Indians of Nantucket

The consensus of modern scientific opinion favors the belief that the so-called American-Indian race represents the autochthonous people or aborigines of the great American Continent. Referring to the origin of the American Indians, Professor Pritchard says: “The era of their existence as a distinct and insulated race must probably be dated as far back as that time which separated into nations the inhabitants of the Old World, and gave to each branch of the human family its primitive language and individuality.” The origin of the Amerinds of America has still to be sought amid the sources of the various races of mankind from primeval times.

The Indian tribes of New England belonged to the great Algonquian Confederacy the most widely extended of all the North American Indians their territory stretching along the Atlantic coast from Labrador to Pamlico sound, and westward, from Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountains.

The three principal Massachusetts tribes were the Massachusetts or Naticks, the Nipmucks, and the Wampanoags, the latter under the dominance of Massasoit when the Pilgrims arrived, and, at that time, the third greatest nation in New England.

With regard to the primeval discovery of the island of Nantucket by the Indians the following legend is interesting, (as all legends are), and it was related by the aborigines of the early English settlers, soon after their arrival.

In former times, a good many moons ago, a bird, extra-ordinary for its size, used often to visit the south shore of Cape Cod, and carry from thence in its talons a vast number of small children. Maushope, who was an Indian giant, as fame reports, resided in these parts. Enraged at the havoc among the children, he, on a certain time, waded into the sea in pursuit of the bird, till he had crossed the sound, and reached Nantucket. Before Maushope forded the sound, the island was unknown to the red men. Maushope found the bones of the children in a heap under a large tree. He, then, wishing to smoke his pipe, ransacked the island for tobacco; but finding none, he filled his pipe with poke a weed which the Indians sometimes used as a substitute.

“Ever since this memorable event, fogs have been frequent on the Cape. In allusion to this tradition, when the aborigines observed a fog rising, they would say, There comes old Maushope’s smoke. ”

Indians of Nantucket

History, Nantucket,

Douglas-Lithgow, R. A., M.D., L.L.D.The Nantucket Indians. Nantucket: Inquirer and Mirror Press. 1911.

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