The Wampanoag, a North American Indian tribe of Eastern Algonquian linguistic stock, traditionally inhabited the territory around Narragansett Bay in present-day Rhode Island and Massachusetts. A horticultural people, during the early 17th century they occupied approximately 30 villages in this region and controlled the lands east of the bay, including the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Their leader Massasoit welcomed the English during this period and remained at peace with them until his death (1661). By that time the Wampanoag had suffered grave privations, including epidemics that took most of the population.
When Massasoit's son Metacomet succeeded his father, however, Wampanoag policy took a drastic turn. Metacomet organized a major intertribal coalition and a war, lasting from 1675 to 1676, the purpose of which was to kill or drive away the English settlers. Metacomet was killed, and the Wampanoag were nearly exterminated; most of the survivors took refuge among other tribes. One village (1995 est. pop., 865), on Martha's Vineyard, has retained its identity to the present day. The Mashpee Wampanoag are a state-recognized tribe with headquarters in the town of Mashpee on Cape Cod. At the 1990 U.S. census, the Wampanoag numbered 2,175.
James A. Clifton
Bibliography: Mills, Earl, Sr., and Mann, Alicja, Son of Mashpee: Reflections of Chief Flying Eagle, a Wampanoag (1996); Roman, Joseph, King Philip: Wampanoag Rebel (1992).