Skip to Content
HomeAbout this siteHelpSearch this site The Library of Congress
America's Story from America's LibraryMeet Amazing AmericansJump Back in TimeExplore the StatesJoin America at PlaySee, Hear and Sing
Explore the States Rhode Island
Photo of Bella Noka, winner of Eastern Blanket Dance category, October 1999
Bella Noka, world champion, Eastern Blanket Dance category, Shemitzun Powwow, October 1999

Enlarge this image
The Narragansett Indian Tribe
A Local Legacy

The Narragansett Indian Tribe lived in what is now known as Rhode Island, long before Europeans settled there. The Narragansett were made up of several sub-tribes, each with a chief (sachem). They survived by farming corn, hunting, and fishing.

Europeans first came into contact with the Indians of Rhode Island in 1524, when the explorer Giovanni de Verrazano visited Narragansett Bay. He described a large Indian population organized under powerful "kings." Europeans didn't settle this area until 1635. The Narraganset and Europeans maintained good relations until King Philip's War in 1675-76. This war was the last major effort by the Indians of southern New England to drive out the English settlers who wanted more and more Indian land. But the Narragansett were completely defeated.

After the war, the remaining Narragansetts were forced to live on reservation lands, but by the end of the 18th century, the reservation lands had been drastically reduced. The state of Rhode Island "detribalized" the Narragansett during 1880-1884, which meant that they were no longer recognized as a tribe.

Over the years, the Narragansett tried to maintain their tribal customs and traditions, but it wasn't until the 1970s that they were able to reclaim part of their land and the 1980s before they received federal recognition as a tribe. It took decades, but the persistence of the Narragansett at getting back a part of what belonged to them finally paid off.

page 1 of 1 More Stories

About Local Legacies     

Library Of Congress | Legal Notices | Privacy | Site Map | Contact Us