Indigenous Peoples of Portsmouth During the Colonial Period

Many people may be unaware of the influences and contributions of indigenous peoples, such as the Narragansett and the Pokanoket, in the early history of Portsmouth. There is a general feeling and misconception that once Aquidneck Island was transferred to the English, indigenous peoples were no longer a part of Portsmouth history. This lecture shed a light on at least a few of the stories of indigenous peoples in Portsmouth, along with how some of the English colonists interacted with them.

(Above) The audience listens as Portsmouth Historical Society President Anne Burns introduces Stephen Luce who presented on the “Indigenous Peoples in Portsmouth during the Colonial Period”. Click here for an 84-minute video of his November 17, 2022 presentation at the Historical Society Museum and here for a video of the talk posted on the Historical Society website.

(Above) The Dallin statue in Plymouth portrays the Massasoit Ousamequin, and a drawing of his son, Philip (Metacomet) illustrates how he might have looked. In 1638, Roger Williams questioned the sales of Prudence and Aquidneck Island.

(Above) Luce describes two different maps of Wampanoag territories. Only the one in the center includes Prudence Island but not Cape Cod as part of their historic territory

(Above) Luce points out the 1675 Sellers map that shows Prudence, Jamestown and Aquidneck Islands as not part of “Pokanoket Country”, outlined in yellow. He goes on to describe how the Indigenous Pokanoket and Narragansett tribes attempted to accommodate the English settlers in Portsmouth but were soon severely limited by the laws and pronouncements that made it difficult for them to survive. King Philip’s War (1675-76) signaled the complete change from Indigenous to Colonial power in all of New England.