The Wampanoag

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Part 3: Suspicions and War

Expanding westward into other Native American territory, English settlers defeated the powerful Pequot and made an alliance with the powerful Mohegan. At the same time, the only other powerful Native American gathering of the period, the Mohawk, had an alliance with the Dutch, who were settled in and around what would become new York. The English "purchase" of New York in 1664 made the Dutch settlements an afterthought and produced a new alliance between the English and the Mohawk.

During all this, the Wampanoag continued to be friendly but cautious to the English people (mainly because they had been devastated by epidemics again and had little choice). Massasoit so enjoyed English customs that he named his two sons English names: Wamsutta, the older brother, became Alexander; Metacomet, the younger brother, became Philip. Massasoit died in 1661, and Alexander became Grand Sachem. Alexander was suspicious of the English people and wanted his own people to be more independent. The leaders of the Plymouth settlement invited Alexander to dinner to discuss their differences. After this dinner, Alexander became violently ill and quickly died. English records list this death as resulting from a fever, but Wampanoag tradition lists this death as murder, especially since Plymouth Council records refer to a "poison."

However he died, Alexander was replaced as Grand Sachem by his younger brother, Metacomet, now called Philip. By this time, the once great group of settlements known as the Wampanoag had been reduced in population to about 1,000. In desperation, Philip tried to stop his people from becoming an afterthought to what he foresaw as continued English expansion. He made journeys to neighboring tribes, urging them to join them in a war against the English settlers. (By this time, the English population was 35,000 and the Native American population was 15,000.) Since he didn't exactly keep his actions secret, Philip found himself summoned to the English settlement of Taunton in 1671. There, he was ordered to give up his people's weapons. Incredibly, he was allowed to walk out of the meeting.

A few years went by, with the English becoming more and more suspicious (although their suspicion was lessened somewhat because Philip didn't attack right away). Philip wanted to wait until his warriors were ready, but events out of his control accelerated the conflict. In June 1675, English settlers killed a Wampanoag near the English settlement at Swansea. The war was on.

The English by this time had come to refer to the Wampanoag Grand Sachem as King Philip. (Historians refer to this conflict as King Philip's War.) The first stages of the war saw Native Americans striking back at English in a series of raids on English settlements and, in response, an English march (burning every Wampanoag village along the way) on Philip's position at Mount Hope (near present-day Bristol, Rhode Island). Philip and his army managed to escape and move into western Massachusetts, where they continued their struggle.

Next page > The End and Enduring > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

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David White