In 1664, not far from this locale, Ninigret defeated a daring nighttime raid launched by his longtime enemy, Wyandanch, the Sachem of the Montaukett Indians of Long Island. Both men had reasons to seek revenge. Wyandanch had killed some of Ningret's men on what should have been a peaceful visit to Block Island. In response, Ninigret attacked one of Wyandanch's villages and held his daughter ransom for many months. In the nighttime raid of 1664, both men had set out to attack the other. When Ninigret realized Wyandanch was on his way to Watch Hill, he had his men quietly retreat, where they killed nearly every one of Wyandanch's men on the beach. Although their feud continued, this battle was a fatal blow to the Montauk Sachem who lost many of his warriors in earlier skirmishes.
Ninigret lived during the most uncertain century of this region. Born into a powerful Niantic family around 1600, Ninigret's birth name was Janemo, only later adopting the name Ninigret. His power as a Niantic Sachem likely increased after Miantonomi's assassination in 1643 by the English and Mohegan. Ninigret is remembered as a strong and decisive leader, attested to by his chosen mark when signing documents--a war club. As Sachem, he focused on consolidating power by gaining tribute from tribal members and lower Sachems in the region. This, in part, consisted of large quantities of shell beads, called wampum, and other offerings such as food and furs.
Although he was deemed by some of the English as the most likely to fuel a rebellion, Ninigret and the Niantics never technically fought in King Philip's War (1675-1676), the costliest war per capita in American history. Instead he remained neutral, a fact that certainly impacted the effects of the war and perhaps even the war's outcome.
Ninigret’s uncle, Narragansett Sachem Canonchet, did lead his people to fight the English in King Philip's War. Canonchet took up arms against the English after they raided and burned the Narragansett village at Great Swamp, in which hundreds of women, children, and elders were massacred. A year after the war's outbreak, Ninigret signed a peace treaty with Massachusetts Bay on July 15, 1676. He died several months later and was succeeded by his daughter, Weunquesh. This was not uncommon, as the Narragansett and Niantic had other female Sachems including Wawaloam, Quiaipen, and Esther.
A statue of Ninigret currently sits in Village Park overlooking Watch Harbor. In the depiction, Ninigret is shown kneeling with a blackfish (tautog in Narragansett) in each hand. The fish symbolize the richness of this region, where Native communities thrived on the bounty of the water, land, and sky. This bounty included not only fish and shellfish, but many varieties of game, fowl, nuts, and berries, as well as corn, beans, and squash, known as the Three Sisters. This statue depicts Ninigret in a humble pose, with his gaze pointed downward. Today, many people believe that it is not a fitting pose of a proud and powerful leader.