Narragansett Tribe

Roger Williams with the Narragansett Native Indians

Roger Williams with the Narragansett tribe

This article contains interesting facts, pictures and information about the life of the Narragansett Native American Indian Tribe of the Northeast woodland cultural group.

The Narragansett Tribe
Summary and Definition: The Narragansett tribe inhabited Narragansett Bay, that was named for the tribe, and western Rhode Island. The Narragansett tribe were farmers, hunters and expert fishers who travelled in their canoes around the islands of Narragansett Bay and along the Providence and Pawcatuck Rivers. The name of the most famous chief of the Narragansett tribe was Canonicus who sold land in Rhode Island to Roger Williams.

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Facts about the Narragansett Native Indian Tribe
This article contains fast, fun facts and interesting information about the Narragansett Native American Indian tribe. Find answers to questions like where did the Narragansett tribe live, what clothes did they wear and what food did they eat? Discover what happened to the Narragansett tribe with facts about their wars and history.

What language did the Narragansett tribe speak?
The Narragansett tribe spoke in a related dialect of the Algonquian language family. The meaning of the name 'Narragansett' is "People of the small point" in respect of the location of their homelands.

What was the lifestyle and culture of the Narragansett tribe?
The Narragansett tribe were a large, strong warlike people who inhabited nearly all of present Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts, numbering over 10,000 warriors.

The Narragansett people organized were highly organized with a grand sachem (chief) and eight lower ranking hereditary sachems who usually resided in the largest winter village of longhouses. The were expert farmers who raised large fields of corn, beans, and squash. The Narragansett people avoided the first diseases brought to North America by the Europeans but lost many of their people to smallpox in 1633. They were at first were hostile to the newcomers but Chief Canonicus was more friendly towards the Europeans and sold land in Rhode Island to the dissident colonist Roger Williams. Conflict between the two cultures was, however, inevitable as the British made further encroachments on their lands and tried to convert the people to Christianity and establishing the 'Praying towns'. The Pequot War (1634-1638) was followed by conflict with the Mohegan tribe over Pequot lands and the Narragansett then became involved in King Philip's War and were subjected to massacres by the British. By 1682 less than 500 Narragansett people remained.


Where did the Narragansett tribe live?
The Narragansett are people of the Northeast Woodland Native American cultural group. The location of their tribal homelands are shown on the map.  The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Narragansett tribe.

  • The Northeast Woodland region extended mainly across the New England States, lower Canada, west to Minnesota, and north of the Ohio River
  • Land: Lush woodlands, rivers, ocean
  • Climate: The climate varied according to the location of the tribe
  • Land Animals: The  animals included squirrel, white-tailed deer, raccoon, bears, beavers, moose, and caribou
  • Fish and Sea Mammals: Whales, Seal, Fish and shell fish
  • Crops: The crops grown in the area were corn (maize), pumpkin, squash, beans and tobacco
  • Trees: Poplar, birch, elm, maple, oak, pine, fir trees and spruce

Map showing Northeast Woodland location - Narragansett tribe

Map showing location of the Northeast or
Eastern Woodland Indians Cultural Group
and the Narragansett tribe

What did the Narragansett tribe live in?
The Narragansett tribe lived in temporary summer lodges called  a wetu aka
Wigwam. These were small cone-shaped selters with an arched roof built using a wooden frame from saplings (young trees) that were covered with sheets of birchbark. Wide sheets of bark from large, older trees covered the frames of the wigwams, which were held in place by ropes. These summer wigwams were covered with woven mats made from tall cattail plants. Their permanent winter lodges were in fortified villages of Longhouses, which were also built using birchbark.

What food did the Narragansett tribe eat?
The food that the Narragansett tribe ate included included the staple crops called the  "three sisters" which were corn, beans and squash. These crops were supplements with berries, nuts fruits, Jerusalem artichokes, pumpkins, and zucchini. Meat included deer (venison), black bear, rabbit, squirrel, duck, grouse, geese, muskrat, beaver, otter, raccoon and turkey. Fish included haddock, salmon, cod, flounder and mackerel. Shellfish was readily available and included oysters, clams, lobsters and scallops. Nuts, berries and grapes were also important food source to the Narragansett. 

What weapons did the Narragansett use?
The weapons used by the Narragansett included war clubs, tomahawks, battle hammers, knives, bows and arrows, spears and axes. Their enemies were the Wampanoag tribe.

What Transportation did the Narragansett use? Dugout Canoes
Most Algonquian speaking Native Indians made birch bark or dugout canoes for transportation. Narragansett Native Americans built heavy dugout canoes made from the from hollowed-out logs of large trees. The Narragansett words relating to canoes were 'Mishittouwand' meaning "great canoe", 'Peewasu' meaning "small canoe" and 'Paugautemissaund' meaning " oak canoe".

What clothes did the Narragansett wear?
Before the Europeans traded cloth with the Native Indians the vast majority of clothes worn by the Narragansett were made from animal skins or birchbark. The animal skins include deer (buckskin) raccoon, beaver, otter and moose. The garments included long breechclouts, leggings, long cloaks and shorter shoulder to waist length mantles.  Narragansett women wore wraparound skirts, dresses and warm buckskin cloaks during the winter. Their moccasins were made of one piece of hide with a long tongue and a high collar that could be left up or folded down. Belts were woven from dogbane and other plant fibers that were colored with vegetable dyes. Their headdresses consisted of a woven headband and topped with feathers as a sign of status.

