Narragansett

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Related to Narragansett River: Narragansett Bay

Narragansett

(năr'əgăn`sət), Native North Americans whose language belongs to the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languagesNative American languages,
languages of the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere and their descendants. A number of the Native American languages that were spoken at the time of the European arrival in the New World in the late 15th cent.
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). Part of the Eastern Woodlands culture (see under Natives, North AmericanNatives, North American,
peoples who occupied North America before the arrival of the Europeans in the 15th cent. They have long been known as Indians because of the belief prevalent at the time of Columbus that the Americas were the outer reaches of the Indies (i.e.
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), in the early 17th cent. they occupied most of Rhode Island, from Narragansett Bay on the east to the Pawcatuck River on the west. They were the largest and strongest tribe in New England. The Narragansett escaped the great pestilence of 1617 that swept through S New England, and the remnants of tribes who had suffered joined them for protection, making the Narragansett a powerful people. In 1636, CanonicusCanonicus
, c.1565–1647, Native North American chief, who ruled the Narragansett when the Pilgrims landed in New England. He granted (1636) Rhode Island to Roger Williams and because of William's influence remained friendly to the settlers, despite their aggressive ways.
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, the Narragansett chief, sold Roger WilliamsWilliams, Roger,
c.1603–1683, clergyman, advocate of religious freedom, founder of Rhode Island, b. London. A protégé of Sir Edward Coke, he graduated from Pembroke College, Cambridge, in 1627 and took Anglican orders.
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 land on which to settle. Williams gained great influence over the Narragansett, inducing them to become the allies of the Massachusetts colonists in the Pequot War (1637). The Narragansett in 1674 numbered some 5,000. The next year witnessed the outbreak of King Philip's War, which destroyed Native American power in S New England. The Narragansett shared the common fate. Their fort near the site of Kingston, R.I., was attacked (1675) by a colonial force under Josiah Winslow, and in that engagement, known as the Great Swamp Fight, the Narragansett under Canonchet lost almost a thousand men. The survivors migrated to the north and to the west, and a few joined the MahicanMahican
, confederacy of Native North Americans of the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). The Mahican were of the Eastern Woodlands culture area. In the early 17th cent.
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 and the AbnakiAbnaki
or Abenaki
, Native North Americans of the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). The name Abnaki was given to them by the French; properly it should be Wabanaki,
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; but a number of them returned and settled among the Niantic near Charlestown, R.I., the combined group taking the Narragansett name. Their numbers steadily declined, and by 1832 there were 80 left. However, by 1990 there were about 2,500 Narragansett in the United States.