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Total population
  • 50,000 (1490 est.)
  • 500 (1774 est.)
  • 100-200 families (2000 est.)
Regions with significant populations
Before European Contact
eastern NY / northern NJ / western Long Island25,000
Quiripi language (PEA-A R-Dialect
an Eastern Algonquian language division)
Related ethnic groups
Native Americans

Quinnipiac is the English name for the Eansketambawg (meaning "original people"; cf. Ojibwe: Anishinaabeg and Blackfoot: Niitsítapi), a Quiripi-speaking Native American nation of the Algonquian family who inhabited the Wampanoki (i.e., "Dawnland"; c.f., Ojibwe: Waabanaki, Abenaki: Wabanakiyik) region, including present-day Connecticut.


The Quinnipiac (occasionally spelled Quinnipiack[1]) people—also known as Quiripi and Renapi—are speakers of the r-dialect of the Algonquian language family. (The Algonquian Language Phyla was the largest in North America and covered about one-third of the continent above Mexico.) The Quinnipiac/Quiripi/Renapi people are considered to be the first of the indigenous peoples to be placed on a reservation (by the English in 1638),[2] under the first of several treaties which resulted in additional reservations at Branford, Madison, Derby, and Farmington.[3] James Hammond Trumbull was the first to recognize that the New Haven band of the Quiripi was only one band or sub-sachemship and not the entire tribal nation.[4] Linguist Blair Rudes found that the Eastern Algonquian r-dialect group's "territory extended "… up to the Hudson in the west, including a portion of land in present-day New York state…. Furthermore… the same people occupied a portion of … western Long Island …."[5] Since 1997, more extensive research, based on linguistics and early historical records, has extended the boundaries of the 1500-1600 AD Quiripi/Renapi/Quinnipiac confederacies to include all of what is now Connecticut, eastern New York, northern New Jersey, and half of Long Island (prior to the immigration of the Pequot/Mohegan peoples into eastern CT).[6]

Quinnipiac River History

Quinnipiac and their neighbors
Quinnipiac and their neighbors

The Quinnipiac River flows southward from Farmington, CT (Tunxis Sub-Sachemship) at Deadwood Swamp to the New Haven harbor on Long Island Sound. Its length is 38 miles (61 km) and its name means "long-water-country." The Quinnipiac people of the Long Water Land had several sub-sachemships and villages along its banks as well as main trails that criss-crossed its length. The Quinnipiac River and Quinnipiac Hiking Trail still run directly through Sleeping Giant State Park, a sacred site revered by the Quinnipiac people as the petrified body of their culture hero, the Stone Giant, Hobbomock.

Quinnipiac Settlements and Self-Identity

The Dutch and French called these people Quiripi (also spelled Quiripey), and the English knew them as Quinnipiac (also Quinnipiack, Quillipiac). Appellatives from the PEA-A (Proto-Eastern Algonquian/Archaic) dialects reflecting Self-Identity include the following:

The place name "Quinnipiac" derives from regional variations of Quinni/pe/okke which is similar to Quinneh/tukq/ut. The first indicates "long-water-land" and the second indicates "at the long water estuary" which are two locations of the Renapi bands. One linguist theorizes that the name "Quinnipiac" means "turning point" (i.e., where we change our route), however, there is no historical or cultural evidence to support this assumption. Evidence does exist, however, to indicate that the original "long-water-land" related to the entire shoreline along Long Island Sound. Bands of the Long Water Land Renapi were situated in Eastern New York, Northern New Jersey, and Connecticut, where their summer camps were on the shores and along the estuaries that ran into the Sound. In Pre-Columbian times, after the glaciers melted, there was a freshwater lake waterfall 100 miles (200 km) long. Legend has it that this was the derivation of the term "Long-Water-Land." Archaeological evidence of the ancient camps lie throughout the region. Quinnipiac River runs almost the width (top to bottom) of the state and the Connecticut (originally spelled Quinnehtukqut) River runs from the Sound all the way to the border between New Hampshire and Quebec, Canada.

Socio-political structure

The Quiripi/Renapi/Quinnipiac consisted of the following socio-political elements.

Primary sachemdom

A primary sachemdom (likened to a kingdom, aboriginal domain, etc.), where a hereditary Long-House Grand Sachem presided over an alliance of Stump-Chief Sachems (non-hereditary, but holding positions by virtue of marriage or appointment) and Sagamores/Sagamaughs (hereditary positions), all of whom acted as wise councilors. The Algonquian primary sachemdom was always located at the heart or center of the domain, where a traditional maweomi (central council fire) was positioned. The sachemdom was defended by Indian forts or menehkenum which the English called "entrenched castles."[7]

Secondary sub-sachemships

Secondary sub-sachemships (bands) were genetically, culturally, politically, socially, economically, and linguistically related to and defended the central council fire. The central council fires in turn, were allied with a Great Grand Council known as a Confederacy.

