Native Americans of Rhode Island

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This entry was originally written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG in Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

Rhode Island’s native population sold their land to the outcasts from Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies to create the earliest settlements in the state. The early manuscript holdings in the Rhode Island State Archives contain information on Narragansetts and their descendants, who managed to stay in the state long after the demise, through either death or slavery after King Philip’s War, of most other tribes in New England. “Indian” is a term found often in all categories of records for the state. As with African American slaves, natives often took the names of their owners or those to whom they were indentured, making it critical to follow white families of the same surnames. For excellent historical background, see Sydney S. Rider, The Lands of Rhode Island as they were Known to Canonicus and Miantunnomu (Providence, R.I.: the author, 1904).