At the time of the English settlement of Massachusetts the territory was occupied by five Algonquin tribes. The Pennacooks were in the north-cast, partly in what is now New Hampshire; the Massachusetts on the bay of that name; the Nausets on Cape Cod; and west of them the Pokanokets or Wampanoags in the southeast. Central Massachusetts was occupied by the Nipmucks or Nipnets; the western part was uninhabited. All of these tribes were friendly except the Nausets, who had had frequent collisions with the crews of French and English ships. The Plymouth settlers effected a peace with the Nausets, and made a treaty with Massasoit, chief of the Pokanokets. (See Massasoit.) The Massachusetts colony entered into similar relations with the Massachusetts and Pennacooks. In 1644 the Mayhews on Martha's Vineyard, and in 1646 John Eliot, began missions to the Indians; and in 1650 Eliot's converts were formed into a community at Natick. For their use he translated the Bible into their language (New Testament, Cambridge, Mass., 1661; whole Bible, 1663). By 1674 the praying Indians or converts numbered 3,200, of whom 1,100 were in Massachusetts, 600 in Plymouth, and 1,500 in Martha's Vineyard. A growing discontent among the Indians culminated in 1675 in what is known as King Philip's Indian war.
It began with the rising of the Pokanokets under Philip Metacomet or Pometacom, son of Massasoit; the Nipmucks followed, then the Narragan-setts, and finally the Pennacooks. Though not apparently a concerted plot, the rising was almost simultaneous, and all the Massachusetts frontier settlements were ravaged. Even the praying Indians caught the contagion, and numbers joined the enemy. The colonists finally conquered the savages, and the war ended with the death of Philip, Aug. 12, 1676. The Pennacooks after this withdrew in a great measure, joining tribes to the east or in Canada. The other tribes quieted down, having lost heavily, and many having been sent off to the West Indies as slaves. From time to time lands were assigned to the declining communities, and the Indians have gradually mingled with negroes and whites. A careful census in 1861 showed an aggregate of 1,610 Indians or half-breeds in the state: 306 on Martha's Vineyard, at Christiantown, and Gayhead; 438 at Marshpee and Herring Pond, Cape Cod; 12 at Natick; the rest being the Punkapog, Fall River, Hassanamisco, Dudley, Yarmouth, Dartmouth, Mamattakeeset, Tumpum, Deep Bottom, and Middleborough bands, with some stray parties. Since then the tendency has been to assimilate them with the rest of the population.
In the United States census of 1870 only 151 Indians are returned from Massachusetts, the rest being counted as white or negro. - For the study of the Massachusetts dialect of the Algonquin, materials are supplied by Eliot's " Indian Grammar Begun " (Cambridge, 1664; Boston, 1832), and " Indian Primer" (Boston, 1720); Cotton's "Vocabulary of the Massachusetts Language" (Cambridge, 1830); and the elaborate studies of Eliot's Bible made by J. Hammond Trumbull, published as yet only in fragments.