Primary economic commodity

The primary economic commodity of the Long Water people was the production of wampum-peague or "shell-money" which has sacred origins. Huge piles of clam and oyster shells were stockpiled and archaeologists erroneously identified them as "refuse dumps" for lack of understanding. Shipments of these shells were sent to regional Algonquian Trade Centers. One of the most renown was at Cahokia, where archaeologists found these stockpiles with drills and drill bits, as well as large quantities of finished beads. There were two types.

  1. Sun wampum were the red, white, and purple beads of cylindrical shape, drilled through the center, used to make strings of wampum and to make belts or sashes. In the belts, the colors were manipulated so that pictographic images told a symbolic story and these were given to honor important actions by the Great Grand Councils and Maweomis for peace treaties, wars, marriages, and other significant events. In the colonies of New Haven and Boston, wampum-peague became the first legal tender and it was used in fathoms.
  2. Larger round beads like discs were known as moon wampum and they were strung together to make necklaces. Large crescent-moon wampums were hung from the necklaces to denote the maweomis which were set up in large crescent moon shapes, with the Grand Sachem at the center and his sachems at his side.

Other commodities included raw copper, mined from West Rock (Mautumpseck) in large nuggets. Samples weighing a few tons can be viewed at the Peabody Museum of Natural History on Whitney Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut. These nuggets were sent to regional trade centers where artisans turned them into beads, amulets, knives, and axes.

Long Water Land Renapi Sachemdom

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The Long Water Land Renapi (Quinnipiac Algonquians of the Renapi Nation) Sachemdom included the following sachemships (circa 1500-1650 AD).

Throughout the sachemdom, the menuhkenumoag (Indian forts) were positioned along the main trail system, known as Mishimayagat. Trails and rivers served as highways for war and trade.

The Mattabesec Sachemship in the heart of Wangunk sub-sachemships was the easternmost entrance to the Wappinger-Mattabesec Confederacy and prior to the major epidemics of the 16th-17th century, this eastern door was where Rhode Island is now (and the eastern border of Connecticut).

Populations and treaty reservation land

Population prior to contact with Europeans

Prior to the devastating epidemics (according to contemporary scholars Snow, Grumet, Bragdon, et al.), the estimated population was about 25,000 in Connecticut, an additional 25,000 in Eastern New York and New Jersey (Northern Mountains). This equates to roughly 1,000 to 1,200 per band or sub-sachemship (called 'sub-tribes' by ethnologists). The Connecticut Scholar, per Collier & Collier, indicates that the figures estimated by DeForest (and emulated by Townshend) circa 1850-1900, are no longer taken seriously.

The Quinnipiac Reservation

The Quinnipiac reservation at Mioonhktuck (East Haven) is said to be the first reservation in what would become the United States over a century later, as a result of the first Quinnipiac/English Treaty signed in November 1638. Additional reserved lands were recorded by the late John Menta in his thesis and subsequent work about the Quinnipiac. There were three major treaties, and one ratification by Naushop, the son of Shaumpishuh. These treaties were with the British Crown and, as such, were ratified by the U.S. Constitution, according to U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Reserved land locations included:

Quinnipiac refugees

The "Quinnipiac Trail of Heartaches"[8] refers to the numerous relocations of the Quinnipiac people who became refugees as a result of the encroachment, religious conversion, and ethnic cleansing by the Puritans. Large groups, who could not remain at the regional reserved lands, embarked on a series of removals to other Algonquian groups. Some of these included, but were not limited to the Schaghticoke enclave, which began in the year 1699, after old Joseph Chuse married Sarah Mahwee (Mahweeyeuh). Sarah told Ezra Stiles of Yale that she was born at East Haven and Dr. Blair Rudes confirmed that she was indeed Quinnipiac. Joseph was a Paugusset and they were a sub-sachemship of the Long Water People, as noted by James Hammond Trumbull. The last families who had been at Turkey Hill/Naugatuck moved to Kent, Connecticut, where the Schaghticoke emerged. Today they have split into the Schaghticoke Nation and the Schaghticoke Tribe.

