A Brief History
credit to the research and historical expertise of Historical Preservation Officer Mr. Michael Markley.
The Seaconke Wampanoag Tribe received it's state recognition status by the Common Wealth of Massachusetts proclamation on January 27th 1997.
The Seaconke Wampanoag tribe is in the unique position that it's historical territory spans between present day state of Rhode Island and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Tribal citizens and generations of Seaconke families still reside in this region.
State boundaries changed during the colonial period, in 1746 and most recently in 1862 , tribal lands had been sold and traded under government authority.
The Wampanoag are a part of the state of Rhode Island historically and today. This can be proved by state and
local town records, by cartography, legal boundaries, and historical writings. Historians have well documented how indigenous societal development was interrupted, exploited, changed, and subdued by
explorers, opportunists, and eventually colonists.
Prior to 1492 over hundreds of tribal nations provided community, governance, and protected boundaries. They had a sustainable agricultural and economic system, and traded goods & services from time immemorial. Native communities had long established inter-tribal thru ways to far off places, and negotiated inter-tribal political agreements for thousands of years.
In 1492 the Native communities of the Americas were not discovered, they were already here, thriving in advanced established communities disrupted by the 'Doctrine of Discovery'.
What is significant was that they (indigenous people) entered into the written historic record.
Samuel Elliot Morrison writes in “The European Discovery of America” referencing our territorial homelands- “These Indians were Wampanoag whose dominion extended over the eastern side of Narragansett Bay and Southeastern Massachusetts.”4
In 1620 a new people came to our shores. Unlike those that came and before, or those that were shipwrecked and assimilated into different tribes, the English came to occupy, which would upset the political landscape, the balance of power and the sphere of influence in Southern New England almost overnight and forever.
For no two cultures, no two nations, no two people can coexist peacefully in one geographical space for long.
The first international agreement in this land took place in Pawtuxet or New Plymouth in April of 1621. Ousamequin the Massasoit, great leader of the Wampanoag people negotiated with the English an agreement that would allow the English a homeland and provide mutual defense for each other's nation. 5
The Wampanoag Confederation of tribes, was made up of many smaller tribes that stretched from today’s Smithfield Rhode Island, east to the Atlantic Ocean from present day Dedham, Massachusetts in the north, and to the
Islands off the coast of Massachusetts. At the time, the largest territory in the Confederation was Pokanoket. The northern and western part of Pokanoket was called Seaconke and stretched well into northeastern Rhode Island.
“There is no question that the Wampanoag were the first known inhabitants of “old Seacunke”
states Dr. John G. Erhardt. 6
In 1608 upon the death of his father, Ousamequin became the Massasoit, the great leader of the Wampanoag Confederation of tribes. Upon his retirement his oldest son Wamsutta known also by his English name of Alexander became chief of the Pokanoket. The Sachem of Seaconke was Sunk Suit, known by the English as Tom of Wochomoqt, known to history as Annawan war chief to Metacomet. Metacomet replaced his brother Wamsutta as chief of Pokanoket upon his death in 1662. Mettacomet was known to the English as King Philip. 6
Roger Williams signed testimony dated 13 Oct 1661 states; I testify and declare in the holy presence of God. That when on my first coming into these parts I obtained the lands of Seacunke of Ousamequin then Chief Sachem. 8
1638 Moshosick: Ousamequin complains to Roger Williams that part of Providence, the lands between the Moshosick river and the Seaconke river are a part of Seaconke. “It appears that Tom of Wachammoqt '' (Sunk Suit, Annawan) the brother in law of Ousamequin “is the Chief of Seacunke and Moshosick ''. He states that “The Wampanoag Seacunke Indians lived and moved freely about the Seacunke and the Moshosick area”. 10 This also included lands North of Providence and extended west to Smithfield, northeast to the present Woonsocket, and present day Central Falls and Cumberland, Rhode Island.
1641 Seaconke: An 8sq. a mile portion of Seaconke was deeded by Massasoit to a group of planters from Weymouth, Mass Bay Colony. This deed was signed and witnessed by Roger Williams in the Williams home. In 1645 the Weymouth Planters changed the historic Seaconke name to Rehoboth. Which are today the city’s of Pawtucket and East Providence and Seekonk Rhode Island- which would later become carved from Rehoboth, Massachusetts. 11
1652 Sowams: the home village of Ousamequin was
Purchased from Massasoit - This land now makes up the towns of
Swansea, Ma., Bristol, Barrington and Warren Rhode Island.
Dr. John G. Erhart states in his book, The History of Rehoboth, Seekonk, East Providence, Pawtucket, & Barrington Volume I Seacunke 1500’s to 1645 states; “ The large Wampanoag Area in the present Rhode Island was apparently obtained by Ousamequin and his ancestors, who expanded their territory from all of Southeastern Massachusetts, the cape, and Islands. The Wampanoag ownership appears to be verified by the deeds obtained by Roger Williams and the Providence
In 1685 the Mass Bay colony created the county of Bristol. This divided up the remainder of Pokanoket, Wampanoag lands after the 1675/1676 war of Wampanoag Independence, known today as the King Philip's War. These Lands were the spoils of war. In 1746 and in 1862 the towns were removed from Massachusetts and ceded to Rhode Island.
Despite these arrangements, the indigenous populations did not move.
