragansetts have since received federal recognition.

The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Loren Spears

Lorén M. Spears (Narragansett/Niantic) is an educator, essayist, artist, and two-term Tribal Councilwoman of the Narragansett Tribe in Providence, Rhode Island, where she currently resides. Spears has taught for over two decades, including 12 years in the Newport Public School system working with at-risk children in both first and fourth grades. In 2010, Spears was chosen as one of 11 Extraordinary Women honorees for Rhode Island in the area of education.


Miantonomoh (1600? – August 1643), also spelled Miantonomo, Miantonomah or Miantonomi, was a chief of the Narragansett people of New England Indians.

Narragansett Pond

Narragansett Pond is a lake in Plymouth County, Massachusetts.Narragansett Pond was so named in commemoration of an Indian battle near the pond in which many Narragansett people warriors died.

Narragansett language

Narragansett is an Algonquian language formerly spoken in most of what is today Rhode Island by the Narragansett people. It was closely related to the other Algonquian languages of southern New England like Massachusett and Mohegan-Pequot. The earliest study of the language in English was by Roger Williams, founder of the Rhode Island colony, in his book A Key Into the Language of America (1643).

Paulla Dove Jennings

Paulla Dove Jennings is a member of the Narragansett tribe and a professional story teller, educator and children’s book author.

Princess Red Wing

Princess Red Wing (1896–1987) was a Narragansett and Wampanoag elder, historian, folklorist, and museum curator. She was an expert on American Indian history and culture, and she once addressed the United Nations.

Reverend Joseph Fish

Reverend Joseph Fish (1705-1781) from Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts was for fifty years (from 1732-1781) pastor of the Congregational Church in North Stonington, Connecticut.

Samuel Gorton

Samuel Gorton (1593 – 1677) was an early settler and civic leader of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and President of the towns of Providence and Warwick. He had strong religious beliefs which differed from Puritan theology and was very outspoken, and he became the leader of a small sect of converts known as Gortonists or Gortonites. As a result, he was frequently in trouble with the civil and church authorities in the New England colonies.

Gorton was baptized in 1593 in Manchester, Lancashire, England and received an education in languages and English law from tutors. In 1637, he emigrated from England, settling first in Plymouth Colony, where he was soon ousted for his religious opinions and his demeanor towards the magistrates and ministers. He settled next in Portsmouth where he met with a similar fate, being whipped for his insubordination towards the magistrates. He next went to Providence Plantation where he once again encountered adverse circumstances, until he and a group of others purchased land from the Narragansett people. They settled south of the Pawtuxet River in an area which they called Shawomet.

Gorton refused to answer a summons following the complaints of two Indian sachems about being unfairly treated in a land transaction. He and several of his followers were forcefully taken away to Massachusetts, where he was tried for his beliefs and writings rather than for the alleged land transaction. He was sentenced to prison in Charlestown, though all but three of the presiding magistrates voted to give him the death sentence.

After being released, Gorton and two of his associates sailed to England where they obtained an official order of protection for his colony from the Earl of Warwick. During his stay in England, he was also very active in the Puritan underground, preaching in churches and conventicles known for their extreme religious positions. Once back in New England, he changed the name of Shawomet to Warwick in gratitude to his patron in England. He became part of the very civil authority which he had previously rejected, serving as an assistant, commissioner, deputy, and president of the two towns of Providence and Warwick.

He wrote a number of books, two of them while in England and several others following his return. He was a man of great learning and great intellectual breadth, and he believed passionately in God, the King, and the individual man, and he was harshly critical of the magistrates and ministers who filled positions that he considered meaningless. His beliefs and demeanor brought him admiration from his followers but condemnation from those in positions of authority, and he was reviled for more than a century after his death. In more recent times, some historians and writers have looked upon him more favorably, and some now consider him to be one of the great colonial leaders of Rhode Island.

Thomas Commuck

Thomas Commuck (January 18, 1804 – November 25, 1855) was an American composer and historian. His 1845 collection Indian Melodies has been described as the first published musical work by a Native American.A member of the Narragansett tribe, Commuck was born in Charlestown, Rhode Island. In 1811 he began attending a school sponsored by the Society for Propagating the Gospel among Indians and Others in North America, continuing in attendance off and on through 1814. As a young man he moved to Oneida County, New York, where he joined the community of Mohegans and Pequots later to become known as the Brothertown Indians. In 1831 he married a Pequot woman, Hanna Abner, and with the rest of the Brothertown community moved to Calumet County, Wisconsin. He published a book of original compositions, Indian Melodies, in 1845; the melodies were harmonized by Thomas Hastings. Among the songs in the collection is one which later became known under the title "Lone Pilgrim", rearranged by Benjamin Franklin White and published in the 1850 appendix of The Sacred Harp. The book contains 120 Christian hymns whose titles were taken from the names of Indian chiefs, tribes, and places, none of which bear any relationship to the tunes bearing their names; in the introduction to the volume Commuck states that "[t]his has been done merely as a tribute of respect to the memory of some tribes that are now nearly if not quite extinct; also a mark of courtesy to some tribes with whom the author is acquainted." All are written in the shape note style. The book is one of the earliest written by a Native American to deal specifically with Native American culture.In Wisconsin Commuck, who lived with his wife in Green Bay, came to occupy a number of important positions within the Brothertown community; he acted as the tribe's postmaster, justice of the peace, and historian, and in 1844 was nominated by the Whig Party to stand as a candidate for the Wisconsin House of Representatives. He wrote a "Sketch of the Brothertown Indians" in a letter to Lyman Draper, secretary of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin; this has been anthologized. He drowned after falling through a hole in the ice near his residence. A project is underway to digitize recordings of the melodies and other documents related to their history, under the auspiecs of the Yale Indian Papers project.

William Simmons (anthropologist)

William S. Simmons (September 10, 1938 – June 2, 2018) was an American anthropologist specializing in the culture and history of the Narragansett people. Born in Rhode Island he went to Classical High and then to college at Brown university where he received a degree in human biology in 1960. During his college studies he carried out archeological fieldwork in Alaska with J. Louis Giddings. He then did his PhD in anthropology at Harvard, and took a position at the University of California Berkeley from 1967 to 1998. First as a professor in the Department of Anthropology, and then as Dean of the Division of Social Sciences. In 1998 he returned to Brown University as Professor of Anthropology, and as Provost and also served as Acting Director of the Haffenreffer Museum from 2012–2013. He was known among his friends and students for his trademark cowboy boots. He was married to Cheryl Simmons, and had two daughters.


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.