Our Beloved Kin: Remapping A New History of King Philip's War


The people upriver at Sokwakik had taken in their kin from Kwinitekw and defended them at the foot of the Great Beaver. This was a vast and vital Indigenous region, the south place of Abenaki country. The place the colonists called "Squakeag" was only the southernmost Sokoki town. Indeed the intervales of Sokwakik to the north would provide vital refuge to large groups of Native people from the south, as the winter came on, seeking sustenance and shelter from the war. 

In early September, Captain Richard Beers and his company of thirty-six men and a team of oxen pushed past the blockade of the Great Beaver, seeking to reinforce the garrison at the outlying settlement at Squakeag. Not surprisingly, a Native force, including Nipmuc leaders, ambushed them at a Sokwakik field as they marched north, preventing further encroachment and discouraging additional military expeditions into Sokoki country. 

Today, this place is marked by memorials to Captain Beers "and his men." The land where this monument stands once hosted Native women's planting fields and caches; although corn, lilies and milkweed still flourish here, no signs recognize such longstanding relationships as motivations for the ambush. Rather, we get the impression that Beers and his men were surprised by hostile intruders while they sought to protect settlers at "Northfield." This site was renamed "Beers Plain," as if the death of the colonial captain and his forces solidified English settlers' rightful claim to land. Ironically, Beers was in the first English expedition that identified "Suckquakege upon Connecticut River" as a place that should be colonized, in 1669, claiming "discovery." This expedition, which also included Daniel Gookin, Daniel Henchman, and Thomas Prentice (key players in the war)  was commissioned by the Massachusetts General Court to ascertain a good location "to lay out a new plantation," northwest of Quinsigamon. Sokwakik was one of two locations they recommended "be reserved" to build "two or three towns." This context, relevant to the war and its colonial officers, is not noted on any markers. No signs mark this place as part of Sokwakik. A nearby sign announcing the location of "Indian Council Fires" recognizes a local settler memory, perhaps a romanticization, of the possible site of war councils to plan the ambush, but not the Sokoki women who planted, gathered and stored their harvest for winter here, nor the "Indian village on Beers Plain" mentioned in nineteenth-century histories.[1]

[1] J.H. Temple and G. Sheldon, A History of the Town of Northfield, Massachusetts, (Albany, NY: Joel Munsell, 1875), 50. Eric Schultz and Michael Tougias, King Philip’s War: The History and Legacy of America’s Forgotten Conflict (Woodstock, VT: The Countryman Press, 2000), 163-9.

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