Ninigret (c. 1600–1676) was a sachem of the Niantic and Narragansett Indians of what is now Rhode Island from the mid-1630s through the mid-1670s. For Ninigret and his contemporaries, Indian Country and New England were multipolar political worlds shaped by ever-shifting intertribal rivalries. In the first biography of Ninigret, Julie A. Fisher and David J. Silverman assert that he was the most influential Indian leader of his era in southern New England. As such, he was a key to the balance of power in both Indian-colonial and intertribal relations. Ninigret was at the center of almost every major development involving southern New England Indians between the Pequot War of 1636–37 and King Philip’s War of 1675–76. He led the Narragansetts’ campaign to become the region’s major power, including a decades-long war against the Mohegans led by Uncas, Ninigret’s archrival. To offset growing English power, Ninigret formed long-distance alliances with the powerful Mohawks of the Iroquois League and the Pocumtucks of the Connecticut River Valley. Over the course of Ninigret’s life, English officials repeatedly charged him with plotting to organize a coalition of tribes and even the Dutch to roll back English settlement. Ironically, though, Ninigret refused to take up arms against the English in King Philip’s War. Ninigret died at the end of the war, having guided his people through one of the most tumultuous chapters of the colonial era.
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