Other groups of refugees migrated to Brotherton at Oneida, New York, then to the White River and Muncie, Indiana; some to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and Stockbridge, Wisconsin; some to Odenak (St. Francis) and Quebec, Canada.

Others who migrated went to Pennsylvania, eastern New York, and northern New Jersey, at the Ramapo Mountain refugium (see Ramapough Mountain Indians), by moving from rock shelter to rock shelter, in order to survive. From the 1850s to 1900, the Quinnipiac began to return to the Long Water Land.

War and peace

The Quinnipiac/Quiripi were known as "grandfathers" in the Dawnland Confederacy, with their Lenape cousins. Although they were a people of peace and commerce, when forced into war, they were fierce warriors and outstanding soldiers. Eastern Connecticut, originally inhabited by the Quinnipiac Nation's sub-sachemships of the Eastern Nehantic, Podunk, and Wangunk, as well as the Narragansett, suffered more losses than western Connecticut, and so in 1506, after 80% population losses due to epidemics, the Pequotoog moved into the area from the upper Hudson region and pushed the survivors of the Narragansett into what is now Rhode Island, and the Nehantic wedged in close to the Connecticut River (Old Lyme). A rogue sachem, named Uncus, angry for having been passed over to lead the Pequotoog, took his followers and struck out on his own, founding the Mohegan Band. Uncus and his warriors joined with Nepaupuck (a Quinnipiac War Captain) and entered into several treaties with the English. In the "Direful Swamp Fight," 150 Quinnipiac and Mohegan warriors joined with 350 English troops and, in December 1675, they defeated the powerful Pequotoog. Quinnipiac warriors served in many wars and battles as soldiers and sailors and as subsequent refugees, who migrated to Stockbridge, merged into an alliance to help the Sons of Liberty defeat the English in the American Revolution because of the betrayal by English allies in land dealings. The Sons of Liberty changed their name to the Sons of King Tammany (a Munsee Grand Sachem whose title, Tamanend, means "The Affable One"). The original thirteen colonies adopted the socio-political structure of the Quinnipiac Wampano Confederacy, with each state having its own totem and calling their leader a sachem.[citation needed]

Quinnipiac culture

The Long Water Land people lived in their fishing camps along the shores during the spring (Sequan) and summer (Nepun). Their horticultural patterns produced corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, fruits, nuts, berries, all in a plantation-style setting. They used a slash-and-burn technique to replenish the soil and rotated their plantation sites regularly. They used horseshoe crabs and menhadden (alewives) as a natural fertilizer. They caught shell- and scalefish and dried them in the sun or on racks over a fire. The Quinnipiac were avid falconers, using hawks to keep crows away from the corn.[citation needed] The bean and squash plants were planted in the valleys between rows of corn, so that the beans would curl around the corn stalks and weeding was unnecessary. Many other plants considered weeds today were used by the Long Water people for food, beverages, medicine, and for making mats.

In the fall (Taquonck) the Long Water people moved inland along their trails to the winter (Pabouks) grounds, and, along the way they hunted fowl, rabbits, beaver, and other small game, until they came to Meriden "the Pleasant Valley," where oaks provided shelter against high winds and the acorns were main staples for deer and wild turkey, another winter staple.

During the Colonial period, Quinnipiac men hired out as laborers, fishermen, and guides (the English often got lost), and Quinnipiac women sold their crafts.

The Quinnipiac and other Algonquians lived in dwellings known as wigwams (elliptical houses with sapling frames covered with bark, mats, skins, or sod) and quinnekommuk (longhouses that were rectangular and two or three times as long as their width, covered with similar coverings). Quiripi/Quinnipiac longhouses averaged thirty to one hundred feet long, by twenty feet wide, and about fifteen feet high. The bigger dwellings were sachems' houses, which often had five or six fire pits in one dwelling (because they often had their extended family living with them). Religious Society (Wampano or "Men of the Dawn," Powwauwoag, Medarennawawg, and others) had the biggest longhouses for ceremonial purposes.The algongin use shells as money.

The Long Water Land people were well known for their elm bark canoes (light and fast for easy portage), and 20-foot (6 m) to 40-foot (12 m) dugout canoes, used for trade and war.

They reckoned the passing of time by a lunar calendar and an eight-part ceremonial cycle, using various lithic and earth features as observatories to determine the phases of the sun, moon, and stars for planting, harvest, and ceremonies.[9]

Individuals of importance in Quinnipiac history

Momauguin, Quinnipiac Grand Sachem in 1638, signed the First Treaty with the English planters at Quinnipiac (New Haven), "along with others of his council," [10] granting the English the use of Quinnipiac land at New Haven, the Central Council Fire of the Sachemdom, while retaining full rights to the 1,200-acre (5 km2) "reservation" as well as full rights to fish and hunt all property.

