29754. Grand Sachem Canonicus of the Narragansetts154 was born in 1562 in Barnstable, Massachusetts (Barnstable).597 He died on 4 June 1647 at the age of 85 in Massachusetts.597 He was full-blood Narragansett Indian. CHIEF SACHEM CANONICUS
Canonicus was the Grand Sachem of the Narragansetts, when the whites settled at Plymouth. He died in 1647.
Canonicus, the sachem of the Narragansetts, whose territory had escaped the ravages of the pestilence, at first desired to treat of peace; in 1622, a bundle of arrows, wrapped in the skin of a rattlesnake, was his message of hostility. But, when Bradford sent back the skin stuffed with powder and shot, his courage quailed, and he sued for amity.
Canonicus, now chief of the Narragansetts, had given his allegiance to the king and was at peace with the colonists. The Rhode Island colony had received its charter from the king, and were taking no part in the war. In spite of all this, the united Colonies formed an army to attack a peaceful tribe of Indians located outside their jurisdiction. This army formed in Boston, marched through Providence and Warwick on their way to the Great Swamp.
Not until their territory was actually invaded did the Narragansetts offer resistance.
In the war between the Narragansetts and Mohegans, in 1643, Miantenomi was captured by Uncas, the sachem of the Mohegans, and executed. Pessecus, the brother of Miantenomi, was then admitted sachem with Canonicus. He was put to death by the Mohawks, in 1676.
Canonchet, the son of the brave but unfortunate Miantenomi, was the last sachem of the race. He commanded the Indians at the Great Swamp Fight, in 1675. This battle exterminated the Narragansetts as a nation. He was captured near the Blackstone river, after the war, and executed for the crime of defending his country and refusing to surrender the territories of his ancestors by a treaty of peace. It was glory enough for a nation to have expired with such a chief. The coolness, fortitude, and heroism of his fall stands without a parallel in ancient or modern times. He was offered life, upon the condition that he would treat for the submission of his subjects; his untamed spirit indignantly rejected the ignominious proposition. When the sentence was announced to him that then he must die, he said, "I like it well, that I shall die before my heart grows soft, or that I have said anything unworthy of myself." Thus ended the last chief of the Narragansetts, and with Canonchet the nation was extinguished forever.
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Canonicus Alive in 1623.(23) Narraganset Sachem He died on 4 Jun 1647.(24) He is thought to have been about eighty-five years old at his death. His decease was observed by all the Natives as a great and sad event. He is called a man of extraordinary capacity in Notes On the Indian Wars in New England, 12:166.
A History of
Canonicus was the Grand Sachem of the Narragansetts, when the whites settled
Canonchet, the son of the brave but unfortunate Miantenomi, was the last
"I like it well, that I shall die before my heart grows soft, or that I have said anything unworthy of myself." The splendid dignity of his fall extorted from one of the prejudiced historians of the times the sentiment, That acting as if by a Pythagorean metempsychosis, some old Roman ghost has possessed the body of this Western Pagan like an Attilius Regulus. Thus ended the last chief of the Narragansetts, and with Canonchet the nation was extinguished forever.
Ninegret was the sachem of the Niantics, or the Westerly Tribe, and since the division of that town, now styled the Charlestown Tribe. Ninegret was tributary to Canonicus, Miantenomi and his successors. He was only collaterally related to the family of Canonicus, Quaiapen, Ninegret’s sister, having married Maxanno, the son of Canonicus. The whites purchased Ninegret’s neutrality during the Indian war of 1675, and for this treachery to his paramount sovereign and his race, the "Tribe Land" in Charlestown was allotted to him and his heirs forever, as the price of the treason. The Ninegret Tribe never were the real Narragansetts, whose name they bear. It is a libel on their glory and their graves for him to have assumed it. Not one drop of the blood of Canonicus, Miantenomi or Canonchet, ever coursed in the veins of a sachem who could sit neuter in his wigwam and hear the guns and see the conflagration ascending from the fortress that was exterminating their nation forever.
pp. 8, 9, 10, 11
The Narragansetts subsisted by hunting, fishing and, partially, by agriculture. Their lands, for eight or ten miles distant from the sea-shore, were cleared of wood, and on these prairies they raised Indian corn in abundance and furnished the early settlers of Plymouth and Massachusetts with large quantities for subsistence. They were a strong, generous and brave race. They were always more civil and courteous to the English than any of the other Indians. Their kind and hospitable treatment of the emigrants to Rhode Island and the welcome they gave our persecuted ancestors should endear their name to us all.
