Native Americans of Quinnehtukqut - QUINNEHTUKQUT NIPMUC NEWS from the Nipmuc Indian Association of Connecticut
Quinnehtukqut Nipmuc News
Exerpts from Quinnehtukqut Nipmuc News
The Nipmuc Indian Association of Connecticut's Quarterly Newsletter

Native Americans of Quinnehtukqut

Quinnehtukqut Nipmuc News Vol.6 No.1 January 1999
Historical Sketches

This will begin a series of historical sketches on Native Americans of the area we know as Connecticut (alternative spelling: Quinnehtukqut - "place of the long river"). Our information is based on the writings of the late historian Mathias Spiess.


Our Connecticut Native Americans are part of the great Algonquian family of tribes which extends from the Carolinas to Canada north of the Great Lakes and on into the western plains. It should be understood that New England Native Americans: (1) did not have a name for themselves (tribal names are European designations), (2) do not have 'proper' names in their languages (each word has a meaning), (3) do not have written languages and (4) spoke dialects of a common 'Algonquian' language. Native American words herein (which are italicized) are merely English spellings of our language sounds.

The first Europeans to record encounters with Native Americans in Connecticut were the Dutch. We will cover the 16 tribal groups known to exist when the Dutch arrived in the early 1600s, beginning with the Podunk -- the first Native American group to welcome these newcomers to our homelands when Dutch navigator Adrian Block sailed up the Quinnehtukqut River and landed at a Podunk village just north of Hartford.

The Podunk - Hartford County.
Podunk or Pautunke, means "where you sink in mire", a boggy place, in the Nipmuc dialect. But the Podunk called their homeplace Nowashe, "between" rivers. Their lands are marked Nowass (perhaps the Dutch equivalent of Nowashe on Dutch maps of hte early 1600s.

The Podunk tribe consisted of three bands: the Namferoke (Podunk, "fishing place"), who lived near the village of Warehouse Point; the Hockanum (Podunk, "a hook", or "hook shaped"), led by Tantonimo, who lived near the village still known as Hockanum; and the Scanticook (Nipmuc, "at the river fork"), who lived on the north bank of the Scantic River near the section called Weymouth -- their leader was called Foxen (or Poxen). Foxen, a.k.a. Poxen, witnessed land deeds in 1640. He became the great councilor of the Mohegan (Mohegan, "wolf people") and his name appears repeatedly in early records.

Dutch accounts relate that the river tribes were beaten in three encounters with the Pequot (Pequot-Mohegan, "the destroyers"), who then claimed the entire country by right of conquest. After the Pequot sold land to the Dutch at Squkiog (Wangunk, "the ground is dark"), the Podunk conceived the idea of inviting the English to settle in Connecticut. The earliest written record regarding this tribe is in 1631 when a sachem, called Wahginacut, journeyed to Massachusetts and Plymough Colonies to try to convince3 their governors to encourage the English to emigrate to the Connecticut Valley. In 1632, "the year before the Dutch began in the River", sachem Natawanute, (a.k.a. Attawanyut) presented Governor Winslow of Plymouth, MA with a tract of land in South Windsor. The following year, Plymouth Trading Company rewarded Natawanute by restoring him as one of the great sachems of the river tribes.

Within traditional Podunk homelands in Connecticut today are the towns of East Hartford, East Windsor, South Windsor, Manchester, part of Ellington, Vernon, Bolton, Marlboro and Glastonbury.

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