Mantowese, sachem of Mattabesec (Middletown), to the north of New Haven, signed the Second Treaty with the English, granting them use of land in his sub-sachemship. Mantowese, the son of Sowheag, served on Momauguin's Grand Council and was the nephew of Sequin.

Shampishuh, sister to Momauguin, was the female sachem (sunksquaw) of the Menunkatuck (Guilford) Sub-sachemship, who signed the Third Treaty with the English, granting them the use of land near Madison and Guilford, but reserving land east of Kuttawoo River for her people. Shampishuh was the sister of Momauguin and niece of Quosoquonch, the sachem of nearby Totoket (Branford). Shampishuh' son, Naushop, signed the ratification of her treaty with the English.

Quosoquonch, the sachem of the Totoket Sub-sachemship and uncle of Shampishuh, worked with Shaumpishuh in 1639 to draw up a map (for Rev. Henry Whitfield and John Higginson) of the Quinnipiac sachemdoms from the Quinnipiac River in the west to beyond Hammonasset in the east, which included landmarks.

Sarah Mahwee (Mahweeyeuh), was born in East Haven (Mioonkhtuk Sub-sachemship). In 1699 she married Joseph Chuse (Paugusset Sub-sachemship) and together they began the Schaghticoke enclave.

Elizabeth Sakaskantawe Brown was born around 1850 and lived to be well over 100 years old, living on about 20 acres (81,000 m2) near Branford, Connecticut. Sakaskantawe (Flying Squirrel) was the last matriarch of the Totoket Band and was a descendant of James Mah-wee-yeuh, a Sachem of the Mioonkhtuk Band (East Haven), who died near Cheshire in 1745.[11]

Language, religion, and folklore

The Quinnipiac Language is the PEA-A R-Dialect, known today as WAMPANO-QUIRIPEY. It was originally spoken throughout the Dawnland around 1500 to 1600 AD. After contact with the Europeans, which caused the epidemics and resulted in a shift of regional dialects, the language was spoken in western Connecticut, eastern New York, half of Long Island, and northern New Jersey. From 1770 to the 20th century, the dialect became a pidginized hybridization of the n, l, y, and r dialects, until ACLI began reviving the original dialect. Today QTC (Quinnipiac Tribal Council) Press (ACLI series) has a 295-page Complete Language Guide and has been training people to speak, write, and understand the archaic r-dialect.

The Quinnipiac people practiced a number of traditional religious ceremonies, hosted by seven medicine societies. Chapter 12 of the Complete Language Guide preserves these teachings according to linguistic and cultural traditions, while Chapter 13 preserves the ancient graphical writing systems of the Eastern Algonquians, used by the sachems and shamans. As noted by contemporary scholars[who?], the Quinnipiac/Algonquians remained the strongest group to resist the Puritan ethnic cleansing. Rev. Pierson was taught by Rev. John Eliot, who founded Puritan Praying Towns, where any Quinnipiac who "converted" had to renounce everything "Indian", including religion, language, dress, ceremonies, homes, businesses, freedom, and families, and live like Europeans in square houses, but with stringent rules of conduct not imposed on Europeans. Many converted just to stay alive; some pretended to convert in order to remain in their homeland and/or to avoid being sold into slavery; others converted but relocated at missionary refugee camps that boasted better treatment; still others migrated to refugiums on land of other Algonquian or Iroquoian peoples.

Contrary to popular assumptions, those who did relocate were not absorbed into the receiving tribe. They were made part of Dawnland Grand Council Fire Circles, which is their traditional mode of socio-political existence. This is known as socio-political preservation and is how many of the Algonquian groups obtained state recognition in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, after they had been rendered "extinct" with the stroke of a pen in the legislatures of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York.

Basically, Quinnipiac/Algonquian Shamans, called powawaus, prayed and made offerings of tobacco, etc., to the spirits (mandooak) of game animals to ensure successful hunts. The warrior-shamans called Pinessi (plural is Pinessisok) were dedicated to the Thunderer who bestowed supernatural powers on them. Offerings were also made to the mandooak of the sun, moon, stars, mountains, rivers, oceans, the Little People, and the Stone Giants, Hobbomock and Maushop. Women tended all crops except tobacco and herbals, which were planted by shamans only. The Algonquians used over twenty herbals in smoking their ceremonial pipes.

