On this day in 1638, an “agreement between the English in Connecticutt and the Indian Sachems” was signed in Hartford, marking the end of the Pequot War which had ravaged both the English and Indian inhabitants of the colony of Connecticut for sixteen bloody months.
On May 1, 1637, leaders among the English settlers in the fledgling Connecticut colony had formally declared war on the Pequots following a deadly raid in which the Indian tribe raided the small town of Wethersfield, killing nine colonists. During the course of the war, the English successfully allied themselves with other tribes in southern New England (including the Mohegan and the Narragansett) who harbored animosity toward their aggressive Pequot neighbors. From Block Island to eastern New York and throughout Connecticut, retaliatory raids, bloody battles, and sieges of forts and villages claimed hundreds of lives of English settlers and Indians alike, until the death of the Pequot sachem Sassicus in July of 1638 effectively broke the Pequot’s will to continue fighting.
The agreement signed on September 21, 1638 by English, Mohegan, and Narragansett leaders — now commonly referred to as the Treaty of Hartford — outlined harsh terms for the remaining men, women, and children of the defeated Pequot tribe. All the Pequot warriors who fought against the English were to be executed, and the remaining tribal members were to be divided as prisoners of war (in many cases, de facto slaves) between the English and their Indian allies. Furthermore, in an effort to totally erase the culture and even memory of the Pequot people, the use of the Pequot language — or even the name “Pequot” — was formally outlawed, and the Pequot people were forbidden to return to the expansive territory they once claimed as their homeland, an area of about 250 square miles in southeastern Connecticut. Despite their enemies’ best efforts, however, small remnants of the Pequots managed to preserve their cultural memory through the centuries, and the, the Mashantucket Pequot tribe have earned federal recognition, and the Eastern Pequot community state recognition, proudly reclaiming their once-outlawed tribal identity again.
“Treaty of Hartford (Transcript),” Yale University Indian Papers Project
“The History of the Pequot War,” Battlefields of the Pequot War, pequotwar.org