[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 Pocumtuc.
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]
The Connecticut River Valley of western Massachusetts from just south of the border with Connecticut northward into southern Vermont and southwestern New Hampshire.
Perhaps as many as 5,000 in 1600, the Pocumtuc population declined rapidly from epidemic and wars with the Iroquois and English. For the most part, the Pocumtuc were destroyed during the King Philip's War (1675-76). A mixed group of 600 Pocumtuc and Nipmuc refugees relocated to the Mahican village at Schaghticook on the Hudson River (New York). Others went north to the western Abenaki (Sokoki) at either Missisquoi or Odanak (St. Francois du Lac) in Quebec. By 1758 the last groups of Pocumtuc and Nipmuc at Schaghticook had left and joined their relatives living with the Sokoki. It can safely be assumed that the current populations of the Vermont Abenaki in the United States and the St. Francois and Bcancour Abenaki in Canada contain descendents of the Pocumtuc.
Algonquin. R-dialect like Mahican and Mattabesic.
Pocumtuc Confederacy:Agawam (Agawome, Nayusset), Mayawaug, Nameroke, Nonotuck (Nonotuc), Norwottuck (Nalvotogy, Norwootuc), Pachasock, Pocumtuc (Pocomtook, Pocomtuc, Pocumtook, Pocutuc, Pokamtakuke), Scitico (Skittico, Squitkko), Squawkeag (Squaeg, Squakheag) (also considered Nipmuc or western Abenaki), and Woronoco (Waranoke, Woroanoke, Woronock, Woronoake)Other names associated with the Pocumtuc:
Connecticut Mattabesic associated with the Pocumtuc: Newashe (Nawaas), Peskantuk (Peskeomskut), Poquonock, and Sicaog (Saukiog, Sukiang).Nawaas, Pangusset, Peskeomskut, Popuonock, and Saukiog.
Like other New England Algonquin, the Pocumtuc were an agriculture people who lived in one of the most fertile farming areas in New England. Their homeland also abounded with game, and during the spring they were able to take advantage of large fish runs up the Connecticut and
its tributaries. Besides the obvious north-south transportation provided by the Connecticut River (Quinnitukqut "long river"), the Pocumtuc homeland sat astride several important east-west trade routes, including the Mohawk Trail, which linked Native Americans in the interior with those on the Atlantic coast. Due to frequent warfare with the neighboring Mohawk, most of their larger villages were heavily fortified, and for mutual protection, the Pocumtuc tribes were politically organized under a loose confederation. Although still available for hunting, by 1630 the Berkshire Mountains immediately west of the Pocumtuc villages were mostly uninhabited due to constant war.
The competition between the Mohawk and Mahican for control of the mountainous area between the Hudson and Connecticut Rivers had existed for many years before the coming of the Europeans. Linked to the Mahican by a common language and dialect, the Pocumtuc became involved in this conflict as allies of the Mahican. One known incident in this warfare occurred in 1606, when a large Mohawk war party attacked the Pocumtuc fort near Deerfield, Massachusetts. The arrival of Dutch fur traders on the Hudson River in 1610 only aggravated the situation. With both parties eager to trade, the Dutch arranged a truce between the Mahican and Mohawk, but within a few years warfare resumed and made further trade impossible. It took the Dutch seven years to arrange another truce, but peace had no sooner come than the Mohawk learned the Dutch and Mahican were attempting to open trade into the St. Lawrence Valley with the Algonkin and Huron. Furious with this attempt to by-pass them and trade with their enemies, the Mohawk attacked the Mahican in 1624.
Both the Pocumtuc and Sokoki (Western Abenaki) were drawn into this war as allies of the Mahican, but by 1628 the Mohawk had defeated the Mahican and forced them east of the Hudson River. Established as the dominant Dutch trading partner, the Mohawk then turned their attention on the allies of the Mahican and attacked the Sokoki villages during the following year. The Pocumtuc, however, were spared somewhat, since they were protected by the Mahican villages located along the upper Housatonic Valley in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. Up to this point (1630), the Pocumtuc had been relatively isolated from direct contact with Europeans, but this was coming to an end. A major smallpox epidemic swept across New England in 1633-35, and at least 500 Pocumtuc fell victim to it. By 1633 English traders had begun making the overland journey from Plymouth and Boston and reached the Connecticut River. Their first permanent trading post was established just south of the Pocumtuc homeland near Windsor, Connecticut. The location effectively intercepted all furs travelling down the Connecticut for the Dutch traders on the lower river.