King Philips War
Upon the deaths of Governor William Bradford and Ousamequin Massasoit, the English occupation and settlement of native lands grew. The Indigenous population stagnated and began to suffocate as water access, land and resources were being coveted and consumed by the colonists.
The Algonquin speaking tribes did not have a written language, all deeds were written by the English to take ownership of Native property and waterways. The tribes did not have an advocate to look out for their needs, or an understanding of what they put their mark to.
These circumstances continued to deteriorate and stress the Native lifestyle and culture, leading to contempt, hunger and an eventual uprising by local tribal nations against the colonial settlers.
The native point of view can be explained as follows from the William Apes “Eulogy on King Philip” (26 Jan 1836) the words are accredited to Mettacomet, King Philip.
Till I Have No Country
" The English who came first to this country were but a handful, forlorn, poor, and distressed. My Father did all in his power to serve them, others came. Their numbers increased. My Father’s counselors were alarmed. They urged him to destroy the English. Before they became strong enough to give law to the Indians and take away their country.
My father was also the father of the English. He remained their friend. Experience shows that his counselors were right. The English disarmed my people. They tried them by their laws, and assessed damages my people could not pay. Sometimes the cattle of the English would come into the cornfields of my people, for they did not make fences like the English.
I must then be seized and confined till I sell another tract of my country for damages and costs. Thus tract after tract of land is gone. But only a small part of my ancestors remains. I am determined not to live until I have no country. "
King Philip's war of 1675 ... was fought against the English colonial occupiers of the Wampanoag Confederation of tribes and other tribes of New England. At dawn on Wed 12 Aug 1676 King Philip and the remainder of his warriors found their escape from Mount Hope in Bristol Rhode Island cut off by Captain Benjamin Church and his colonial troops.
Annawan, old Tom of Wachamoqt, Sachem of Seaconke, Warcheif of the Wampanoag gave the final order, in the final battle, of the final Wampanoag war. The order of the day was to stand firm, to hold the line, to give every
ounce of oneself in this momentous moment. In Wampanoag, the word of the day was “Iootash”.
The King Philip War of 1675/76 was started, mainly fought and ended on the Seaconke Plain in Present day eastern Rhode Island and southeastern Ma. Driving the few remaining Seaconke Wampanoag underground, cut off from their culture, villages, and unable to exist as they once did. Many survivors were sold into slavery, others remained as domestic servants and cheap farm labor on the colonist's farms. They were forced to live outside of the cities and town boundaries. They survived in a world that did not recognize them as a people, but as a commodity that could be used and discarded. Their lives were cloaked in economic and social servitude.
As generations passed this cloak was maintained over the Native descendants. Some people lived and died never having been recorded as having existed. Children were brought up to not speak about who they were, or practice their traditional lifeways. This cultural genocide continued into the twentieth century and was enmeshed in the racist legislative acts, civil laws and suppression of Native peoples in New England and across the United States.
The Seaconke Wampanoag and other indigenous tribal nations are still here today. They are just cloaked in the guise of a new idea, under the dominion of a new people with political borders created by a new country.
On June 2 1924 some 250 years after the war of 1675, the war for Native survival, the war for Indigenous independence in New England, The Indian Citizenship Act gave Native American people citizenship in their own country. The Mohegan, Niantic, Narragansett, Nipmuc, and Wampanoag were now Americans, citizens of the United States. The indigenous cultures of America were now meant to be melded into the American zeitgeist.
For thousands of years on this land, Native people made a home, brought up their children, lived
a life of their choice, and dreamed of the future.
It has been almost 500 years since the indigenous tribes of Rhode Island have become a part of the written historical record of the world.
It has been almost 350 years since the “King Philip's War - for indigenous survival and independence.
It has been almost 100 years since the people of Turtle Island were given citizenship in the United States of America.
Since that time Wampanoag people have fought in American wars, died, and suffered to maintain their constitutional rights ...
In 1676 the Wampanoag, Narragansett, and other tribes in Rhode Island gave their all and made the supreme sacrifice in the fight for their independence, freedom, and survival. They did not go quietly into the night. But they stand before you here today.
In the twenty first century, the Seaconke Wampanoag are comprised of career professionals, home-owners, veterans, artists, athletes, voters, elders, children and culture bearers. We gather annually for our powwow held at a small portion of the historical lands, present day Redway Plains Field Rt 44 Rehoboth MA during September's full corn moon.
 Seaconke Wampanoag Pokanoket Territory in Rhode Island, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pokanoket
 The European Discovery of America, The Northern Voyages 500-1600 AD Pg. 304 Samuel Elliot Morrison
 Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford
 6 The History of Rehoboth, Seekonk, East Providence, Pawtucket, & Barrington Volume I Seacunke 1500’s to 1645 by Dr. John G Erhardt. pg. 1
 Documentary History of Rhode Island by Howard Chapin pg 14
 10 The History of Rehoboth, Seekonk, East Providence, Pawtucket, & Barrington Volume I Seacunke 1500’s to 1645 by Dr. John G Erhardt. pg. 80-82
 History of Seekonk 1619-1983 By Dr. John G Erhardt
 Great Speeches by Native Americans edited by Bob Blaisdell
 Confronting Indigenous Enslavement, one story at a time. Brown University Website.
 Today in History - June 02, Library of Congress