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

The Long River

Kwinitekw means “long river,” emphasizing the extent of its range, from the headwaters deep in the Wabanaki interior, which provided refuge to Penacook people during King Philip’s war, to the tidal river at the mouth, where Mohegan and Niantic people defended their fishing rights even after the Revolutionary War. It is one of the most fertile river valleys in the world. The land below the Great Beaver hosts sites of longstanding Indigenous inhabitation, going back over 12,000 years, as archaeologists have documented. It also is known for the early emergence of Indigenous horticulture, including women’s intercropping of squash, corn, beans, sunflowers and sunchokes, and the cultivation and gathering of spring edibles like apenak, or groundnuts, and shadberries, which signaled the arrival of the shad and salmon downriver. Many Indigenous towns were located on Kwinitekw's banks, its people hosting large seasonal gatherings, especially when the fish and the harvests came in, fostering trade and travel throughout its extensive tributaries and networks.
With colonization, the long river’s trade networks extended to Europe, bringing a wide range of French, English and Dutch goods into the valley, including cloth, arms and ammunition, which transformed modes of hunting and trade. Violence exploded with the fur trade, as Native people in the region tried to adapt to the traumatic disruptions of epidemic disease, the introduction of firearms, new material goods, and liquor, and the intensifying colonial desire for land and resources, which led to conflicts among Native nations, and to the First Indian War. The English settlement of Deerfield, for example, was preceded by a devastating Mohawk raid on Pocumtuck, which temporarily dispersed its people, creating a doorway through which English settlers could claim the land just north of the Great Beaver for their own. The Great Beaver story was told to colonists who arrived in the Kwinitekw Valley, and adapted to incorporate hard lessons learned during the beaver wars, for Abenaki descendants.
In the Connecticut River Valley, William and John Pynchon's trading post at Agawam (Springfield) was situated at a crucial trade location for multiple Native nations, and for the colonies of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Indeed, the Pynchon trading post established the western advent and southern boundary of Massachusetts’ colonial jurisdiction, while the debts on John Pynchon's ledger created the grounds for deeds that established and extended Connecticut River Valley towns like Northampton and Hadley, in Nonotuck territory, and Deerfield, in Pocumtuck territory.

Just before King Philip's War, John Pynchon himself acquired a deed that granted him legal title to the Great Beaver, a deed signed by Mashalisk, a Pocumtuck woman whose sons were in debt to the trader. In turn, Pynchon gave Mashalisk wampum, which Native people traditionally used, not as currency, but to seal a pledge or to create and/or renew a bond. What did John Pynchon pledge to Mashalisk, the Pocumtuck people, or to the Great Beaver? What relationships were forged by this bond?

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