Pokanokets and Pilgrims: Cultural differences lead to conflict in the 17th century

Sowams Heritage Area Project Coordinator Dr. David Weed presented a session at Hamilton House in Providence on February 10, 2021 on the cultural differences between the Pokanoket Tribe and the Pilgrim Separatists in the early 17th century that ultimately led to the conflict known as King Philip’s War in 1675. Click here for a 57-minute YouTube video of his presentation.


Hamilton House Cafe Manager and Chef, Mary Nyman, introduced Dr. Weed to about 18 participants in the Zoom session. A psychologist by training, Dr. Weed began investigating the reburial behind his house in Warren three years ago of the Pokanoket Massasoit Ousamequin, who met the Plymouth Pilgrims in 1621. That led to the discovery of over fifty locations from the 1600s in East Bay Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts that are described on his website, SowamsHeritageArea.org, and the history of the Pokanoket people who live among us today.


Dr. Weed began by describing the differences in world views between the Pokanokets and the Pilgrim Separatists who landed in Plymouth in 1620, including the difference in gender roles between the two groups. Dr. Weed also emphasized the ways that the Pokanokets and the Pilgrims were also alike.


(Above, left) Mayflower author Nathaniel Philbrick meets the Pokanoket Sagamore William Guy in 2019. (Above, right) Following the King Philip War of 1675, the Massasoit’s great grandson, Simeon Simons, served as George Washington’s personal bodyguard.


In the 18th and 19th century, there were efforts to describe the disappearance of Native people from New England when, in fact, they still survived. Today, the Pokanoket Tribe is alive and well and numbers over 300 people.