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The Pequot War and King Philip’s War

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The early years of English colonization of North America were characterized by a tenuous balance. The English and the Native Americans traded and cooperated in a number of ways. There was also an underlying tension as the English grew in numbers and claimed greater amounts of territory.

            Initially, the English needed the help of the native peoples to survive. They soon gained a foothold and began to expand their influence. Eventually, the underlying tensions would erupt in two wars that would change the power structure, and relations between those involved, forever.

The Pequot War

The Pequot were a powerful tribe in what is now Connecticut prior to the arrival of the English settlers. In 1637 an uprising began against the increasing English control in the area. The Puritan settlers, while accepting the help of the Pequot, also looked down upon them. They aggressively tried to convert the Pequot to the Puritan faith. Even after conversion, they were still not considered the equal of the English. While the Pequot wanted trade with the English, many resisted English control.

In an attempt to decisively put down any resistance, the Puritans attacked a Pequot village, killing hundreds. Some other native tribes, including the Mohegan and the Narragansett, assisted the English because of long standing disputes they had with the Pequot.

This war signified the beginning of a power shift. The English now had sufficient numbers to seize and control a significant amount of land in New England.

King Philip’s War

This war was another Indian uprising in 1675, about forty years after the Pequot war. By this time the native tribes were under no illusion of trust for the English. They still traded and cooperated, partly because they had become more dependent on that trade.

The remaining tribes had seen the Pequot get wiped out, however. The relationship between the native tribes and the English was never quite the same. Continued English expansion and conversion attempts had prompted another uprising in what is now Massachusetts. The English had also attempted to confiscate the weapons of the tribal warriors.

This time there was more cooperation among the tribes. Five tribes combined their resources to resist the English. Tribal disputes were put aside because they knew their very existence was at stake. The tribes had a number of early victories. According to Pilgrim Hall Museum, as many as six hundred colonists were killed (1). Eventually, the colonists brought overwhelming force to bear and wiped out thousands of Indians.

The Consequences

Before these two wars, native tribes controlled what is now the eastern United States. The Pequot war began the shift of power to the English colonists. King Philip’s war completed that shift, at least in the northeast.

Relations between the two competing forces were never the same. The native tribes saw their way of life changed, and in some cases they were wiped out completely. There had been, at first, an uneasy cooperation between the two. The drive for land and resources changed everything.

The way of life of the Indians was completely foreign to the English, and vice-versa. When war did break out, there was little in common to restrain the bloodshed. The trust was gone forever.

For the Indians, these two wars caused a realization to set in. The tribal battles they had had over the centuries were not so important now. They had to decide whether to band together and fight or to try and assimilate into an entirely new culture.



Calloway, Colin G. After King Philip’s War: presence and persistence in Indian New

England. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1997.

Cave, Alfred A. The Pequot War. Amherst: Univ of Massachusetts Press, 1996.

Orr, Charles. The Pequot War. New York: AMS Press, 1980.

Pilgrim Hall Museum. “King Philip’s War: The Causes” 1998. The Pilgrim Hall Museum.

11 Apr. 2006 < http://www.pilgrimhall.org/philipwar.htm >.  .

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