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Rhode Island

Rhode Island was founded by Roger Williams and a band of his followers who were cast out of Massachusetts because their religious views differed from the "Established Official Belief" there, and Williams' contention that the King of England had no right to claim Indian lands as his possession and distribute them without payment to the rightful native owners.

The land for Providence Plantations was received by Roger Williams as a gift in 1636 from Canonicus, the Great Sachem of the Narragansett people. In 1638, Williams arranged for the purchase of Aquidneck Island by another group of religious dissenters. (Aquidneck Island came to be called, by the English, Rhode Island, because of some imagined resemblance to the Isle of Rhodes in the Mediterranean Sea.) An atmosphere of friendship and mutual respect characterized the relationship between Roger Williams and the Narragansett people through the years to the end of his life.

In the 1630s, the politics of the day among the native tribes dictated that the Mohegans, under the leadership of their Sachem, Uncas, were constantly accusing their enemies, the Narragansetts, of plotting against the English. So it was that Roger Williams, the people of Rhode Island and the Narragansett people were estranged from and suspected by the other English Colonies.

Despite this treatment, Williams made himself useful to the other colonies as a translator to the Indians whenever he was needed, and, in 1637, the Narragansetts sided with the colonists against the Pequots.

Nearly forty years after the Pequot War, in the conflict known as King Philip's War, Rhode Island did not take up arms against the Indians, and the Narragansetts as a tribe did not join in the war against the English until they were attacked by troops from Massachusetts, Plymouth and Connecticut while wintering peacefully in a fortified village in the middle of the Great Swamp, surrounded by woods in their own territory.

The result of that attack, known as The Great Swamp Fight, was that hundreds of Indians were burned alive, most of whom were women, children and elderly members of the tribe.

From that time forward, the Narragansetts were the most bitter enemies the English had.


Books in the Rhode Island series:

    1900    Supplement to Rhode Island Colonial Records - Sidney S. Rider

    (See also Easton´s Relation)

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book cover
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