Ninigret, Sachem of the Niantics and Narragansetts: Diplomacy, War, and the Balance of Power in Seventeenth-Century New England and Indian Country

Ninigret, Sachem of the Niantics and Narragansetts: Diplomacy, War, and the Balance of Power in Seventeenth-Century New England and Indian Country

by Julie A. Fisher, David J. Silverman


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Ninigret (c. 1600–1676) was a sachem of the Niantic and Narragansett Indians of what is now Rhode Island from the mid-1630s through the mid-1670s. For Ninigret and his contemporaries, Indian Country and New England were multipolar political worlds shaped by ever-shifting intertribal rivalries. In the first biography of Ninigret, Julie A. Fisher and David J. Silverman assert that he was the most influential Indian leader of his era in southern New England. As such, he was a key to the balance of power in both Indian-colonial and intertribal relations.

Ninigret was at the center of almost every major development involving southern New England Indians between the Pequot War of 1636–37 and King Philip’s War of 1675–76. He led the Narragansetts’ campaign to become the region’s major power, including a decades-long war against the Mohegans led by Uncas, Ninigret’s archrival. To offset growing English power, Ninigret formed long-distance alliances with the powerful Mohawks of the Iroquois League and the Pocumtucks of the Connecticut River Valley. Over the course of Ninigret’s life, English officials repeatedly charged him with plotting to organize a coalition of tribes and even the Dutch to roll back English settlement. Ironically, though, Ninigret refused to take up arms against the English in King Philip’s War. Ninigret died at the end of the war, having guided his people through one of the most tumultuous chapters of the colonial era.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501713613
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 03/31/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 239,549
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Julie A. Fisher received her PhD in history from the University of Delaware and is currently consulting with the National Park Service’s Roger Williams National Memorial site. David J. Silverman is Professor of History at George Washington University and the author of Red Brethren: The Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians and the Problem of Race in Early America, also from Cornell, and Faith and Boundaries: Colonists, Christianity, and Community among the Wampanoag Indians of Martha’s Vineyard, 1600–1871.

Table of Contents

Preface vii
A Chronology of Key Events in the Life of Ninigret xxi
1. Being and Becoming a Sachem 1
2. "To obtaine it by force" 31
3. "I doe but Right my owne quarrell" 54
4. A Time of Decision 87
5. Ninigret's Narragansett War 113
Epilogue: The Small Matter of Eltwood
Pomeroy’s Mare

What People are Saying About This

Jenny Hale Pulsipher

"The field of early American biography is almost entirely populated by white men—those most likely to have left a documentary record that survives to the present. In Julie A. Fisher and David J. Silverman's new book, we have a rare opportunity to read a deeply researched and richly imagined biography of a seventeenth-century Native American man. Using contemporary court records and other public papers, as well as archaeological records, the authors evoke Ninigret’s personality as well as his political and diplomatic purposes. This finely-drawn character study is also an excellent history of seventeenth-century New England in general. The pages of this book are packed with insights on early New England and Native America."

Brett Rushforth

"This engaging and nuanced biography illuminates the life and career of one of the most important political figures of seventeenth-century North America. Often an enemy to the English colonists, but finally their reluctant ally, Ninigret lived through—and significantly shaped—a period of dramatic historical change. In Julie A. Fisher's and David J. Silverman's hands, his life yields powerful insights."

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