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Mattabesset or Mattabeseck refers to the Native American group which had its principal settlement at the Mattabeseck River of what is today Connecticut, United States. It is presumed that the portage offered the Mattabeseck additional opportunities for trade. The Mattabeseck River also forms an extensive swamplands where it meets the Connecticut, which would also have offered a variety of natural resources for exploitation.
Also spelled Mattabesic, or Mattabesec, their land appears to be also referred to as the Makimanes and are a branch of the Algonquian Indian tribe or tribes of people. Sowheag, Chief of the Connecticut Indians claimed the allegiance of the Indians of Hartford, Connecticut and Wethersfield, Connecticut also was considered chief of the Mattabesecks. He moved his principal residence to Middletown after Hartford and Wethersfield were occupied by English colonists. His son, Manitowese, claimed the allegiance of Quinnipiac Valley Indians, (Meriden, Connecticut to New Haven, Connecticut).
Whether the Mattabesecks were a distinct tribe or simply the members of a larger tribe resident at Mattabeseck is an open question. The 1920 Encyclopedia Americana lists them as part of the Wappinger Confederation. Given the close interplay of the various groups, the best option may simply be to consider them part of one larger tribe, the Connecticut Indians.
The last lands of the Mattabesecks were a small section in Portland on the east side of the river, and a larger tract in the Newfield section of Middletown, still close to the Mattabeseck marshlands. The last remnants of the tribe left in the late 18th century for upstate New York, and were among the many New England Indian groups that merged with the Indians at Schaghticoke.
The Mattabesset spoke a language of the Algonquian family. This language is now extinct.
- Encyclopedia Americana. 1920. p. 256.
- Waldman, Carl. Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. p. 10.