The Nipmuc are one of
the First Nations of North America. For at least 30 thousand years, the Indians
of Nipmuc Country lived in the southern tip of New Hampshire, Central
Massachusetts, north eastern Connecticut, and northern Rhode Island: The
Majority of tribal homeland is in Massachusetts, which is about 2000 square
miles. The word “Nipmuc” is not a
single tribe per se; it includes over thirty separate Clans that are linked
though culture, language and family ties. In the Algonquin language, Nipmuc
means “People of the Fresh Water.”
The term defined the original People (Indians) of the area.
Nipmuc people were
nomadic within these boundaries and according to the seasons moved to a location
best suitable for their needs.
Hunting in the dense forests, agriculture and fishing in the abundant
lakes, rivers and streams allowed for a healthy and flourishing life for all
Nipmuc Tribe traces their Clan through Medway, Natick,
Wabbaquasett (North Eastern
Connecticut), Hassanamesit (Grafton) and Quaboag.
During the 1600s
when the first Europeans began to stay in New England, this brought about
diseases that killed almost 80% of some tribal communities. This was further
compounded by early missionaries who set up so called “praying
towns” where Indians were forced to abandon traditional practices and adopt
strict puritan Christian law. The
head minister of this enforcement was the reverend John Elliot of
Elliot would create the first ever Christian bible written in the Native tongue.
The English minister was able to accomplish such a feat primarily with the help
of a Nipmuc man named James Printer also known as Wawaus.
James was an indispensible aid in the translation of the Algonquin
language and running the printing press at Harvard. Then after over a 50 year
period in assisting these first colonists; James Printer’s name would finally
appear in the frontispiece of the 1709 edition of the Translated English to
During the 1650s,
the famous Pokanoket Chief,
Massasoit; the one who greeted Pilgrims moved to the Nipmuc village of
Quaboag and become part of the tribe and Grand Sachem. During this period
Natives commonly changed their name, his was changed to Ousamequin.
Shortly after his
passing the war known as King Phillips War of 1675 would break out across New
England. Massasoit’s son Metacom,
also known as King Phillip would be named after this conflict.
Many Nipmuc Chiefs
and leaders rose to prominence during this period such a Matoonas, Sagamore Sam
Mattawamp was said to be the most brilliant military leader of the
war. (Schultz & Tougais 1999) He commanded some of the most smashing
victories of the war: Wheelers Surprise, Brookfield, Bloody Brook and New
Braintree. (Schultz & Tougais 1999)
This war thrust the entire
east coast into chaos and war and cost countless lives for the English and even
more so for the Native communities. The continuous usurping of Native Lands and
policies set forth to wipe out their identity had a devastating effect on the
Despite the past grievances and conflicts of the time, many Nipmucs such as our descendant
Christopher Vickers fought in the Revolutionary War for the birthing of the
Untied States of America.
However, During the 17 & 1800s, many of the surviving Nipmuc communities lived
in impoverished conditions and would go door to door selling handmade Nipmuc
Baskets, brooms and other items just to survive.
During the Civil War, several Nipmuc brothers and cousins would join
the Union Army. Their bravery and service was chronicled by the military
historian David J.
Naumec in his book: “From Mashantucket to Appomattox: The Native
American Veterans of Connecticut’s Volunteer Regiments and the Union Navy”
Even though it wasn’t
until 1978 that Native Americans won the “legal right” to practice our culture,
the early 1900s saw a resurgence and pride in Native identity. Our relatives participated in what was
called “The Indian Algonquin Council” in the 1920s. Tribes from throughout the
North East attended these gatherings as a way to instill cultural pride, share
stories and work together to find ways to meet the needs of their communities.
In 1976 the State of
Massachusetts passed Executive Order 126 concerning Native Americans of the
State which reads in part:
“WHEREAS, as one of the first Thirteen Colonies, the CommonWealth
of Massachusetts has long maintained a special
relationship with the Native American people of the region, and
WHEREAS, for over three centuries, the Commonwealth
has molded this relationship by Treaty and Agreement,
Legislative Act and Executive Order, and has never ceased to recognize their
Special Status… WHEREAS, the Tribal Councils of the Nipmuc, Mashpee and
the Gay Head Wampanoag Tribes are the recognized governing bodies,
Respectively, of the Nipmuc Tribe, the Mashpee Tribe, and the
Gay Head Wampanoag Tribe, and exercise substantial governmental
In 1996 Governor William Weld Declared August 17th as official Nipmuc Heritage Day.
In 2005 the Massachusetts State Senate Honored the Historical Nipmuc Tribe and Passed a
Resolution in Recognition of our work in protecting the environment, land and wildlife. Also for our past work
with US Fish &Wild Life on Atlantic salmon restoration.
Nipmuc people of today continue to work towards a brighter future for the coming
generations and continued commitment to preserving our culture and honoring
Mother Earth. We also continue to
work with federal, state, local governments and citizens to protect our
environment and Wildlife to make Massachusetts a green and beautiful place for
all of us to enjoy.
We thank you for
taking the time to read our page. This is but a small narrative of our
history. To learn more about our Tribe and current goals please feel free to
Kuttabatamish-Thank You very Much!
Historical Nipmuc Tribe