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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter II. — The War with Philip, of Pokanoket.

While the English were making themselves acquainted with the character, positions, and wants of the Indians of New York, the causes of discord between the New England tribes and the colonists still continued; but, like a smouldering fire, they were, as much as possible, concealed from public view. The severity with which the Pequots were treated, secured the peace of the country for some thirty years; though at no time during this period could the colonists relax their vigilance for one moment. The war between the Mohicans and Narragansetts, under Uncas and Miontonimo, demonstrated to the tribes that, however fiercely discord and war might rage among themselves, the great and vital objects of the colonists were not retarded, but rather promoted, by the extinction of the petty Indian sovereignties.

At length, in 1675, those smothered discords burst forth into a flame. Massachusetts having been, in truth, the mother of the British colonies in the north, she now became the principal object against which the long pent-up wrath of the aborigines was directed. The majority of her sea-coast and inland tribes, had, indeed, yielded to the influences of civilization and gospel teachings, and had engaged in the pursuits of agriculture, but in her assemblies of neophytes, there were disciples of the native Indian priesthood, who sometimes maintained their view of the questions at issue with great boldness. The larger part of the Indian population of the interior, and towards the south, southwest, and west, hated a life of labour, as also the gospel, and secretly banded together to make another combined effort for the extinction and expulsion of the English. This combination was headed by the Pokanokets, whose council-fires burned on Mount Hope.

It has been previously stated that this tribe had very extensive affiliations with the principal Indian families of the country. They were the leading tribe of the Pokanoket Bashabary, a kind of aboriginal hereditary presidency. 194 The benevolent Massasoit held this office at the period of the landing of the Plymouth colony, and both he and

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his descendants were, up to the close of the war, deemed the legitimate sovereigns, and possessing power to alienate laud. Massasoit, who, by his equanimity and conservative character, had maintained a good understanding with the colonists, died in 1662, and was succeeded, at alternate periods, by his sons Popquit and Metakom; or, according to the researches of Mr. Drake, 195 more correctly, Pometakom. The colonial court, at one of its sittings, gave them the names of Alexander and Philip, in compliment to their martial bearing. Alexander, who possessed a high spirit, ruled but a short time, dying of a fever suddenly contracted while on a visit to the Plymouth colony. Pometakom, who was better known as King Philip, succeeded him. He was a man who, if we can place any reliance on the prints of the time, inclined to the middle size, was not over five feet nine or ten inches; had a large and finely-developed head, and possessed great resolution, activity and powers of endurance. He may be regarded as the true representative of the Indian hunter. He was familiar with every foot of ground between Mount Hope and Massachusetts Bay; had witnessed the foundation and rise of the colonies; was well known to the colonists, and they to him; loved the independence of savage life and rule; took great pride in his ancestry; loved the old Indian rites, and retained in his service a numerous priesthood, or body of prophets, sagamores, and powwows; daemonology and idolatry, magic and soothsaying, being regarded by him as the religion of his ancestors. He loved hunting and fishing and despised the life of labor recommended to him. He may be said to have detested civilization in all its forms, and to have abhorred the doctrines of Christianity. At the head of his Bashabary, he ruled both civil and priestly chiefs; by his office he was, in fact, a supreme chief of chiefs. Such appears to be the meaning of the term BASHABA.

During twelve years Philip had been a silent observer of the growth of New England. Twenty years had elapsed since the close of the native war between the Narragansetts and Mohicans, of which the colonists had been passive, though deeply interested, spectators, merely employing their influence with the tribes to keep them at peace with the colonies and with each other. For several years prior to the breaking out of the Pokanoket war, Philip had been regarded with suspicion, and a close eye was kept on his subtle political movements. It appeared evident that, in addition to his authority amongst the eight or ten tribes who acknowledged his supremacy, his influence was also exerted among the Narragansetts, his immediate neighbors on the south, whose possessions extended northwardly to those of the Pennacooks of the river Merrimac, and of other tribes of the Pawtuckets.

Philip's plan for uniting all the border Indians in a general war against the colonies, is supposed to have been revealed by a friendly Christian Indian, called Sausaman. For this act he was made to pay the forfeit of his life, by three emissaries of Philip.

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While fishing on a pond through an orifice in the ice, he was approached without suspicion, by his foes, who knocked him on the head, and then thrust his body through the opening.

The Pequot war was but the struggle of a single tribe, in which, though the sympathies of other tribes were, more or less, enlisted, they took no active part. But the plot of Philip had been maturely deliberated upon, and had received the sanction of all the Indian councils, both political and religious, in which the native feeling of repugnance to the whites prevailed, fully comprehending, as they did, that the leading objects of the colonists were to force the arts of civilization, and the teachings of Christianity, on the Indians. Wherever the Indians were assembled for moral instruction, every argument was adduced to impress them with the importance of the practice of virtue, industry, and temperance; and to inculcate the doctrines of the Christian faith. To the number of willing listeners, who had been gathered into separate but small isolated congregations, under the name of "praying Indians," during these forty years, no truths were more acceptable; on the contrary, to the pagan portion, who were, by far, the largest number among the tribes, these truths were like so many sharp goads to the Indian heart. The Indian powwows gnashed their teeth while listening to the English preachers declaring such truths, which, as it were, with gigantic strength, overthrew the entire system of the Indian meda-theology and wigwam political necromancy.

It is estimated that, in 1673, the entire white population of New England was 120,000 souls, of whom 16,000 were capable of bearing arms. 196 About this time, Massachusetts alone mustered twelve troops of cavalry, comprising sixty men each, who were armed, and stationed at various points, to punish any sudden aggressions. The white population had, within forty years, spread from its original nucleus at Plymouth, more than 100 miles westward, and, in some places, the same distance to the north. But owing to this very expansion, it presented, on every frontier, a broken, unconnected line, continually subject to the depredations of the hostile Indians. At these exposed points in the line of the advancing settlements, every man was the daily guardian of his own life, untiring vigilance being the only guaranty of safety.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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