Having enjoyed a monopoly for several years with the trade along the Connecticut River, the Dutch were upset by the new competition and responded by fortifying their trading post at Hartford. The English countered with their own fort at Saybrook near the mouth of the river, and the Dutch were cut off. Although opposed by the Pequot, settlements followed, and the English began to occupy the Connecticut Valley. In July of 1636, the Agawam sold the first parcel of Pocumtuc land to the English, and John Pynchon built a trading post near their village at Springfield, Massachusetts. During 1637 the Pequot were destroyed during a war with the English. Settlement swept unopposed into Connecticut afterwards, and backed by the English, the Mohegan and their sachem Uncas emerged as the dominant tribe in the area. If anything, Uncas soon proved to be more ambitious and aggressive than the Pequot. Alarmed by the sudden power of the Mohegan, the Pocumtuc joined an alliance in 1640 with the Narragansett and Tunxis (Mattabesic) to oppose them. The alliance, however, had little effect. After the Mohegan defeated the Narragansett in a battle fought at Shetucket in 1643, several of the Mattabesic tribes in western Connecticut came under Mohegan control and were forced to pay tribute.
Meanwhile, attempts by English traders to lure the Mohawk from the Dutch by selling them firearms (forbidden by English law until after 1665) had forced the Dutch to reverse their previous policy and offer unlimited amounts of guns and ammunition to the Iroquois on credit. In the process, the Mahican also became well-armed, and the result was a major escalation in the violence of native warfare. Since both were Dutch allies, the Mahican and Mohawk "buried the hatchet" and by 1642 were cooperating to the extent they were sending joint war parties against the Montagnais (French allies) on the St.Lawrence River. They also were harassing and demanding tribute from the Wappinger (Munsee Delaware in the lower Hudson Valley). After groups of Wappinger moved close to the Dutch settlements for protection, Dutch soldiers massacred 80 of them at Pavonia (Jersey City). The Wappinger retaliated, and the Wappinger War (1643-45) quickly spread to include the other Delaware in New Jersey and the western end of Long Island. Some of the western groups of the Metoac on Long Island also became involved. To cope, the Dutch called on the. Mahican and Mohawk. Even the English colonists from Connecticut helped the Dutch, and by the 1645 the Delaware had been defeated with heavy losses. Many were absorbed by the Mahican, but some groups moved north to join the Pocumtuc.
The increasing violence in native warfare climaxed during the winter of 1648-49 when the Dutch-allied Iroquois overran the Huron Confederation and sent alarms throughout the French and English colonies. As the other Iroquois were systematically wiping out their remaining rivals in the Great Lakes, Mohawk war parties struck the Pocumtuc and Sokoki villages in 1650. By this time, even the Mahican were becoming concerned with the Iroquois. With their fur trade in shambles and their settlements threatened, the French encouraged an Algonquin alliance of the Pocumtuc, Sokoni, Pennacook, and Mahican to counter the Iroquois. Although asked to join, New England was more suspicious of the French than the Dutch and, not wishing to offend the Iroquois, declined. The new alliance succeeded in halting the Mohawk attacks, but the relief was only temporary, since the Mohawk were concentrating on their war against the Susquehannock in Pennsylvania. When this conflict ended in 1655, the Mohawk turned in a fury against their Algonquin enemies in the east. Encouraged by the Dutch, the Mahican in 1658 made a separate peace with the Mohawk and withdrew from the alliance leaving the Pocumtuc, Sokoki, and Pennacook to fight the Mohawk by themselves.
As if the Pocumtuc did not have enough trouble with the Mohawk, they also had problems with the Mohegan in defense of their Mattabesic allies in Connecticut. During the winter of 1658-59, there was a brief war during which the Pocumtuc sachem Onapequin led a punitive raid against the Mohegan villages. The war with the Mohawk, however, was anything but brief, and it quickly spread across western and northern New England. By 1660 it had reached the Abenaki in Maine who were attacked by the Mohawk because they were helping the Sokoki and Montagnais. The Penobscot were raided in 1662 for the same reason. Meanwhile, the Iroquois had discovered the Mahican were up to their old tricks and once again trying to arrange trade between the Dutch, Sokoki and Algonkin. When the Mahican were attacked and drawn back into the fighting in 1662, the Iroquois were at war with virtually every Algonquin tribe in New England (only exceptions: Wampanoag, Nauset, Narragansett, Niantic, and Mohegan).
