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This article is about the Native American tribe. For the Wampanoag leader known to English settlers as Alexander Pokanoket, see Wamsutta.
Statue of Pokanoket leader Massasoit Ousamequin in Plymouth

The Pokanoket tribe was the headship tribe of the many tribes that make up the Wampanoag Nation, which was at times referred to as the Pokanoket Nation or the Pokanoket Confederacy or known as the Pokanoket Country. Each tribe of the Wampanoag Nation was composed of bands and villages. The Pokanoket tribe is best known for the "first Thanksgiving" with the Pilgrims.


The political seat of the many bands that are collectively known as the Wampanoag Nation was located in the realm of Pokanoket, where one of the most significant historic sites is found on Mount Hope (Potumtuk - The lookout of Pokanoket). At the time of the pilgrims’ arrival in Plymouth the realm of Pokanoket included parts of Rhode Island and much of Southeastern Massachusetts. Pokanoket social organization developed in a manner that differed from neighboring groups, since Pokanoket was more socially striated and politically complex. Archaeological excavations of Pokanoket burial sites indicate that wealth, such as wampum, was concentrated among a few individuals. European historic accounts of Pokanoket social life noted the political authority of the Massasoit (Great Leader). Unique to the Pokanoket was the spiritual and military elite known as the pniese (Pine E' See) who protected and served this Great Leader.

The realm of the Pokanoket was extensive and known to the Pilgrims before they arrived at Plymouth on the Mayflower in 1620. The leader of the Pilgrims, William Bradford, wrote of advice he had received before the Pilgrims sailed: “The Pokanokets, which live to the west of Plymouth, bear an inveterate malice to the English, and are of more strength than all the savages from there to Penobscot [in Maine]. Their desire of revenge was occasioned by an English man, who having many of them on board [a ship], made a great slaughter with their murderers and small shot, when (as they [the Pokanoket] say) they offered no injury on their part.” The place of Sowams, consisting of modern-day Bristol, Barrington, and Warren, Rhode Island, was the main settlement of the Pokanoket when the Pilgrims arrived. Pauqu-un-auk-it means "Land at the clearing", and Bradford had been told that the land of the Pokanoket had “the richest soil, and much open ground fit for English grain, etc.”, giving hint of the conflicts over land that would soon develop.[1]

When the Italian captain Giovanni de Verrazano sailed into Narragansett Bay in 1524, natives, most likely Pokanokets, appeared on the shores. The navigator’s recorded latitude of 41°40′ north corresponds to Mount Hope Bay, where the seat of the Pokanoket is located. Verrazano wrote of these Rhode Island natives whom he encountered: “These people are the most beautiful and have the most civil customs we have found on this voyage.” [2][3]

The Pilgrims lost more than half of their people due to sickness and starvation over the first winter. The Pokanoket felt sympathy for the Pilgrims' plight and began to teach them how to plant crops and live in this country. Despite the fears initially felt by the Pilgrims, the Pokanoket quickly reached a pact of peace with the new settlers. Bradford referred to the Pokanoket leader as “their great Sachem, called Massasoit”. It is not clear whether Bradford understood Massasoit to be a hereditary title rather than a name, and that confusion continued. When the Massasoit, whose name was Ousamequin, died, he was succeeded as Great Leader of the Pokanoket Nation by his sons, first by Wamsutta, who was perhaps poisoned, and then by Metacomet (also known as King Philip), who was killed in the Great New England War of 1675–1676. Neither son was referred to by the European settlers as Massasoit. The sons however, were known as kings during their time as Massasoits of the Pokanoket. Ousamequin had made peace with King James I of Britain, reaffirmed later in 1636, in which Britain had agreed through Governor Carver that forevermore Ousamequin's sons and his line would carry the royal titles of Prince or Princess. Ousamequin's request that his sons receive "English" names in Plymouth was granted, and they were given the name Alexander for Wamsutta, and Philip for Metacomet. Although the settlers did not call the Pokanoket leaders by the title Massasoit after Ousamequin died, they did refer to them as Kings, and the Great New England War was called King Philip's War by the settlers, named after Metacomet.

During this period, the Pokanoket first treatied with the English colonists of present-day Massachusetts. Continued tensions and encroachment by English settlements led to the outbreak of fighting in King Philip's War in 1675. The tribe did not sign the treaty that ended the war, Treaty of Casco (1678).

