Naumkeag people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Naumkeag tribe were a Native American people who inhabited the area now part of northeastern Massachusetts. The tribe maintained its independence even as it acted as part of the Massachusett Confederacy of tribes.

The territory of the Naumkeag Indians was primarily Essex County, Massachusetts. The name is said to refer to "fishing place," from namaas (fish) and ki (place).[1]

The name Naumkeag in modern usage is often used to refer to the original name for Salem, Massachusetts. Their largest tribal village was located near Salem, but the Native American use of this term applied to the people and not the place.

At the time of the Great Migration to New England in the early 17th century, the Naumkeag population was already greatly depleted. They engaged in a war with the Tarrantine people beginning in 1615.[2] A plague broke out in the area 1617 and took a particularly heavy toll with the Naumkeag people. The Tarrantines took advantage of this weakness, and further decimated their numbers, including killing their sachem, Nanepashemet, in 1619.[3] Upon this death, the general government of the tribe was continued by his widow, the "squaw sachem." His youngest son, Wenepoykin, was Sachem by the time English settlers arrived in 1629, but he may have received assistance from an older family member until he came of age.[4][5] In 1633 there came another plague, probably smallpox, "which raged to such an extent as to nearly exterminate the tribe."[6]

Numerous precautions were taken by the early Puritan settlers against Indian raids in this territory including the construction of garrisons and posting of sentries, but there is little historical evidence that this tribe was anything but peaceful in their relationship with the Europeans. Toward the end of the 17th century, several towns in the area had secured deeds from the heirs of Wenepoykin, including Salem and Marblehead.


  1. ^ Perley, Sidney (1912). The Indian land titles of Essex County, Massachusetts. Salem: Essex Book and Print Club. p. 8. Retrieved 2008-12-11.
  2. ^ Roads, Samuel (1880). History and Traditions of Marblehead. Boston: Houghton Osgood and Company. p. 2. Retrieved 2009-07-10.
  3. ^ Roads, p. 2
  4. ^ Lewis, Alonzo; Newhall, James R. (1865). The History of Lynn. John L. Shorey.
  5. ^ "Wenepoykin". Menotomy Journal.
  6. ^ Roads, p. 4