Well-supplied with guns and ammunition by English and French traders (who made good profits in the process), the Algonquin at first held their own. In an exchange of raids, Algonquin and Mohawk war parties travelled both directions along the Mohawk Trail (a trade route in more peaceful times). Warriors from Squawkeag attacked the eastern Mohawk villages in 1663, but by this time the Mahican had been driven from the Hudson Valley and had retreated to the Housatonic River in western Massachusetts. By the summer of 1663, the Pocumtuc were bearing the brunt of the fighting and asked the Dutch to arrange a peace. This effort proved fruitless, however, and in December a large Mohawk and Seneca war party attacked the main Pocumtuc village at Fort Hill (Deerfield, Massachusetts). The attack failed with the Iroquois losing more than 200 warriors, but the Pocumtuc were running out of men. The Pennacook and Sokoki sent reinforcements, but in the spring of 1664, the Pocumtuc abandoned Fort Hill.
The Pocumtuc still wanted peace and approached the Mohawk directly about this. Stunned by their losses in December, the Mohawk agreed to a conference, but the Pocumtuc's allies were determined to keep fighting, and wishing to keep the Pocumtuc in the war, the Mohawk ambassadors were murdered in June while enroute to their meeting with the Pocumtuc. Followed by a Sokoki and Mahican attack on the Mohawk villages, peace became impossible. When the Mohawk resumed their attacks, the Pocumtuc were forced to abandon most of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts. Squawkeag survived as a mixed village of Pocumtuc, Sokoki, and Nipmuc, but the other Pocumtuc were forced south to Agawam and Norwottuck or east to seek refuge with the Pennacook. In the midst of this, the English had taken New York from the Dutch, and shortly afterwards signed a treaty of trade and friendship with the Mohawk. No longer concerned about the possibility of becoming involved in a war with the English, the Iroquois swept east in pursuit of the Pocumtuc's Sokoki and Pennacook allies, and the Mohawk even raided the Pennacook villages near Boston during 1665. At the same time New England traders abandoned the Algonquin and moved west to Albany to trade with the Iroquois.
The arrival of 1,200 French soldiers in Canada and their attacks on the Mohawk villages during the winter of 1665-66 brought some relief, but in forcing the Iroquois to ask the English for help, the French pushed the Iroquois into an alliance with the English. With their treaty of trade and friendship changed into a military alliance, the Mohawk resumed their war against the New England Algonquin. During the summer of 1666, the Mohawk exchanged raids with the Pennacook, Sokoki and Kennebec, but by 1668 the Mohawk had driven the Pennacook from their homeland in New Hampshire to the vicinity of the Abenaki villages in southern Maine. The Algonquin attempted to retaliate, and a war party of New England Algonquin led by a Massachuset sachem attacked a Mohawk village in 1669 only to be ambushed on their way home. While the English stood idly by, the fighting ended in 1670 and the Mohawk had cleared out most of the resident Algonquins tribes of western New England for them.
Meanwhile, English settlement had been moving slowly up the Connecticut River into western Massachusetts and the Pocumtuc homeland. In spite of the nearby warfare, lands near Springfield had been purchased from the Pocumtuc and were allotted for settlement during 1653. Their refusal to join the French-sponsored Algonquin alliance in 1650 had turned out to be a wise decision for the English, and in gratitude, the Iroquois had been careful to avoid English settlements and trading posts during the fighting. They also appreciated that the English had ended their trade and support of the Algonquins after 1664. During the 1660s there was flood of new Puritan immigration into New England, and much of this settled in the now almost-deserted Connecticut Valley. New settlements sprang up at Westfield, Northampton, Hadley, Hatfield, Deerfield, and Northfield. The Mohawks, who had no intention of occupying the area, made no objection to this but still came every year to collect tribute from the small groups of Pocumtuc who had remained in the Connecticut Valley.
