Conanicut Island is the second largest island in Narragansett Bay, in the US state of Rhode Island. It is connected on the east to Newport, Rhode Island, on Aquidneck Island by the Claiborne Pell Bridge, commonly known as the Newport Bridge, and on the west to North Kingstown, Rhode Island, on the mainland by the Jamestown-Verrazano Bridge. The island comprises the town of Jamestown, Rhode Island, Newport County, Rhode Island. The United States Census Bureau reported a land area of 24.46 km2 (9.44 sq mi) and a population of 5,622 as of the 2000 census.
By 1300 B.C. Conanicut Island was home (at least on a seasonal basis) to many Native Americans. The largest Native cemetery in New England is located on the island; and artifacts spanning a three-thousand year period have been recovered from a site near the elementary school. The island is named for the Chief Canonicus of the Narragansett tribe, who once inhabited the land and maintained his royal residence on the island.
In 1636 or 1637, Dutch fur traders paid to use the island of Quentenis as a base for their activities. This island, located just west of Conanicut, is now known as Dutch Island and is part of Jamestown.
In 1638 the English made arrangements to use Conanicut Island for grazing sheep. One of the Narragansett sachems who gave consent was Canonicus. As a result of these events, the name "Conanicut" was given to the island and the figure of a sheep is in a central position in the Jamestown seal.
In 1657 a consortium of about one hundred buyers purchased Conanicut, Dutch and Gould Islands. They divided Conanicut Island into roughly one dozen large plots and reserved Dutch Island and parts of Conanicut Island for common use. Benedict Arnold, one of the purchasers and great-grandfather of his namesake, became governor of the colony of Rhode Island the same year.
The Native Americans and newly arrived colonists lived side-by-side in relative peace for almost four decades. Conflicts eventually occurred in a number of places in southern New England, leading to what is known as King Philip's War. Although Conanicut Island remained a haven for many Native Americans, after 1676, life in the region was dominated by the colonists.