What was the religion and beliefs of the Narragansett tribe?
The Green Corn Festival was one of the most important ceremonies of the Northeast Woodland Indians, including the Narragansett, when corn was presented as a sacred offering to the Great Spirit.

Narragansett History: What happened to the Narragansett tribe?
The following Narragansett history timeline details facts, dates and famous landmarks of the people. The Narragansett timeline explains what happened to the people of their tribe.

Narragansett History Timeline

  • 1524: French expedition, led by Giovanni da Verranzano, made the first contact with the Narragansett

  • 1500's: European explorers and traders make contact with the Narragansett and fur trading begins

  • 1606: The colonisation of New England began

  • 1620: The Mayflower ship and the Pilgrims landed in the New World and the Plymouth colonists locate in present day Plymouth Bay

  • 1620: Massachusetts Bay Colony founded by John Mason and Sir Ferdinando Gorges

  • 1620: The Great Migration of English colonists and the encroachment of Native Indian lands begin

  • 1621: The Narragansett, wary of the white colonists, sent a warning message to the Plymouth Colony

  • 1633: The Narranganset lost 700 to a smallpox epidemic

  • 1634: Deteriorating relations between the colonists and Native Indians results in the Pequot War (1634-1638)

  • 1635: Roger Williams was banished from Massachusetts for his teachings and went to Rhode Island, where he founded Providence

  • 1636: Roger Williams was banished from Massachusetts for his teachings and went to Rhode Island, where the Narragansett Chief Canonicus sold him the land that became Providence

  • 1636: Rhode Island was settled by the followers of the Puritan dissidents Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson

  • 1637: The Narragansett allied with the New England colonists during the Pequot War but their alliance was short lived by the harsh tactics employed by the British

  • 1638: The Narrangansett come into conflict with the Mohegan tribe over control of the conquered Pequot lands

  • 1643: Chief Miantonomoh led 1000 Narragansett warriors in an invasion of what is now eastern Connecticut against the Mohegan tribe and their leader Uncas

  • 1644: Chief Miantonomoh was killed by Uncas and the British side with the Mohegans. The Narragansett sign a peace treaty with the British

  • 1600's: Epidemics of smallpox, typhus and measles together with inter-tribal warfare diminish the numbers of Pennacook

  • 1646: 'Praying towns' were developed by the Puritans of New England (1646 - 1675) in an effort to convert Native Indian tribes to Christianity.

  • 1675: King Philip's War erupts led by the Wampanoag Chief Metacom (King Philip) due to the continuous encroachment of white settlers and their attempts to crush the culture of the Native Indians

  • 1675: Some survivors of King Philip's War are sent to Deer Island and others sold as slaves in the West Indies

  • 1675: The Great Swamp Massacre. The British accuse the Narragansett of sheltering Wampanoag refugees and attack the Narragansett fortified village in Rhode Island on December 19, 1675. The attack is referred to as the Great Swamp Massacre. AT least 50 warriors were killed and over 300 women, children and elder men burnt in the village

  • 1676: The Narragansett, led by Chief Canonchet, begin widespread retaliation for the massacre. In February 1676, in which they destroyed all English settlements on the western side of Narragansett Bay

  • 1676: An incident called Nine Men's Misery occurs on March 26 in Rhode Island in which nine colonists were tortured by the Narragansett Indian tribe during King Philip's War

  • 1676: The Narragansett burn Providence on March 27, 1676. Roger Williams house is destroyed

  • 1676: On May 18 Captain William Turner of the Massachusetts Militia lead 150 men against the Narragansett. Chief Canonchet is killed

  • 1676: On July 2, 1676 Rhode Island Militia volunteers under Major John Talcott attack another village of Narragansetts on Rhode Island, and 34 men and 92 women and children are massacred

  • 1676: On August 12  Metacom (King Philip) was betrayed and killed and resistance from the Native Indians came to an end

  • 1682: Less than 500 Narragansett remained. They were allowed to settle with their allies, the Eastern Niantic, on a reservation at Charlestown, Rhode Island

Narragansett History Timeline

The Story of Narragansett
For additional facts and information refer to the legend and the Story of Canonchet


  • Interesting Facts and information about the way the Narragansett people lived
  • The clothes worn by men and women
  • Description of the homes and the type of food the Narragansett would eat
  • Fast Facts and info about the Narragansett
  • Names of famous chiefs and leaders
  • Interesting Homework resource for kids on the history of the Narragansett Native American Indians

Pictures and Videos of Native American Indians and their Tribes
The Narragansett Tribe was one of the most famous tribes of Native American Indians. Discover the vast selection of pictures on the subject of the tribes of Famous Native Americans such as the Narragansett nation. The pictures show the clothing, war paint, weapons and decorations of various Native Indian tribes, such as the Narragansett tribe, that can be used as a really useful educational resource for kids and children of all ages. We hope you enjoy watching the video - just click and play - a great social studies homework resource for kids .


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