As the Mohawk stood ready to crush any Algonquin uprising, it must have been galling for the Pocumtuc to pay this tribute and at the same time watch the English, who had betrayed them, take their lands. It should come as no surprise that during the King Philip's War (1675-76), many of the Pocumtuc joined Philip and the Wampanoag against the English colonists. After a series of attacks against the settlements in southeastern Massachusetts, Philip eluded the English soldiers sent after him in July and moved west to the Nipmuc country to continue the war in the Connecticut Valley. Reinforced by the Nipmuc led by Sagamore Sam and the Pocumtuc of Sancumachu, Philip's warriors attacked Northfield and Deerfield in September, while 700 of Sancumachu's Pocumtuc wiped out an entire detachment of English soldiers near Hadley. The attacks moved south afterwards and hit the settlements and farms at Westfield, Northampton, and Springfield. Even the Agawam, who had always been friendly to the English and sold them land, joined Philip. By the coming of winter, the English were on the defensive and confined to their forts.
This was probably the high-point of the war for Philip and the low-point for the English. With plenty of firearms and more than enough warriors, Philip's eventual defeat was caused by the problem that plagued Native Americans in all their wars with Europeans - the inability to feed an army in the field for an extended period. As hunger stalked his winter village at Hoosick, New York, Philip turned to the Iroquois for help. Not only was this refused, but at the urging of the governor of New York, the Mohawk entered the war on the side of the English. Forced to leave New York, Philip moved to Squawkeag and gathered a large force of warriors. Unable to wait for the start of warmer weather to resume his offensive, Philip launched a series of raids throughout New England during February, 1676. In March Sancumachu's Pocumtuc joined with the Narragansett to attack Northfield, but hunger was proving to be a greater enemy than the English. In May the English attacked a fishing camp near Turner's Falls and killed over 400 of Philip's followers including Sancumachu.
Still without food, the alliance fell apart. Philip and the Wampanoag returned to southeastern Massachusetts but were hunted down until Philip was finally trapped in a swamp and killed in August. The English and Mohawk, however, kept after Philip's followers and burned the cornfields at Squawkeag in November. For all intents and purposes, the Pocumtuc ceased to exist at this point. With the Mohawk after them, many of them joined the Sokoki and retreated north with them to their villages at Missisquoi, Cowass, and St. Francois in Quebec. Although a few small bands remained along the Connecticut River until the 1800s, most of the other Pocumtuc abandoned their homeland and moved west and settled with the Mahican in the Housatonic Valley or accepted the offer of sanctuary at Schaghticoke from the governor of New York. Mixed with Nipmuc and other refugees from New England, tribal identification in the mixed population at this village on the Hudson quickly became impossible, and the English came to refer to them as River Indians or Schaghticoke. Enough Pocumtuc, Sokoki, and Nipmuc, however, remained in the vicinity of Squawkeag after the war to make several very-questionable sales of land to the English in 1678, 1686, and 1687.
Although forced to leave Massachusetts, the Pocumtuc continued, as part of the Sokoki and St. Francois Indians, to fight the English, and in the fall of 1677, a Norwottuck war chief named Ashpelon led a series of raids against Deerfield and Hatfield. Their real opportunities for vengeance came during the King William's (1689-97) and Queen Anne's Wars (1701-13) between Britain and France, and throughout these conflicts, attacks by the St. Francois and Abenaki wreaked death and destruction throughout New England. The Pocumtuc and Nipmuc refugees at Schaghticoke, however, found themselves in the awkward position of neutrals whose loyalty was suspect to the English, while they were despised by their relatives fighting for the French. Forced to choose, there was a steady exodus to Canada from Schaghticoke until the last 60 left for the north with a war party from St. Francois in 1757.
One of the Pocumtuc from Schaghticoke who left even earlier was a Woroanoke named Grey Lock. After joining the Sokoki at Missisquoi, he became a feared and respected war leader. During Grey Lock's War (1723-27), Grey Lock's raids from his village hidden near Missisquoi terrorized most of western New England. Try as they could, the English were unable to kill or capture Grey Lock (Wawanotewat "he who fools others"), nor could they stop the attacks led by this dangerous and elusive Pocumtuc. Years later, however, they named the highest mountain in Massachusetts after him.
First Nations referred to in this Pocumtuc History: