Native Languages of the Americas: Wampanoag
(Massachusett, Natick, Massassoit, Nantucket, Mashpee)
Language: Wampanoag--also known as Massachusett, Pokanoket or Natick--was an Algonkian language of New England. The language is no longer spoken in Wampanoag communities today, although some Wampanoag people are trying to revive it. Narragansett is considered by some linguists to have been a Wampanoag dialect, by others a distinct language.
People: The Indians who met and befriended the Pilgrims of Plymouth, the Wampanoag tribe suffered an unhappy fate at the hands of the English. The 2000 or so surviving Wampanoag descendants still live in Plymouth county.
History: The Wampanoags are most famous for greeting and befriending the Pilgrims in 1620, bringing them corn and turkey to help them through the difficult winter and starting a Thanksgiving tradition that is still observed today. Unfortunately, the relationship soon soured. As more British colonists arrived in Massachusetts, they began displacing the Wampanoags from their traditional lands, particularly by plying Wampanoag men with alcohol and obtaining their signatures on land sale documents while they were drunk. The Wampanoag leader Metacomet, known as "King Philip" to the English, tried to get this practice outlawed, and when the British refused, a war ensued. The British won decisively, sold many of the Wampanoag survivors into slavery, drove the rest into hiding, and forbade the use of the Massachusett language and Wampanoag tribal names. Only in 1928 were the Wampanoag people able to reclaim their tribal identity.