The Wampanoag

Map of the Wampanoag Territory
Much of the area that became Plymouth Colony was originally land inhabited by the Wampanoag. The Wampanoag were led by Massasoit Ousamequin (usually known as just Massasoit). In the language of the Wampanoag, Massasoit means Great Sachem. Prior to the Pilgrims settling in the area, other English had traveled there. Unfortunately, they had spread disease to the Wampanoag, causing wide-spread death amongst the tribe. With the Wampanoag nation weakened, the Narragansett tried to take over the Wampanoag land. When the Pilgrims arrived, Massasoit sought out an alliance with the English. This established peace between the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims and also provided support in defending their land from the Narragansett.

When Roger Williams came to Plymouth, he established trade relations with the Wampanoag. He became a close associate of Massasoit, learning the Wampanoag language and culture. In 1636, when Roger fled from Massachusetts Bay Colony, he was found by the Wampanoag. They cared for him for the remainder of that winter. That spring Massasoit offered Roger land on the east bank of the Seekonk River. However, this land was still considered part of Plymouth Colony, so Roger had to cross the River into Narragansett territory.

Massasoit had two sons. His eldest, Wamsutta or Alexander, became Sachem after Massasoit’s death. Around a year later, his younger brother, Metacom or Philip, rose to Sachem after Wamsata’s mysterious death. Although relations between the English and Wampanoag had become strained, things worsened with the deaths of Massosoit and Wamsata. Eventually these issues led to the outbreak of the conflict known as the King Philip's war.
 

Last updated: October 4, 2020

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