The Mashapaug Village in the Nanhigganeuck Chiefdom

Mashapaug Pond is one the last surviving kettle ponds that once dotted the Providence area after the glaciers retreated. As a source of fresh water, the Pond was used by generations of Indigenous people for the past 10,000 years. There were nine principal villages throughout the Nanhigganeuck (Narragansett) Chiefdom, and Mashapaug was one of those villages. The Capital of the Chiefdom would be whichever village the Grand Sachem chose to call home.


Mashapaug was a part of the reason why the original boundaries were given to Roger Williams. Once the Pokanoket escorted him across the river Roger and his friends began to have issues with the villages that were nearby; specifically Neutoconkanut, Pawtuxet, and Mashapaug. Miantinomi sent Williams and crew back across the river into Pokanoket territory (Moshassuck) and then told them their boundaries were from 1) the falls outside of Pawtuxet, to 2) the great hill at Neutoconkanut, to 3) the great oak outside of the Towne of Mashapaug.


“Mashapaug Pond has suffered from a long history of pollution. During Providence’s industrial heyday in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, people were largely unaware of the consequences of releasing industrial chemicals and other pollutants into the soil and water. At Mashapaug Pond, the Gorham Manufacturing Company – a major employer – was also responsible for a significant amount of pollution.” [From“Mashapaug Pond is Sick”: Polluting the Ecosystem by Frannie Brittingham at RhodeTour]


(Below) The entire West Elmwood neighborhood was razed in the 1960s to create the Huntington Expressway Industrial Park removing an area of housing that was home to many Mashapaug Nahaganset Tribe members whose seal is pictured below.


From Raymond Two Hawks Watson, Pomham Sachem of the Mashapaug Nahaganset Tribe, pictured above center at a recent naming ceremony:

“The Mashapaug Nahaganset Tribe currently consists of families with ties to both the Lippitt Hill and West Elmwood communities. My lines in particular tie to the Michael/Champlin lineage which is not only descended from both Miantinomi and Canonicus, but who were also prominent Narragansett families with specific lands designated for them on the Narragansett Indian Reservation in Charlestown after the 1881 detribalization. We were based in the Lippitt Hill neighborhood which eventually became Mt Hope. This is also the neighborhood where my Great x 3 Uncle Chief Sunset lived; one of the last full blood Sachem and a Pauwau of the Narragansett Indians. He was acknowledged as such in the first edition of the Narragansett Dawn in the article “Tea at Sunset Cottage”. The Narragansetts had come up to ask him to come help them reorganize the Tribe in the early 1900s. This says to me that in the early 1900s the community that was displaced from Mashapaug was viewed as the nucleus of the Chiefdom at this time period, and as we understand up until federal recognition occurred in the late 1970s. Federal recognition aside, we continue to carry on this legacy today.”

(Above) Members of the Algonquin Indian Council, including Chief Sunset), which was prevalent in the Providence area in the 1900s