Life of the Quinnipiac tribe

By on November 28, 2002

The Quinnipiac Native Americans belonged to the Algonquian group of tribes of New England. They were hunters and farmers that occupied South-Central Connecticut, along the banks of Connecticut’s rivers.
The name Quinnipiac means long water land or long water country.
The Quinnipiac tribe was comprised of four distinct groups: the Momauguin band in New Haven, The Montowese band in North Haven, the Shaumpishuh band in Guilford and the Totoket band in Branford.
The four bands were unified as a tribe by their language, Quiripi, a dialect of Eastern Algonquian.
Their culture, blood relations and geographical location of their villages also kept them together.
Each band had it’s own leader, called a sachem, who worked together to keep their bands alive and in peace.
The leaders of the tribes were mainly hunters and trappers, using bows and arrows, spears, clubs, stones, or traps to trap fur animals. They sold animal skins to traders from the east.
Before the English invaded the lands, the Quinnipiac Tribe practiced their own religion.
Little is known historically about this religion except that through various rituals and ceremonies, the Quinnipiac tribe recognized and showed respect to the supernatural powers they believed to inhabit all things.
They also believed in a variety of deities, such as the god of the sun, the moon and the skies.
One deity that was especially important to the Quinnipiac tribe was Kiehtan. Kiehtan was believed to be a spirit who dwelled to the southwest.
After death, the souls of both the good and the evil left for his lands where they enjoyed a life similar to their earthly existence.
Quinnipiac natives were allies the English settlers and indeed fought alongside of them, but in the end, the natives were abandoned.
The first contact with the Quinnipiac tribe is attributed to Adrian Block, who discovered Connecticut.
The Quinnipiac tribe not only welcomed Block and his crew, they also provided them with furs and food during the first winter, and instructed the English in hunting, fishing, and planning.
Attacks by enemy tribes and two epidemics weakened the Quinnipiac natives, and so they were eager to form an alliance with the English.
As more and more wars occurred, the Quinnipiac tribe’s population decreased.
They sold their land to the English settlers, who agreed to let them continue living as they always had in designated areas.
As the tribe grew smaller, the English settlement expanded and consumed the nearby forests and other natural resources valuable to the natives.
The final straw for the Quinnipiac Indians was King Philip’s War in 1675. King Philip, the leader of the Wampanoug tribe, led a confederation of Indian tribes against the colonists.
The Quinnipiac natives fought alongside the English and lost nearly two thirds of their population.
Despite the fact that the Quinnipiac had fought with the colonists, upon return to their settlements the Indians discovered that their English allies had built a fort around their lands, refusing any Indian to enter.
Exiled, what was left of the Quinnipiac tribe was forced to join surrounding tribes, such as the Tunxis tribe of Farmington.
As of 1774, only 71 natives remained, and finally, in 1850, the last of the Quinnipiac tribe passed.


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