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In the 17th Century, the Pequot dominated what is now eastern Connecticut. Pequot warriors, such as this one, roamed the forests of New England, raiding colonists and other Native American tribes alike. They were the most dreaded tribe in the area.
Tensions between English settlers and Pequot Indians, who inhabited southeastern New England and had made enemies among many other Indian tribes, developed by the early 1630s. These tensions escalated when Pequots killed English colonists and traders in 1633 and 1636. After the murder of an English captain on Block Island in 1636, both sides began to prepare for further hostilities. While English troops arrived to strengthen Saybrook Fort, located at the mouth of the Connecticut River, some Pequot Indians attacked Wethersfield further north, killing nine. This event led the general court of the recently settled river towns—Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield—to declare war on the Pequot Indians in May 1637.
The Beginning Of The End
The Pequot Tribe was an Indian tribe that hunted for meat and barely ate fruit and had settled at the southeastern Connecticut from the Nehantic River and to the east border of Rhode Island. It has been found by anthroplogists that the Pequot and Mohegan were originally a single tribe that had migrated to eastern Connecticut from upper Hudson River valley in New York around 1500.
When both the tribes were included, it was estimated that about 6000 people existed in the tribe in 1620. A major smallpox epidemic in 1633 - 34 and the separation of the Mohegans brought the population of the Pequot to about 3000.
The name of the Pequot tribe was from an Algonquin word, "pekawatawog or pequttoog" that meant 'destroyers'. They were also called by other names like Pekoath, Pequant, Pequatoo and Sickenames (Dutch), Pequod, Pequin (Sequin), Pyquan, Sagimo. They spoke the Y-dialect that was also spoken by the Mohegan, Narragansett, Niantic, and the Montauk and Shinnecock who were from Metoac that was on the eastern end of Long Island.
The Pequot Tribe was an Indian tribe they had settled at the southeastern Connecticut from the Nehantic River and to the east border of Rhode Island. It has been found by anthroplogists that the Pequot and Mohegan were originally a single tribe that had migrated to eastern Connecticut from upper Hudson River valley in New York around 1500. When both the tribes were included, it was estimated that about 6000 people existed in the tribe in 1620. A major smallpox epidemic in 1633 - 34 and the separation of the Mohegans brought the population of the Pequot to about 3000. The name of the Pequot tribe was from an Algonquin word, "pekawatawog or pequttoog" that meant 'destroyers'. They were also called by other names like Pekoath, Pequant, Pequatoo and Sickenames (Dutch), Pequod, Pequin (Sequin), Pyquan, Sagimo. They spoke the Y-dialect that was also spoken by the Mohegan, Narragansett, Niantic, and the Montauk and Shinnecock who were from Metoac that was on the eastern end of Long Island. The Pequot were not happy to share their land with the European settlers. They worked aggressively to control their land in all directions. The control of fur trade lead to a series of tension between the Pequot and the New Settlers. The Mohican gave their alliance to the English after their split from the Pequot tribe.
The Pequot were not happy to share their land with the European settlers. They worked aggressively to control their land in all directions. The control of fur trade lead to a series of tension between the Pequot and the New Settlers. The Mohican gave their alliance to the English after their split from the Pequot tribe.
The Pequots were broken after the loss of life and land. They could not cultivate crops and had no help from their native allies. This made the left over tribe to break into small bands and flee for their lives. This made them an easy prey and many of the people especially the women and children were taken as slaves.
The English were not satisfied with their win over the Mystic river and wanted Sassacus, the Pequot grand sachem. At the end of June, Mason was joined by Thomas Staughton who came with 120 men and went on to capture Sassacus. Mason, Staughton, and the Mohegan followed a slow-moving band of Saasacus west. If any Pequot captured en route offered any resistance, his head would be smashed and placed on a tree as a warning at a place, today known as Sachem Head.
Finally, they managed to catch up with Sassacus at Sasqua, a Pequannock village near Fairfeild, Connecticut. The Pequot retreated to a hidden fort and after negotiations, 200 Pequannock men, women and children were allowed to leave. The Pequot refused to surrender and Sassacus along with 80 warriors managed to break free. However, 180 were captured and others killed.
Sassacus and his men fled to west New York and had to turn to their old enemies for help. The Mohawk had not forgotten the past and the minute the Pequot reached their village, they were attacked before even being allowed to speak. The Mohawk cut off Sassacus's head and sent it to Hartford as a gesture of friendship with the English. The remaining Pequots turned to the Mahican at Schaghticoke. However, they were soon hunted down as they had no refuge. The General Court in Hartford had imposed a heavy fine to all those providing refuge to the Pequot. Most of them were killed and the remaining sachems surrendered.
In 1637, only about half of the 3000 Pequots survived the war. The Pequot were dismembered under the peace signed in Hartford in September, 1638. Those 180 captured were distributed as slave. 80 went to the Mohegan, 80 to the N
arragansett and 20 to the Eastern Niantic. Of the other 80 captured by the English, 30 were executed and the women and children sent as slaves to Bermuda and West Indies. Others were made 'servant' to the New England households till their death. The remaining 1000 Pequot were added to the Mohegan tribe. This made them the most powerful tribe and they were able to defeat the Narragansett in 1644.
Within that area the Pequots occupied a number of small villages, each generally containing not more than twenty houses. In addition, there were smaller clusters of houses and occasional single residences separated from the villages. Throughout the year families moved to different locales to exploit a variety of resources.
