An Algonquian tribe formerly living in Massachusetts, on that part of Cape Cod east of Bass river, forming a part of or being under control of the Wampanoag. A writer (Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc., 1st s., VIII, 159, 1802) says: “The Indians in the county of Barnstable were a distinct people, but they were subject in some respects to the chief sachem of the Wampanoag."
They probably came in contact with the whites at an early date, as the cape was frequently visited by navigators. From this tribe, in 1614, Captain Thomas Hunt carried off 7 natives and sold them into slavery along with 20 Indians of Patuxet. Champlain had an encounter with the Nauset immediately before returning to Europe. They seem to have escaped the great pestilence which prevailed along the New England coast in 1617. Although disposed to attack the colonists at their first meeting, they because their fast friends, and with few exceptions remained faithful to them through King Philip’s war, even in some instances lending assistance. Most of them had been Christianized before this war broke out.
Their estimated population in 1621 was 500, but this is probably below their real strength at that time, as they seem to have numbered as many 800 near afterward. About 1710, by which time they were all organized into churches, they lost a great many by fever. In 1764 they had decreased to 106, living mainly at Potanumaquut, but in 1802 only 4 were said to remain. Their principal village, Nauset, was near the present Eastham. Although their location indicates that fish furnished their chief sustenance, the Nauset were evidently cultivators of the soil, as supplies of corn and beans were obtained from them by the famishing Plymouth colonists in 1622.