Mount Hope (Rhode Island) was the site of the royal seat of the Pokanoket people.

Pokanoket was the tribe of the Wampanoag Nation that had the "first Thanksgiving" with the Pilgrims.

Pokanoket is also the name of the dialect of Massachusett spoken among the Wampanoag.[4] The last Pokanoket leader died in 1987.

List of Pokanoket Massasoits[edit]

Sachem From To
Massasoit Wasanegin 1525 1577
Massasoit Ousamequin 1581 1661
Massasoit Wamsutta aka Alexander 1660 1662
Massasoit Metacomet aka Philip 1662 1676
????? 1676 16??

List of Pokanoket Tribe leaders after the slaying of Metacomet[edit]

Leader From To
Rev James Fitch and Shetucket Sachem 1676 1704
Shetucket Sachem 1704 1725
Aunt Kitty 1725 1775
Simeon Simons 1775 1835
Susan (Simons) [Pelham] Hall 1835 1867
Susan (Simons) Weeden 1867 1898
Eliza Jane (Weeden) Congdon 1898 1926
Princess Red Wing of Seven Crescents 1926 1987

Concerning repatriation[edit]

Native American spirituality is often misinterpreted and misunderstood. Traditional native spiritual beliefs encompassed both the natural and supernatural worlds. These beliefs originated and were grounded in a sense of place—the ancestral realm. Creation stories and explanatory myths were contextualized in the physical features of the natural environment. These traditional beliefs were not transportable to other environments and as tribes were relocated and their land was lost, so too were many aspects of traditional belief. Because of the physical changes that come with development, Native Americans cannot visit “the old country” to better understand past tradition and belief. It is essential, therefore, that tribally specific human remains, artifacts and funerary objects be respected and protected as cultural patrimony.[citation needed]

Ancient territory and boundaries[edit]

Native American Heritage is a birthright given to us by our Creator and passed down from generation to generation. An element of our heritage has always been the very land on which we stand. Many Tribes do not possess by title, the land of which they are still stewards. That does not mean that the principle of the sanctity of the land has somehow escaped us. It can never be removed from us while we exist. We are one with the land of our fathers.

It is generally known and accepted that the Native People defined their boundaries and territory by the natural physical features of the land. These physical features could be mountains, hills, plains, lakes, rivers and the like. After viewing many maps, the 1895 atlas map of Massachusetts and Rhode Island was chosen for the base map because it shows the political boundaries along with many of the physical, topographical features consistent with those that existed in the 17th century. Pokanoket ancestral boundaries and territory are shown here.

Territories and Boundaries of Pokanoket Tribe.jpg

Map points[edit]

  1. Both the Seller Map and the Hack Map document Pokanoket ancestral land to the east and west of the head of what is now called Narragansett Bay.
  2. Pokanoket used rivers as boundaries for their ancestral lands due to the natural geographical features of their area. On the west side of the bay, the boundary starts in the land that is called Cowessett (Land at the border). The Pawtuxet River is the natural boundary that defines the border between the Narragansett and Pokanoket Tribes. Narragansett lands are to the south of the Pawtuxet River.
  3. Pokanoket lands lie to the north and northeast of the Pawtuxet River as far north as the Ponegunsett Reservoir, then continue northeast of the Ponegunsett Reservoir, northward up the Chepachet River.
  4. The Nipmuc lands are west and northwest of the Chepachet River. East of this river is Pokanoket lands.
  5. We now follow the Charles River from its basin northeasterly until it empties into Boston Bay. The lands to the west of the Charles River are Nipmuc lands. The lands to the east are Pokanoket lands.
  6. The lands north of the Charles River are Massachusetts lands and the lands south of the Charles River are Pokanoket lands.
  7. The eastern mainland boundary of Pokanoket is located at what is now the Cape Cod Canal, which was once a tributary extended from Great Herring Pond. West of this border is Pokanoket land. East of this natural border is the land of the Nausett.
  8. This leaves the islands in what we now call Narragansett Bay and the islands off the coast. All the islands in Narragansett Bay on this map are highlighted except for Jamestown and Dutch Island. These two islands belong to the Narragansett, as well as Block Island located in Rhode Island Sound.
  9. The highlighted islands on this map—Rhode Island (Aquidneck), Prudence, Patience, Hog and smaller islands—belong to Pokanoket. Also highlighted are Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and No Man’s Land, as well as the Elizabeth Islands, which all belong to Pokanoket.


