The Pauquunaukit (anglicized as Pokanoket, literally, "land at the clearing" in Natick) are an indigenous group in present-day Rhode Island and Massachusetts. As of 2017, the Pokanoket Tribe was not recognized by the federal government, the state of Rhode Island, or by the other federally recognized Wampanoag communities.
Prior to colonization, the political seat of the many tribes that are collectively known as the Wampanoag was located at Pokanoket, where one historical site is found on Mount Hope in Bristol, Rhode Island. At the time of the pilgrims' arrival in Plymouth, the realm of Pokanoket included parts of Rhode Island and much of southeastern Massachusetts. European accounts of Pokanoket social life noted the political authority of the Massasoit (Great Leader).
The realm of the Pokanoket was extensive and known to the Pilgrims before they arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts on the Mayflower in 1620. William Bradford wrote that he had received before the Pilgrims sailed: "The Pokanokets, which live to the west of Plymouth, bear an inveterate malice to the English, and are of more strength than all the savages from there to Penobscot. Their desire of revenge was occasioned by an English man who, having many of them on board, made a great slaughter with their murderers and small shot, when (as they say) they offered no injury on their part."
The area in Rhode Island consisting of Bristol, Barrington, and Warren (the latter named Sowams by the natives) was the main settlement of the Pokanoket when the Pilgrims arrived. Bradford had been told that the land of the Pokanoket had "the richest soil, and much open ground fit for English grain".
Giovanni da Verrazzano sailed into Narragansett Bay in 1524, and people appeared on the shores, most likely Pokanokets. The navigator's recorded latitude of 41°40′ north corresponds to Mount Hope Bay, where the seat of the Pokanoket is located. Verrazzano wrote of these Rhode Island natives whom he encountered: "These people are the most beautiful and have the most civil customs we have found on this voyage."
The Pilgrims lost more than half of their people due to sickness and starvation over the first winter. The Pokanoket taught them how to plant crops and live in this country. Despite the fears initially felt by the Pilgrims, the Pokanoket quickly made a pact of peace with the new settlers. Bradford referred to the Pokanoket leader Ousamequin as "their great Sachem, called Massasoit". Ousamequin was succeeded as Great Leader of the Pokanoket by his sons, first by Wamsutta, (also known as Alexander), and then by Metacomet (also known as Philip), who was killed in the King Philip's War (1675–76).
Natick, sometimes referred to as Pokanoket, is the dialect of Massachusett spoken among the Pokanoket. The last Pokanoket leader died in 1987.
|Massasoit Wamsutta (English name "Alexander")||1661||1662|
|Massasoit Metacomet (English name "Philip")||1662||1676|
|Rev James Fitch and Shetucket Sachem||1676||1702|
|Susan (Simons) [Pelham] Hall||1835||1867|
|Susan (Simons) Weeden||1867||1898|
|Eliza Jane (Weeden) Congdon||1898||1926|
|Princess Red Wing of Seven Crescents||1926||1987|
|Supreme Chief Sachhem,Lerroy C.Perry (Yellow Feather)||1928||1960|
|PO Wauipi Neimpaug||2000||Present|
The Pokanoket's conceded territory shown in the map featured here is a reconstruction of Pokanoket ancestral boundaries based on a political and topographical map from 1895, which itself drew on 17th-century topographical descriptions of political borders.
Today, the area includes cities and towns on the Massachusetts and Rhode Island border such as Bristol, Warren, Barrington, East Providence, Seekonk, Rehoboth, Attleboro, Cumberland, North Attleboro, Norton, Mansfield, Dighton, and Somerset.