All the factors that produced conflicts in Jamestown were present in Massachusetts, with the addition of religion. The Puritans believed they were sent to this “hideous and desolate wilderness full of wild beasts and wild men” on a God-directed mission to establish a “city on a hill.” This new society would “shine like a beacon” back to England as an example of how pious people should live.
According to historian Gary Nash, the indigenous population became two obstacles to the Puritans. First, they controlled the land that the English wanted. Second, as “savages” they threatened the psychological identity of the Puritans. If they could not control this land and the inhabitants as they thought God had directed them to do, then they would incur God’s wrath for their failure.
They did not try to “convert the “heathen” to Christianity, as the thousands of Catholic missionaries did in the Spanish-dominated parts of the Americas. Rather the Puritans tried to bring the indigenous under civil authority, subjecting them to a white code of behavior. As in the rest of the Americas, here too the indigenous were weakened by Europeans” diseases. But some of the tribes refused to be weakened culturally and politically. Such a tribe was the Pequot.
The Pequot lived in the fertile Connecticut River valley, land that the Puritans wanted. On the pretext of the killing of two English sea captains, one of whom the Puritans themselves hated, they made a punitive expedition into Pequot territory. The Puritans demanded the murderers and payment in wampum. For good measure they took Pequot children as hostages. The Pequot tried to placate the English, but when that didn’t work they resisted. The war was even matched until the Puritans massacred a Pequot village. In 1638, the Pequot nation was considered dissolved. For the Puritans, steeped in a theology that good people receive their rewards on earth, their military victory over the Pequot proved their righteousness.
For the Narraganset, allying with the colonists did not help their survival. When the Puritans wanted Narraganset land, they allied with the Mohegan to have a Narraganset chief killed.
Two years later the Massachusetts Bay Colony helped organize the New England Confederation and mobilized for war against the Narraganset. Rather than fight, the tribe submitted to a treaty that cost them large tracts of land.
Neither friend nor foe of the colonists would survive. What could not be pillaged by war was taken by law. The Puritans passed laws that called for the death penalty for “blasphemy,” that is, not accepting the Puritan religion. Colonial courts tried, sentenced, and imprisoned indigenous who”trespassed” on lands that the Puritans claimed.
The Wampanoag who once lived on all the land from Naraganset Bay to Cape Cod by 1675 had a few “tongues of land.” Metacom, their chief (the English called him King Philip), rallied twenty thousand indigenous from various tribes to rise up in rebellion.
At the time, however, there were fifty thousands colonists. After initial victories, the sheer numbers of white people proved too powerful.
See Gary Nash, Red, White, and Black, 116-121