[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. At the end of this History you will find links to those Nations referred to in the History of the Nauset.

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]

Nauset Location

Cape Cod in southeastern Massachusetts.


The Nauset were never numerous. The original population was probably around 1,500 in 1600 before the epidemics. In 1621 there were about 500 Nauset, and this number remained fairly constant up until 1675. Following the King Philip's War, the Nauset were joined by the remnants of other New

England tribes displaced either by warfare or English settlement. In 1698 nearly 600 of this composite group were concentrated at Mashpee. An epidemic during 1710 reduced them to about 300. Through the years, the native community at Mashpee has become associated with the Wampanoag, although many of its members are descendents of the Nauset. The current population is about 1,100.


Sometimes referred to as the Cape Indians.


Algonquin. N-dialect similar to the neighboring Wampanoag, Massachuset, Niantic and Narragansett.


Aquetnet, Ashimuit (Ashimut), Cataumut (Codtaumut), Cummaquid, Manamoick (Manamovili, Manmoyik, Monomoyik, Monomoyk, Quasson), Namasket (Namaskaket, Namskaket, Nemskaket), Nauset, Nobscusset (Nobsqussit), Pamet, Pawpoesit, Pispogutt (Pispoqutt), Pocasset (2), Pochet, Pocapawmet, Poponesset, Potanumaquut, Punonakanit (Ponoakanet), Satucket (Sawkatuket), Satuit, Skauton, Succonesset (Sokones), Tonset, and Weesquob.
Praying Villages after 1680:
Coatuit, Mashpee (Marshpee), Mattakesset (Mattachiest, Mattakees), Meeshawn (Mushawn), and Waquoit (Wakoquet, Weequakut).

Similar to other southern New England Algonquin except for a heavier reliance on seafood.


Shortly after Columbus' voyage to the New World in 1492, a steady stream of European explorers, fishermen, and adventurers began regular visits to the coast of New England. Located on a landmark as obvious as Cape Cod, the Nauset had contact with Europeans at an early date, but these first meetings were not always friendly. European captains riding the Gulf Stream home from the Carribean were often tempted to increase profits by the last minute addition of some human cargo. The Nauset soon learned from sad experience that the white men from these strange ships frequently came ashore, not for trade, but to steal food and capture slaves. More so than the neighboring Wampanoag and other New England Algonquin, the Nauset were hostile to Europeans, and when the French expedition under Samuel de Champlain visited Cape Cod in 1606, the Nauset were not friendly.

Although the Nauset would usually abandon their villages and retreat inland at the approach of a European ship, they continued to be victimized by sailors of all nationalities. In 1614 Captain Thomas Hunt captured seven Nauset and twenty Patuxet (one of whom was Squanto who later gained fame as a friend of the Pilgrims in Plymouth) and later sold them as slaves in Spain. Kidnapping and enslaving 27 of their people was a minor offense compared to the other thing Thomas Hunt did to the New England Algonquin. It appears there was a terrible sickness among Hunt's crew that was inadvertently passed to the Nauset and Wampanoag in the course of his raid. Spreading quickly through the native population in three waves, it killed 75% of the original residents of New England and the Canadian maritimes between 1614 and 1617.

Six years later, the Mayflower brought the first English settlers to New England. The destination was supposed to be the mouth of the Hudson River, but battered by storms and running out of supplies, they anchored off Cape Cod in November, 1620. A landing party was sent ashore to search for food and stumbled across a Nauset burial site filled with the recent victims of the epidemics - although it is doubtful the Nauset at this time had made the association between Europeans and their diseases. Finding corn which had been left beside the graves, they began digging around for more. When the Nauset discovered the desecration in progress, angry warriors sent the Pilgrims running for their lives. In retrospect it would have been better for the Nauset if they had fed the English, given them all the corn they needed, and sent them on their way south. Instead, the Mayflower sailed across Cape Cod Bay and deposited its cargo of colonists at Plymouth. The English had come to New England to stay!

This experience made the Pilgrims suspicious of the Nauset, but through the intercession of the Wampanoag sachem, Massasoit, relations improved. Early in, 1621 a young boy wandered off into the woods from Plymouth and became lost. Found by a Nauset hunting party, he was taken to their head sachem Aspinet at his village near Truro. Upon learning Aspinet had the boy, the English arranged a meeting through Iyanough, the Cummaquid sachem. Relations were still tense, but after an exchange of apologies and payment for the corn taken in November, Aspinet returned the boy. A warm friendship developed between the Pilgrims and Nauset, and during the winter of 1622, Aspinet is believed to have brought food to Plymouth which saved many from starvation. In the beginning, English settlements did not intrude into the Nauset homeland on Cape Cod. The exception being the small community started at Wessgussett in 1622. Unfortunately, this was probably the source of an epidemic which swept through the Nauset in 1623 killing both Aspinet and Iyanough.

Otherwise, the English presence at Plymouth was close enough for trade and provided some protection from slave raids by other Europeans. Despite the epidemic, there was little friction in the years which followed, and the Nauset maintained good relations with the colonists throughout the colonial period. Beginning about 1640, the missionary efforts of John Elliot succeeded in converting most of the Nauset to Christianity by the time of the King Philip's War (1675-76). Unlike many of the "Praying Indians," the Nauset did not join the Wampanoag in the uprising and remained loyal to the English. Although the colonists were inclined to suspect all natives, Christian or traditional, the Nauset were already isolated on Cape Cod, and the English did find it necessary to relocate them to "plantations of confinement." During the last year of the war, many Nauset warriors volunteered their services to the English army as scouts.

First Nations referred to in this Nauset History:


Comments concerning this "history" would be appreciated. Direct same to Lee Sultzman.

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