Native Americans of New York
Image: Tribal Territories in New York
Abenaki is actually a geographical and linguistic (rather than political) grouping. Before contact with Europeans, individual tribes were the usual level of political organization. Occasionally, several tribes would unite under a powerful sachem (chief) for purposes of war, but the Abenaki were noteworthy for their general lack of central authority. Even at the tribal level, the authority of their sachems was limited, and important decisions, such as war and peace, usually required a meeting of all adults.
In many ways, the lack of a central government served the Abenaki well. In times of war, they could abandon their villages, separate into small bands, and regroup in a distant refuge beyond the reach of their enemies. It was a strategy that confounded repeated efforts by both the Iroquois and English to conquer them. Largely invisible over the years, the Abenaki have remained in their homeland by living in scattered, small bands. The Abenaki Confederacy didn’t even exist until after 1670, and then only in response to continuous wars with the Iroquois and the English colonists.
History of the Delaware Indians
Image: Gnadenhutten Massacre Monument
This 37-foot monument is located next to a reconstructed cabin in the original Gnadenhutten village in Ohio, where Delaware Indians were needlessly killed by American militia. The inscription reads: “Here triumphed in death ninety Christian Indians, March 8, 1782.”
Delaware is the English name given to several closely related Native American groups, because they lived in the vicinity of the Delaware River. They called themselves the Lenape. During the 17th century, they lived in what is now New Jersey, Delaware, eastern Pennsylvania, and southeastern New York.
Rhode Island Tribes
Image: Native American Territories in the state of Rhode Island
In the early seventeenth century, Narragansett Native Americans occupied most of Rhode Island, from Narragansett Bay on the east to the Pawcatuck River on the west. They were the largest and strongest chiefdom in New England. They escaped the great pestilence of 1617 that swept through southern New England, and the remnants of other tribes who had suffered joined them for protection, making the Narragansett a powerful tribe.
The word Narragansett means the people at the small narrow point. They were of the Eastern Woodlands culture. They were made up of several sub-tribes, each with a chief (sachem). Their population was around 10,000 in the 1600s. When the English began colonizing New England in 1620, the Narragansetts had not been affected by the epidemics, and were the most powerful native nation in southern New England.
The Lenni Lenape
Image: Map of Lenapehoking
The Lenape (Len-AH-pay) lived in an area they called Lenapehoking, which means Land of the Lenape. Their land included what is now New Jersey, along the Delaware River, the lower Hudson Valley and lower Manhattan Island when the Europeans arrived. As part of the Eastern Woodlands, Lenapehoking had many rivers, streams and lakes and was densely forested and rich in wildlife.
In the 17th century, the Lenape or Lenni Lenape were organized bands of Native American peoples with shared cultures and languages. Their Algonquian language is known as either Lenape or Delaware.
The Year: 1636
Image: Connecticut Tribes Map
There were originally many small American Indian tribes in Connecticut, including the Nipmuc, Mohegan, Pequot, and the Niantic. Though all of them spoke related languages and shared many cultural similarities, each tribe had its own leadership and its own territory. European epidemics and warfare devastated the Connecticut Indians, and the survivors had to merge with other tribes to survive. All of their languages have been lost, but native people continue to preserve their cultural heritage in Connecticut today.
The northeast section of Connecticut and part of Massachusetts was occupied by the Nipmuc tribe. This group actually includes four tribes or bands – the Nipmucks, Nashaways, Quabaugs, and Wabaquassets. Since the Nipmuc homeland starts only thirty miles west of Boston harbor, contacts with English colonists began almost immediately after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620 and increased dramatically after the settlement of Massachusetts Bay by the Puritans in 1630. Boston traders reached the Connecticut River in 1633, and Puritan missionaries were close behind them.
Colony of New Haven
Image: Quinnipiac Memorial Monument
Fort Wooster Park, New Haven, Connecticut
Monument to Native Americans
This monument to local Indians, whose ancient place names like Hammonasset and Wepawaug still identify the landscape, was dedicated on November 12, 2000. It stands above New Haven Harbor, looking down upon rich fishing and oystering grounds, and memorilizes the small tribe who educated the colonists in wilderness skills and helped protect them against raiding parties from larger tribes such as the Pequots.
Puritans Have Landed
By the time of early European colonization attempts, there were over 30,000 Native Americans in Massachusetts living amongst a variety of tribes belonging to the Algonquin language group. Some of the most well known tribes were the Wampanoag, Pequot, Nipmuck, and the Massachuset. They lived in small bands and had no supreme chief.
Unfortunately, the Europeans would bring with them diseases that the Native Americans had no immunity against, resulting in large deadly epidemics. The Native population continued to suffer from disease and warfare throughout the remainder of the 17th century. Nearly ninety percent of the Native population were killed during that period.