The Quinnipiac Stone Giant Twins (Hobbomock and Maushop), as the primary culture heroes, acted as the epitomes of good and bad, right and wrong, honorable deeds and mischievous behavior. The Puritans refused to acknowledge any of this. Religious conversion and cultural ethnocide operated to redefine many Quinnipiac ancient traditions and language definitions. For example, the Puritan families refused to honor Quinnipiac teachings. Hobbomock was, to the Quinnipiac, a benevolent spirit who taught the people how to hunt, fish, and survive the Ice Age, earthquakes, famines, etc., and he was the one prayed to when assistance was needed. The Puritans knew this, yet they forced the Long Water people to teach the children that Hobbomock was a "Bogeyman." The Puritans redefined Hobbomock, Maushop, and other Quinnipiac spirit helpers as "devils." Today some[who?] believe that the Quinnipiac have vanished from the earth. As the motto of the New England Algonquian Alliance proudly proclaimed after the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978, "WE ARE STILL HERE"; so today do the Quinnipiac.

Quinnipiac legacy in greater New Haven and Connecticut

Population and whereabouts today

The Algonquian Confederacy of the Quinnipiac Tribal Council (ACQTC), the primary representative of the Quinnipiac people and heritage, has three forms of membership: full, confederate, and honorary.

Full membership includes those whose lineages trace back to the family names of Manweeyeuh, Mahwee, Cockenoe, Nonsuch, Soebuck, Redhead, Sock, Brown, Adams, Griswold, Parmalee, Curley, Skeesucks, LaFrance, Quinney, Ninham, Dean, Thompson/Tompson, Peters, Montour, Marchand, Klingerschmidt, Moses, Cornelius, Higheum, Waubeno, Douglas, Scott, Anthony, Butler, Burnham, Rouleau, and Hazel and these total about 50 to 100 families.

Confederate membership includes refugee families who trace their ancestry to the refugiums and enclaves cited above at NY, MA, PA, RI, IN, OH, WI, KS, TX, and Quebec (Canada)—which total about 100 families.

Honorary membership are adoptees who "enter into the sacred BOND OF THE COVENANT with the ACQTC Central Council Fire and ACQTC Grand Council Fire Confederacy to honor, protect, and revitalize our language, religion, and traditions, and to honor our traditional obligations as Gechanniwitank (aboriginal land-stewards), under our 'aboriginal title to land' rights, where Quinnipiac ancestors worshipped the creator and creation at certain landmarks within our ancestral sachemdom." These include about 25 to 50 families.


  1. ^ Mims, Dan (November 26, 2014). "Give and Take". Daily Nutmeg. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
  2. ^ Richard Carlson, "The Quinnipiac Reservation," Rooted Like the Ash Trees, Eagle Wing Press, 1987.
  3. ^ Iron Thunderhorse, "The 'Other' Quinnipiac Reservations", Branford Review, April 26, 2003.
  4. ^ J.H. Trumbull, Indian Names of Places, In and On the Borders of Connecticut, Hartford, CT 1881 (reprinted 1974 by Archon Books, the Shoestring Press, Inc., Hamden). Also see Trumbull's Introduction to 1658 Pierson Catechism, in 1895 CHS Collections.
  5. ^ Blair Rudes, "Resurrecting Wampano (Quiripi) from the Dead, Phonological Preliminaries," Anthropological Linguistics, Vol. 39. No. 1, Spring 1997
  6. ^ John Menta, "Shaumpishuh, 'Squaw Sachem' of the Quinnipiac Indians" in ARTIFACTS, Vol. 16, No. 3-4:32-27, 1988 and Iron Thunderhorse, "Setting the Record Straight: A Linguistic-Ethnographic Study of the True Identity of the Quinnipiac/Quiripi/Renapi Nation Structure." 2007 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-24. Retrieved 2007-09-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Kathleen J. Bragdon, Native People of Southern New England, 1500-1650, Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1996 and "The Sachemship and its Defenders", paper submitted at the American Historical Association, Washington, DC, 1987. Also see Iron Thunderhorse, We the People Called Quinnipiac, 2006
  8. ^ see map at
  9. ^ Iron Thunderhorse, "An Ancient American Indian Stone Calendar in Connecticut," Ancient American, Volume 5, Issue Number 36, December 2000, pp. 2-4.
  10. ^ Quinnipiac University, History and Mission Statement,[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Ruth Mahweeyeuh Thunderhorse, Following the Footprints of a Stone Giant,, 2007, p. 17.


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