[Note: This is a single part of what will be, by my classification, about 240 compact tribal histories (contact to 1900). It is limited to the lower 48 states of the U.S. but also includes those First Nations from Canada and Mexico that had important roles (Huron, Micmac, Assiniboine, etc.).
This history's content and style are representative. The normal process at this point is to circulate an almost finished product among a peer group for comment and criticism.
Using the Internet, this can be more inclusive. Feel free to comment or suggest corrections via e-mail. Working together we can end some of the historical misinformation about Native Americans. You will find the ego at this end to be of standard size. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to your comments...Lee Sultzman]
Valleys of the Charles and Neponset rivers in eastern Massachusetts, including the present site of Boston and its suburbs.
In 1614 there may have been as many as 3,000 Massachuset living in 20 villages around Boston Bay, but by the time the Pilgrims arrived in 1620 there were less than 800. In 1631 the Puritans counted less than 500. No organized groups of the Massachuset are known to have survived after 1800.
Their name is from an Algonquin word meaning "at the range of hills."
Algonquin. N-dialect, same as the neighboring Narragansett, Nauset, Niantic, and Wampanoag.
Subdivisions - Six main divisions, called by the names of their chiefs:Chickataubut (sub-tribe: Wampatuck and Obatinnewat (Obtakiest); Nanepashemet (sub-tribes: Winnepurkit, Wonohaquaham, and Montowampate); Manatahqua; Cato; Nahaton; and Cutshamakin (Cutshamequin, Kutchamakin).
Agawam, Conohasset, Magaehnak, Massachuset, Mattapoist, Mishawum, Mystic, Nahapassumkeck, Nasnocomacack, Natick, Neponset, Nonantum, Patuxent, Pocapawmet, Sagoquas, Saugus, Secacasaw (Seccasaw), Topeent, Totant, Totheet, Waranock, Wessagusset, and Winnisimmet.
Praying Indian Villages
Cowate, Magaehnak, Natick, Pequimmit, Punkapog, and Titicut, and Wannamanhut.
The Massachuset disappeared as an organized tribe before much could be recorded about them. However, it can be safely presumed from the limited evidence available that they lived in a manner very similar to the other coastal tribes of southern New England. They farmed extensively (corn, beans, squash, and tobacco) but relied heavily on fish and shellfish during the summer. This was supplemented by hunting during the colder months. They moved with the seasons between fixed locations to exploit the available resources. Summer villages were located near the coast. These were fairly large with mid-sized longhouses, but the winter hunting camps using family-sized wigwams were further inland and separated from each other. Politically, they were divided into independent bands, each ruled by sub-chief, or sachem. Although some villages were ruled by women, leadership was usually hereditary and passed through the father to his son. Despite their small numbers, several Massachusett played important roles in New England history. Job Nasutan worked with missionary John Eliot to translate the bible into Algonquin, and Crispus Attucks, killed in the Boston Massacre was the son a free black and a Massachuset mother.
Contact with Europeans probably occurred at an early date, perhaps as soon as John Cabot in 1497, but they were first mentioned specifically by Captain John Smith when he explored the coast of New England in 1614. Disaster struck immediately afterwards in the
form of three separate epidemics that swept across New England between 1614 and 1617 destroying 3/4 of the original native population. During the same period, unidentified rival tribes from the north attacked the Massachuset villages. In 1620 the Pilgrims found most of the Massachuset villages in the region were empty and only recently abandoned. When the first Puritans settled at Boston in 1629, only 500 Massachuset were left in the immediate area, and smallpox killed many of these in 1633. Shortly afterwards, John Eliot began his missionary work among the Massachuset. The new converts were gathered into 14 villages of "Praying Indians." Subject to strict Puritan rules of conduct, their tribal traditions quickly disappeared.
Converts from other tribes were also placed in these Christian communities, and by 1640, the Massachuset had ceased to exist as a separate tribe. Despite this, they were still involved upon occasion in New England's native warfare. After the Mohawk attacked Praying Indians near Boston during 1665, the Massachuset sachem Wampatuck (Chickataubut) led a retaliatory raid on the Mohawk village of Gandouagu in 1669. After a prolonged siege failed, his war party was ambushed on the return journey. At the onset of King Philip's War in 1675, many of the Praying Indians took to the woods and joined Philip's uprising. The Puritan missionaries attempted to collect those who stayed in the vicinity of the main praying village Natick, but only 500 could be found. Relocated to the islands of Boston harbor, the Praying Indians were on the verge being massacred by the English for the duration of the war. Despised by other natives because they had refused to join the uprising, many of the Praying Indians volunteered to help the English as scouts and guides. Used with great effect during 1676, their loyalty was still suspect. Frequently abused, many were deliberately killed by the colonial soldiers they were trying to serve.
By the end of the fighting in 1677, only seven of original fourteen praying villages and 300 Praying Indians had survived. The others had either been killed, starved or driven into exile. They were placed in several villages with peoples from other tribes that had taken part in the uprising. The resulting relationships in these communities are not very difficult to imagine. The population of Praying Indians continued to decline in the years following but never entirely disappeared. Currently, some of their descendants from the praying town at Punkapog are known to still be living in Massachusetts near the cities of Canton, Mattapan, and Mansfield.