  1. ^ William Wallace Tooker, review of Virginia Baker's "Massasoit's Town Sowams in Pokanoket: Its History, Legends, and Traditions" (1894) in American Anthropologist, Vol. 6, No. 4, July 1904, pp. 547-548; and William Bradford, Of Plimouth Plantation, Book 2.
  2. ^ Brasser, T. J. 1978 “Early Indian-European Contacts”, in Handbook of North American Indians, ed. William C. Sturtevant, Washington: Smithsonian Institution, V. 15, pg. 80.
  3. ^ Morison, Samuel Eliot 1971 “The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages: A.D. 500-1600”, pg. 307.
  4. ^ Moseley, Christopher and R.E. Asher, ed. Atlas of the World's Languages (New York: Routledge, 1994) Map 3.


  • Pokanoket Tribal Oration
  • Salwen, Bert (1978) “Indians of Southern New England and Long Island: Early Period”, in Handbook of North American Indians, ed. William C. Sturtevant, Washington: Smithsonian Institution, V. 15, pg. 171
  • Gookin, Daniel (1970) “Historical Collections of the Indians in New England”, with notes by Jeffrey H. Fiske, published by Towtaid, pg. 10
  • Seller, John (1675)a “Maps of Early Massachusetts”, compiled, ed. and published by Lincoln A. Dexter, pp. 78–79.

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pokanoket — Please support Wikipedia.
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73 news items

The Providence Journal

The Providence Journal
Sat, 26 Sep 2015 19:15:00 -0700

Behind him, Roger Gray Fox, a Pokanoket, is smudging natives and others as they enter the circle to dance. He says enveloping them with the smoke — made from burning a combination of sage, cedar leaf, sweet grass, black lavender seed and tobacco ...
Rhode Island College News
Thu, 17 Sep 2015 09:41:15 -0700

She will also examine the historical development of the culture and traditions of the Pokanoket Wampanoag and the Historic Mashapaug Narragansett Tribal Nations. A panel discussion, titled “Respecting and Honoring 400 Years of Tribal Presence and ...
Fall River Herald News
Thu, 11 Nov 2010 18:28:49 -0800

The cape at 11 Pokanoket Trail off Touisset Road has a touch of class and lots of surprises, including its own workshop and a hidden tavern. The house is located just over the Swansea line overlooking the Kickemuit River. It's a unique custom built ...

Taunton Daily Gazette

Taunton Daily Gazette
Sat, 13 Jun 2015 18:30:00 -0700

It's not only East Taunton residents and the anti-casino Taunton group that have objected to the Mashpee plans based on historic evidence. So have other tribes. The Pokanoket and the Pocasset have gone public with claims that they, and not the Mashpee, ...

Hollywood Reporter

Hollywood Reporter
Mon, 06 Jul 2015 16:02:23 -0700

The Mixology alum has joined the cast of the network's upcoming drama Blood and Oil as a series regular, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The drama follows Billy (Chace Crawford) and Cody Lefever (Rebecca Rittenhouse) who dream of a new life ...
Wicked Local Plymouth
Tue, 01 Sep 2015 07:34:07 -0700

Friday, Aug. 28. 1:32 a.m.: check wellbeing, Sever Street. 4 a.m.: police with fire, Beaver Dam Road. 7:28 a.m.: police with ambulance, Samoset Street. 7:45 a.m.: reported death, Briggs Avenue. 8:45 a.m.: report of suspicious activity, Chapel Hill Drive.

Boston Globe

Boston Globe
Tue, 25 Nov 2014 12:36:54 -0800

In 1621, a group of religious pilgrims shared a meal with members of the Pokanoket tribe in what is now Plymouth, Mass. This year, people are enjoying Thanksgiving meals in Plymouth, Calif., Plymouth, N.C., and Plymouth, Utah. The seaside Massachusetts ...


Mon, 06 Apr 2015 18:07:30 -0700

Originally, Trimble named the league “Pokanoket” after the Wampanoag tribe that once called this area home, harkening back to lacrosse's roots. Trimble himself grew up in Western New York, and learned to play lacrosse from the Seneca tribe, so he ...

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