The Narragansetts, as to civilization, were far in advance of their neighbours. Hutchinson* says that "they were the most curious coiners of Wampumpeag and supplied other nations with their pendants and bracelets and, also, with tobacco pipes of stone, some blue and some white. They furnished the earthen vessels and pots for cookery and other domestic uses."
They were considered a commercial people and not only began a trade with the English for goods for their own consumption, but soon learned to supply other distant nations, at advanced prices, and to receive beaver and other furs in exchange, upon which they made a profit also. Various articles of their skillful workmanship have been found from time to time, such as stone axes, tomahawks, mortars, pestles, pipes, arrowheads, peag," &c. (*History of Massachusetts Bay, i. 458)
Respecting their reputation for integrity and good morals, Mr. Williams, after a residence of six years among them and a close and intimate acquaintance with them, observes: "I could never discern that excess of scandalous sins among them, which Europe aboundeth with. Drunkenness and gluttony, they know not what sins they be, and though they have not so much to restrain them as the English have, yet a man never hears of such crimes among them as robberies, murders, adulteries," &c. (Key: Pub. Narr. Club, Providence, 1866, i. 121)
The government of the Narraganssetts appears to have been a patriarchal despotism. On the arrival of the English, there were two chief sachems, Canonicus and Miantinomi, and under them several subordinate ones. The different small tribes, under the separate sub-sachems, composed the great Narragansett nation. The succession to chief authority was generally preserved in the same family. The sub-sachems occupied the soil and were moved from it at the will and pleasure of their chiefs.
That the Narragansetts had an exalted estimation of their superiority over other
In the early times of this nation, some of the English inhabitants learned from the old Indians, that they had, previous to their arrival, a sachem, Tashtassuck, and their encomiums upon his wisdom and valour were much the same as the Delawares reported of their Chief
They have it from their Fathers, that Kautantowwit made one man and one woman of a stone, which disliking, he broke them in pieces, and made another man and woman of a Tree, which were the Fountains of all mankind.” (Key: Pub. Narr. Club, Providence, 1866 i. 116)
The Narragansetts soon became debased and corrupted, after their intercourse with the whites, by intemperance, &c.; and many of the vices with which our forefathers have charged the Indians, they never would have known, but for their intercourse with the whites.
The name of the Narragansett Country became circumscribed as Canonicus and Miantinomi sold off their territory. After the sale of Providence to Williams, the island of Rhode Island to Coddington and Shawomet or old Warwick to Gorton and their respective associates, those territories virtually ceased to be called Narragansett. After East Greenwich was conveyed (to the forty-eight grantees) and erected into a township in 1677, the name of Narragansett was circumscribed to the limits of the present county of Washington, bounding northerly on Hunt’s river and the south line of the county of Kent.
The first settlement in the state was by Roger Williams, at Providence, in 1636; the others were by Coddington, at Portsmouth, in 1638; by Richard Smith, at Wickford, in Narragansett, in 1639, and by Gorton, in Warwick, in 1642-3. That Smith’s was the third settlement, and before Gorton’s, Roger Williams says, in his testimony in favour of Smith’s title to the Wickford land, sworn to July 21, 1679, where he declares, "y Mr. Richard Smith Sen., who for his conscience to God left faire Posessions in Gloster Shire and adventured with his Relations and Estate to N. Engl. and was a most acceptable Inhabitant and prime leading man in Taunton in Plymouth Colony: For his conscience sake (many differences arising) he left Taunton and came to the Nahiggonsik Countrey where by God’s mercy and the fav of ye Nahiggonsik Sachems he broke the Ice (at his great Charge and Hazards) ...." Posh-Pw and Grand Sachem Canonicus of the Narragansetts were married in Barnstable, Massachusetts (Barnstable).597