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The Story of Chief Sequassen

There had been, along the Connecticut shores, a slender population of Quinnipiac Indians whose limited territory was bounded by the Wepawaugs on the west, the Naugatucks to the north and the Hammonassets on the east, but Sequassen's jurisdiction had been wider. He was chief of all the river country and, in 1635, he welcomed the English settlers to Connecticut, selling them a large area around Hartford, which extended "six large miles into the wilderness."


The bargain, as usual, went to the settlers, and from such precedents, one adjudges, there ensued a long line of shrewd merchants and bankers, who do still, to the perplexity of outsiders, take pride in a legend of wooden nutmegs.


Sequassen's welcome to the settlers was, perhaps, an act of calculated statesmanship. He had been defeated by the Pequots, a tribe so fierce that its very name had been derived from an Indian word meaning "destroyers," and he may have reasoned that the increased presence of the white settlers would serve as a deterrent to his marauding enemies.


Two years later, in 1637, the Connecticut colonists declared war on the Pequots. They were assisted by Uncas, sachem of the Mohegans, who led a company of seventy Mohegan and River Indians, serving so well that he won the lasting gratitude of the colonists. Following the successful culmination of the war, the English continued their alliance with Uncas, granting him jurisdiction over most of the lands of the vanquished Pequots.


The favor shown to Uncas aroused the jealousy of his enemies, particularly Sequassen, and a series of provocative acts was carried out against him. A Mohegan sachem was killed, and arrows were shot at Uncas as he was sailing a canoe down the Connecticut River. Failing to reconcile the chiefs, the magistrates at Hartford gave Uncas permission to settle the matter according to his own judgment.


Uncas assembled a large force and invaded the territory of his enemy, and a battle was fought in which Sequassen was again defeated. Before the fighting stopped other tribes had been engaged, including the Narragansetts, and, as happens in wars, there were soon other crimes to be avenged. The English stood by Uncas who was victorious.


But Sequassen was not ready to forego his desire for revenge. It appeared that he was involved in a plot to kill the three principal magistrates of Hartford and to blame the crime on Uncas. The Indian who had been hired to be the assassin became frightened and informed the magistrates. Sequassen fled, but Uncas, with a band of trained scouts, found him among the Pocumtucks, at what is now Deerfield, took him by stealth, and brought him back to Hartford, a prisoner.  Sequassen remained in custody for a time, but the charges against him were difficult to prove, and he was released.


History, which is most often written for the victors, does not so well remember the conquered. Sequassen's stratagems were those of a leader fighting for a cause in which he believed, and for which, in his mind, he could not accept defeat. This led him into mistakes he should not have made. Yet, he was a firm leader of his people, and a brave man


It is difficult to imagine what Sequassen might have felt about the camp which, three hundred years later, was to be named for him. Perhaps he might have found in it the realization of ideals he would have been proud to share. Certain it is, that because of the camp, his name grew, and still gains in legend. This could be a greater victory than those which eluded him when he was Sequassen, Great Sachem of the River Tribes.


From: No Larger Fields – The History of a Boy Scout Council 1910-1963, by Samuel D. Bogan, pages 10-12.