Petition of Simon Porridge and other Chappaquiddick Indians to the Massachusetts General Court

A request that the fence or division between Indian and non-indian lands be maintained
Place written: 

Edgartown, MA

Edgartown (Chappaquiddick) is a Town in Dukes County, Massachusetts, in the territorial homeland of the Wampanoag.  It was settled by English colonists under the direction of Thomas Mayhew, Jr. in 1642 as Great Harbor and incorporated with the name Edgartown in 1671. 

Edgartown was the site of three Christian Indian settlements.  Chappaquiddick was the site of the earliest Christian Indian church in Massachusetts, established by Mayhew in 1659.  An Indian Praying Town of Nunnepoage existed by 1698, with another at Nashamoiess at the southern end of Edgartown starting two years later. Wikipedia. Weis, The New England Company, 162-163. 

Native Place Names 

  • Katama is a bay and a point of land jutting into it near Edgartown.  D-LM
  • Mattakeset  D-LM
  • Nashamoless "He is beloved of the Spirit" Weis, The New England Company, 162
  • Poge "place of shelter"
  • Nunnepoag is a pond in Edgartown.  It is also the name of a Praying Indian community.  D-LM
  • Sanchecantacket D-LM
  • Waqua is a point of land in Edgartown.  D-LM
Cultural Narrative: 

The Chappaquiddick people are asking that Patentees and other land purchasers be responsible for constructing and maintaining the fence(s) that divides Indian and non-Indian lands, as enacted by law in 1789, Because a considerable part of the fence(s) hadn’t been built according to law, animals belonging to the White people trespass and destroy their crops. The Natives have complained about this to the guardians, who tell them they have nothing to do with it and to impound the animals.  The Native people do not want to impound the animals, concerned that it would lead to further disputes. 

The Chappaquiddick people remind the Massachusetts General Court that were “born free and never lost their liberty by conquest or delegated their natural rights to any power on earth”.  They consider themselves in a state of vassalage in “this Land of Liberty”, while oppressed Africans who were “torn from their parent country” find asylum here, are emancipated and have freedoms that the Native people and their descendants don’t have.  The Chappaquiddick people believe that it is their “natural and unalienable right” to have civil liberty consistent with the rights of men under the Constitution.  If they must be subject to guardianship, they want to be free to choose someone to act in their best interest and ensure the fence(s) is erected and maintained to prevent animals from destroying their land.  

On the date the petition was filed, Joseph and Cornelius Huxford testified that they witnessed on two occasions in October 1795, Simon Porridge and Samuel Peters (two Black Chappaquiddick inhabitants) ask the Guardians to build the fence according to law, and witnessed the Guardians saying that they were not going to erect the fence because there was no law obligating them to do so. The Huxfords state that the part of the fence that is up is unlawful, in that it is incomplete and they have seen animals belonging to White people grazing on Indian land.

Place written: 

Edgartown, MA