Mount Hope, Sacred Land of the Pokanokets

Mount Hope, Sacred Land of the Pokanokets

Mount Hope (originally Montaup in the Pokanoket language) is a wooded promontory on the
eastern shore of Bristol, Rhode Island overlooking the part of Narragansett Bay known as
Mount Hope Bay. Before the European settlers arrived in New England, the 7,000 acres that
now make up the Town of Bristol were called the Mount Hope Lands and belonged to
Massasoit Osamequin, the great sachem of the Pokanoket Nation.

What became Mount Hope Farm was the summer camp of the Pokanoket Tribe – the same
tribe that greeted the Mayflower in Plymouth in 1621. After Massasoit’s death, his son,
Metacomet or King Philip, made Mount Hope his base of operations. “King Philip’s Chair,” a
rocky quartz ledge on the mountain, was a lookout site for enemy ships on Mount Hope Bay. In
an alliance with other tribes, Philip launched a war against the English in June of 1675 which
lasted for 14 months before Philip was eventually defeated.
After the War, Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts Bay Colony, and Rhode Island all claimed this
prized territory, and surviving members of the Tribe were either enslaved or driven out of the
area.

Prior to colonization, the political seat of the many tribes was located in Sowams, or “southern
area”, in the realm of Pokanoket. Potumtuk, the Native name for Mount Hope, is one of
Bristol’s significant colonial sites.

In March 1621, the Massasoit Osamequin and the Pilgrims agreed on a mutual protection treaty
that remained in effect for over fifty years. Governor William Bradford had been told that the
land of the Pokanoket had “the richest soil, and much open ground fit for English grain”, giving
a hint of the conflicts over land that would soon develop. The Pokanokets, on the other hand,
believed then and now that their territory is an element of the American Aboriginal heritage
that is their birthright, and that they are the stewards, even of the land which they may not
legally own.

Today, the Tribe consists of over three hundred members. While not all tribal members
currently live in Sowams, all are closely connected and frequently attend tribal events held in
the area, such as the annual Strawberry Moon Thanksgiving that is held in June, on the grounds
of Mount Hope Farm.