The first documented encounter between the New England region's native people and Europeans occurred in 1524 when Giovanni da Verrazano sailed into Narragansett Bay. Unfortunately, Verrazano did not identify the people with whom he met. It was not until 1614, when the Dutch captain Adrian Block sailed into the same area, that mention was first made of the "Pequatoos," and it was not until the 1630s that active, regular contact was established between the Pequots and the Dutch. Trade with the English began around 1630.
That contact proved disastrous for the Pequots. By 1637 they had become embroiled in a war with the English that resulted in the destruction of their main village and the death of more than four hundred of their members. However, it was not simply the attacks by the English that defeated the tribe; equally important were the effects of disease in the early part of the 1630s that reduced tribal numbers from an estimated four thousand to nearly half that number.
Following the Pequot War, the English sought to eliminate the surviving tribal members by selling some into slavery and attaching the remainder to the neighboring Mohegans, Narragansetts, and Niantics. The effort did not succeed, however, and within twenty years two distinct groups emerged: one, under the leadership of Cassacinamon, eventually became today's Mashantucket (Western) Pequots; the other, under Harmon Garrett, was called the Paucatuck (Eastern) Pequots. The subsequent history of the Pequots is the history of these two tribes.
By 1700, both tribes had managed to secure reservations within their former territory. In 1651, the Mashantucket Pequots were granted five hundred acres at Noank (New London). Because the land at Noank was so unproductive, the tribe petitioned for additional land elsewhere, which was granted in 1666. This land was located on the northwest side of Long Pond, where the present-day town of Ledyard, Connecticut, stands. In 1683, the Paucatuck Pequots were granted a reservation in the present-day town of North Stonington, along the eastern shore of Long Pond. The Paucatuck Pequots were quick to take up residency on their reservation, unlike the Mashantucket tribe, which continued to occupy its land at Noank. It was not until 1720 that the tribe completed its removal to its new lands, which were proximate to but separate from those of the Paucatuck Pequot tribe.
Throughout the eighteenth century and for much of the nineteenth, the two tribes were known by the names of the communities in which their reservations were located. The larger of the tribes (Mashantucket) was called the Groton tribe and the smaller (Paucatuck) the Stonington tribe. The two tribes have faced similar challenges over the last three hundred years. During the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth, local residents successfully applied pressure to reduce the tribal holdings, so that by 1860 each tribe had less than 250 acres left from the several thousand they owned in 1700.
Their populations similarly declined, in part because of the scattering of tribal members as a result of the loss of land and livelihoods, and in part because of an exodus in the 1770s to New York State as part of the Brothertown movement, led by Samson Occom, a Mohegan minister. By 1860, the two tribes had been reduced to fewer than fifty members each, a majority of those being women and children who made a meager living from subsistence farming, supplemented by domestic work and the sale of wild berries and homemade splint baskets. Many of the men were engaged either as farmhands or as sailors on the whaling ships that sailed from Groton and New London.
Tribal government devolved to the women. In one of the many ironies connected with these tribes, as a result of the illegal sale of their lands, the two tribes had small bank accounts, which the state-appointed overseers used to pay the expenses of the tribe. These expenses included providing for the support of indigent members as well as paying the salaries and expenses of the overseers. These funds remained active until the 1970s, when the tribes withdrew them from state control.
Little changed for the two tribes during the first half of the twentieth century, except that the numbers residing on the reservation declined steadily. By 1900, there were fewer than twenty members living at Mashantucket and about the same number at Paucatuck. By 1930, these numbers had been halved. But both tribes continued to function and control their land and resources,
and both tribes had active leaders. In the case of the Paucatuck Pequots, the most prominent leaders early in the century were Ephraim Williams and, later, Atwood Williams. At Mashantucket, the leaders were two women, half sisters: Elizabeth George Plouffe and Martha Langevin Ellal. They led the tribe until their deaths in the 1970s.
The 1970s saw a major divergence in the histories of the tribes. After the deaths of the twowomen, the Mashantucket Pequots reorganized under the leadership of Richard Hayward, the grandson of Mrs. Plouffe, and initiated steps to recover the lands illegally lost in the previous century and to gain federal recognition.
After a lengthy struggle, including an initial veto of their recognition by President Ronald Reagan, the Mashantucket Pequots prevailed and were recognized in 1983, and their land claims were settled. With the nine hundred thousand dollars it received from the land settlement, the tribe embarked on an ambitious program of economic development, land acquisition, and repatriation of its members. By 1994 tribal membership had increased to three hundred. The result of federal recognition has been a tribal renaissance.
By contrast, the Paucatuck Pequots, although they have embarked on a similar road, have been unable to achieve federal recognition or the settlement of their land claims, largely because of a factional dispute. Through the 1980s two groups emerged on the reservation, each representing a major family, and these parties have been unable to reconcile their differences. It is impossible to get a membership count to which both sides will agree. The result has been a stalemate.
But on 26 May 1637, captains John Underhill and John Mason led another retaliatory expedition through Narragansett territory and struck the Pequot settlement in Mystic. Mason's order to his soldiers and Narragansett allies was "Let us burn them." The settlement,
comprised mostly of women and cildren, was desimated. An estimated thirty or forty Pequots escaped. The ones who were captured were sold into slavery in Boston, meeting there fates in the plantations of the Bermuda. In the following weeks, the warriors were hunted down and killed.
The war officially ended on September 1638 when the few survivors of the Pequot tribe were foced to sign the Treaty of Hartfod, also called the Tripartite Treaty, declaring the Pequot nation to be dissolved.
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