Published on July 20, 2014 by Amy
Language: Narragansett was an Algonkian language, closely related to Mohegan (Pequot) and Massachusett (Wampanoag). Some linguists consider Narragansett a dialect of one of those two languages, while others consider it a distinct language. Either way, Narragansett was spoken by the Nipmuc and Narragansett tribes, while Mohegan was spoken by the other so-called Mohegan tribes. Unfortunately none of these languages has been natively spoken for more than a century, though some young people are interested in reviving their use.
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People: The Narragansett are considered by most historians to be a sub-tribe of the Mohegans, though their language may have been closer to that of the Wampanoag. The Narragansett tribe, like the Niantic, Nipmuc, Montauk, and Pequot, was originally a distinct and independent nation. However, due to heavy population losses and aggressive colonial expansion, the Indian tribes of New England were scattered, merged, and assimilated to such a degree that they lost their languages and much of their individual tribal characters. In particular, the Narragansett, Nipmuc, and Niantic tribes were driven together under the general Mohegan rubric; other Narragansetts took refuge with the Abenakis or Stockbridge Indians, assimilating into those cultures. The Narragansett only regained official tribal status in 1985, though they never stopped practicing their culture within their communities. There are about 2500 Narragansetts in Rhode Island today, including those of Niantic, Nipmuc, and Pequot descent, and 2500 other Mohegans (including some with Narragansett ancestry) in Connecticut and Long Island.