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Potok, Narraganset Chief

Potok, a famous Narragansett Chief, notorious for the stand he took against the promulgation of religion among that nation. When the war began with Philip, the Narragansetts were thought to be inclining to him, and the army was ordered to Pettyquamscot to fight or negotiate with them according as they were disposed.

After some parleying, a treaty was agreed upon, at great length; to which no attention seems to have been paid, and may be supposed, no great judgment was required to foresee. At this negotiation with the English, Potok was a conspicuous chief, although little or nothing is said of him in the printed accounts; nor does it appear that he acquiesced in it, from the fact that his name is not to the treaty.

It has been said that at these talks, Potok "urged that the English should not send any among them to preach the gospel, or call upon them to pray to God, But the English refusing to concede to such an article, it was withdrawn." Yet no such article is printed in this treaty. If it really were the case, that the English refused to concede without such an article, even in that enlightened day, we need no better comment upon it than we find in a manuscript letter of Roger Williams (1654) as follows: "At my last departure for England, I was importuned by ye Narraganset Sachems, and especially by Nenecunat, to present their petition to the high Sachems of England, that they might not be forced from their religion; and for not changing their religion be invaded by war. For they said they were daily visited with threatenings by Indians, that came from about the Massachusetts; that if they would not pray, they should be destroyed by war." And again, in the same letter: "Are not all the English of this land, (generally) a persecuted people from their native soil? and hath not the God of peace and father of mercies made the natives more friendly in this than [in] our native countrymen in our own land to us? have they not entred leagues of love, and to this day continued peaceable commerce with us? are not our families grown up in peace amongst them? Upon which I humbly ask how it can suit with Christian ingenuity, to take hold of some seeming occasions for their destruction."

We are able to fix the place of his residence in the vicinity of Point Judith. Our earliest notice of Potok is in 1661. In this year he with several other chiefs, complained to the court of Massachusetts, that "Samuel Wildbow and others of his companie," claimed jurisdiction at Point Judith, in their country, and lands adjacent. They came on and possessed themselves forcibly, bringing their cattle and other effects with them. What order the court took upon it does not appear. About the close of Philip's War, Potok came voluntarily to Rhode Island, no doubt with the view of making friends again with his enemies; but was sent to Boston, where, after answering all their inquiries, he was put to death without ceremony.

 

— Indian Biography, by Samuel G. Drake, 1832, (edited)

Historical Location:

Point Judith 
Ocean Road, Narragansett, RI 02882

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