Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Canonicus

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CANONICUS, an Indian chief, b. about 1565; d. 4 June, 1647. He was king of the Narragansett tribe when the pilgrim fathers landed at Plymouth, and one of the first with whom they had dealings. In 1622 he was inclined to wage war against the colony, which was a serious matter, since he could muster about 3,000 warriors. As an intimation of his mood, he sent to the governor a bundle of arrows tied with a snake-skin. By a happy inspiration, the skin was filled with powder and bullets and returned. Negotiations followed this defiant answer, and peace was established outlasting the life of Canonicus. When Roger Williams and his company felt constrained to withdraw from the colony at Massachusetts bay, they sought refuge at Narragansett, where Canonicus made them welcome, and actually gave them the neck of land where Providence now stands. Fifty years afterward Williams testified to his uniform friendliness and generosity. In 1637 an embassy sent to him from Massachusetts was received in a lodge fifty feet wide, made of poles and covered with mats. Here, seated and surrounded by his savage courtiers, Canonicus received the messengers in royal state, and provided a feast, among the items of which are enumerated boiled chestnuts and boiled Indian pudding stuffed with “black berries, somewhat like currants.” During this period Canonicus engaged in warfare with the Pequots and other neighboring tribes, but studiously maintained peace with the whites, and at last (19 April, 1644) he made a formal treaty acknowledging the sovereignty of Britain. The influence of his wise counsels lasted for many years after his death, and the Narragansett tribe maintained peaceful relations with the English until Philip's war in 1675, when they became hostile, and were exterminated.