Niantic Tribe

Description:

The Niantic tribe is an Algonquian-speaking Native American group that inhabited southern New England, specifically southeast Connecticut and Rhode Island. They used the Niantic River and the Long Island Sound as a fishing source and grew corn, squash, and beans. The invasion of the Pequots divided the Tribe into the Eastern Niantics living in southwest Rhode Island and the Western Niantics living in Niantic, Connecticut. They were further divided when the Pequot and Mohegan Tribes favored the Dutch and English, respectively; the Western Niantics allied with the Pequots, while the Eastern Niantics sided with the Mohegans and Narragansetts, but mostly remained neutral in the conflicts with the colonists. The Pequot War of 1636-39 devastated the Western Niantic population, which supported the Pequots during the war, and the surviving members of the Western Niantic Tribe were put under Mohegan control. After Metacom's War in 1675-76, the surviving Narragansetts fled to the Eastern Niantics in large numbers, mixing the tribes. Initially, English preachers had little success in assimilating and converting the Niantic people despite preachers and a schoolhouse in their village, but after 1741, preachers influenced by the Great Awakening began holding revival meetings in nearby Lyme. Around this time, the local Lyme minister, Reverend George Griswold, renewed his efforts to convert the Niantics and claimed that these revivals had lead to the conversion of twenty or more Indians by 1744. In the following years, the Niantics established their own unofficial church distinct from the local churches funded by the English government and private religious organizations. To further these independent Christian Indian congregations, Gideon Qequawcom built a meeting place for Christian Indians in the middle of Niantic village, and the Niantic Indian minister, Philip Occuish, served as a preacher to the Christian Niantics. As with many Christian Indians, many Niantic meetings occurred not in an official church or meeting house, but in wigwams and other Indian homes. After Occom's ordination, he served as an itinerant preacher to the Niantic Tribe. Several Niantic Indians attended Moor's Charity School, including Hannah Poquiantup and Hannah Nonsuch. In the 1770s, many Niantic Indians followed Occom and Joseph Johnson to upstate New York where they settled Brothertown. Connecticut declared the Tribe extinct in 1870 and sold its 300 acre reservation, the Black Point Peninsula of East Lyme. In 1886, its burial ground was also sold and desecrated. In 1998, 35 Connecticut families claiming Niantic heritage joined together to petition the government for tribal recognition, which, as of 2014, has not been granted.

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Sources:

Fisher, Linford D. The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print. Santoro, Nicholas J. Atlas of the Indian Tribes of North America and the Clash of Cultures. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2009. Web. http://www.niantic.com/channel/History-Niantic/3101. http://www.dickshovel.com/nian.html. http://www.nytimes.com/1998/08/02/nyregion/now-the-nehantics-ask-us-recognition.html?pagewanted=all. Calloway, Colin G. The Indian History of an American Institution: Native Americans and Dartmouth. Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College Press, 2010. Print.