Ninigret in 1681, painting currently at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum
|Resting place||"Burying Hill", near Charlestown, Rhode Island|
|Children||Son, Ninigret; daughter|
Ninigret [also known as Juanemo according to Roger Williams] (c.1610-1677) was a sachem of the eastern Niantic Native American tribe in New England. Ninigret allied with the English settlers and Narragansetts against the Pequots in 1637. Ninigret did not participate in King Philip's War and was largely responsible for preventing the Niantics from joining the War.
Ninigret was the uncle of Miantonomo, and his name was written in several ways. He was first known to the English settlers as Janemo, and was sachem of the Niantics, a tribe of the Narragansetts. He did not participate in the Pequot war of 1632, but aided the English in that of 1637. About a year after the death of Miantonomo, he formed a plan for expelling the English, and sent a messenger to Waiandance, the Long Island sachem, to engage him in it. Instead of listening to the messenger, Waiandance tied him up and sent him to the fort at Saybrook. From there, the messenger was transported to Hartford under guard. On their way, the party was forced to put in at Shelter Island, where Ninigret's messenger escaped.
Having passed the winter of 1652/3 among the Dutch in Manhattan and the western Indians, he was suspected of plotting with them against the English, and after a special meeting of the commissioners in Boston, in April 1653, they declared war with him, but, owing to the opposition of Massachusetts, it was not prosecuted. Meanwhile Ninigret waged war against the Long Island Indians, who had placed themselves under the protection of the English. In September 1654, the commissioners sent a message to the chief demanding his appearance in Hartford, where they were convened, and also the payment of tribute that had long been due. He refused to appear, and sent them a haughty answer. War was again declared against him, and 270 infantry and 40 horsemen were raised, and placed under the command of Major Samuel Willard, whose instructions were to go to Ninigrit's quarters, demand the tribute, and insist upon a cessation of the war with the Long Island Indians. On the approach of the troops Ninigret fled to a distant swamp, and was not pursued.
On 13 October 1660, with other chiefs, he mortgaged his territory to the colonists, and he gave them possession at Pettequamscot in 1662. He took no part in King Philip's War in 1675/6, and so escaped the ruin that overtook the other tribes. His remains are said to be buried at a place near Charlestown, Rhode Island, called “Burying Hill.”
Little impression was made upon the Narragansetts or Niantics by the Puritans. Roger Williams spoke with discouragement about this, and, when Mayhew requested Ninigret to allow him to preach to his tribe, he replied: “Go and make the English good first.”
His daughter succeeded to the sachemdom. At her death, she was succeeded by her half-brother Ninigret, who in 1709 granted a large portion of his people's lands to the colony of Rhode Island, which later caused difficulties for the Niantic. The younger Niantic died about 1722, leaving two sons, Charles Augustus and George. The former, dying shortly afterward, left an infant son, who was acknowledged by some of the tribe as their sachem, while another portion adhered to his uncle, who assumed the entire government in 1735.
George's son, Thomas Ninegret, who became chief in 1746, made further sales of the Niantic lands to Rhode Island, which caused discontent among his people, some of whom tried to depose him. One appeal to Sir William Johnson, superintendent of the Indians, took the ground that the lands sold were necessary for the support of the families of many whose lives had been lost in the king's service during the French and Indian War. In one of their letters to Sir William Johnson, in answer to an objection, that the Indians had no power to depose a sachem, they replied: “As it was in the power of the nation to put him in, we think it in the power of the nation to turn him out.” The controversy continued for several years, and Rhode Island ultimately obtained the lands. In a letter to Sir William Johnson, THomas Ninegret spoke of having paid £500 sterling to a subordinate chief, when going to the war, for the quit claim of his land, the money being intended for the support of his mother in the event of his fall.
A small remnant of the Niantics were living in Rhode Island in 1812.
Places named after Ninigret
- "Ninigret". New International Encyclopedia. 1905. This source confirms 1662 as the date of his land sales.
- Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Ninigret". Encyclopedia Americana. This source suggests a date of 1667 for his land sales and a 1647 war against the Mohegan.
- Frederic Denison, Westerly (Rhode Island) and Its Witnesses: For Two Hundred and Fifty Years, 1626-1876 : Including Charlestown, Hopkinton, and Richmond Until Their Separate Organization, with the Principal Points of Their Subsequent History, (J.A. & R.A. Reid, Providence: 1878), pg.22  (accessed June 19, 2009)
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Ninegret". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
- Harold M. Chapin, Sachems of the Narragansett. Providence, 1931.
- Julie A. Fisher and David J. Silverman, Ninigret, Sachem of the Niantics and Narragansetts: Diplomacy, War, and the Balance of Power in Seventeenth-Century New England and Indian Country. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014.
- Michael L. Oberg, Uncas, First of the Mohegans. (New York, 2003). Glen LaFantasie, ed., The Correspondence of Roger Williams, 1629–1653, Vol. 1 (Providence, 1988).
- Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, 2nd Ser. VIII (1826), 59.
- Lafarge, Oliver. (MCMLVI). A Pictorial History of the American Indian Crown Publishers Inc. Page 81.
- Yale University Brief Biography