Sutton Massachusetts

Language - Nipmuc Indians / Native Americans

If you walk from one end of Massachusetts to the other, most people you encounter will speak English. Back in the 1600s, this was not true. There were several tribes living in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, and even though they were so close to each other, they spoke different languages.

The Nipmucs, living in central Massachusetts, spoke the same language that the Narragnasetts of Rhode Island did. This was a separate language than what the Mohegans / Pequots of southeastern Connecticut spoke. The Wampanoags also had a language of their own. The Wampanoags were the "Pilgrim Indians" - the ones who lived along the coastline of Massachusetts and helped the new arrivals survive the harsh early winters. King Philip, a Wampanoag leader, later fought a war against the English when he felt his gratitude had been taken advantage of.

Many words we use in modern times come from Native American vocabulary. Massachusetts, the state name, means "a large hill place". Nipmuc means "fresh water people", for indeed this tribe delighted in the streams and lakes of the Blackstone valley. What other words might you recognize?


It makes sense that newcomers would use local words for animals they might not have seen before. For animals they already had words for, they would not need "new words". So these words are probably new to you.


Nipmuc Indian main page