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At the head of the party was an uneasy triumvirate: Massasoit, the sachem political-military leader of the Wampanoag confederation, a loose coalition of several dozen villages that controlled most of southeastern Massachusetts; Samoset, sachem of an allied group to the north; and Tisquantum, a distrusted captive, whom Massasoit had brought along only reluctantly as an interpreter. Massasoit was an adroit politician, but the dilemma he faced would have tested Machiavelli. About five years before, most of his subjects had fallen before a terrible calamity.
Whole villages had been depopulated. It was all Massasoit could do to hold together the remnants of his people. And the only solution he could see was fraught with perils of its own, because it involved the foreigners—people from across the sea. Europeans had been visiting New England for at least a century. Shorter than the Natives, oddly dressed and often unbearably dirty, the pallid foreigners had peculiar blue eyes that peeped out of bristly, animal-like hair that encased their faces.
They were irritatingly garrulous, prone to fits of chicanery and often surprisingly incompetent at what seemed to Indians like basic tasks. But they also made useful and beautiful goods—copper kettles, glittering colored glass and steel knives and hatchets—unlike anything else in New England.
Moreover, they would exchange these valuable items for the cheap furs that the Indians used as blankets.
Over time, the Wampanoag, like other Native societies in coastal New England, had learned how to manage the European presence. They encouraged the exchange of goods, but would allow their visitors to stay ashore only for brief, carefully controlled excursions. Those who overstayed their welcome were forcefully reminded of the limited duration of Indian hospitality. At the same time, the Wampanoag fended off Indians from the interior, preventing them from trading directly with the foreigners.
In this way the shoreline groups had put themselves in the position of classic middlemen, overseeing both European access to Indian products and Indian access to European products. Now, reversing long-standing policy, Massasoit had decided to permit the newcomers to stay for an unlimited time—provided they formally allied with the Wampanoag against the Narragansett.
He spoke fluent English, because he had lived for several years in Britain. But Massasoit worried that in a crisis Tisquantum might side with the foreigners. Samoset—the third member of the triumvirate—had appeared a few weeks before, having hitched a ride from his home in Maine on an English ship that was plying the coast. Because Samoset also spoke a little English, Massasoit had first sent him, not Tisquantum, to meet with the foreigners.
On March 17,Samoset had walked unaccompanied and unarmed into the circle of rude huts in which the British were living. The colonists saw a robust, erect-postured man wearing only a loincloth; his straight black hair was shaved in front but flowed down his shoulders behind. To their amazement, this almost naked man greeted them in broken but understandable English. The two sides talked inconclusively, each checking out the other, for a few hours. They spoke with the colonists for about an hour. Then, Massasoit and the rest of the Indian party suddenly appeared at the crest of a nearby hill, on the banks of a stream.
Alarmed, the Europeans withdrew to a hill on the other side of the stream, where they had emplaced their few cannons behind a half-finished stockade.
A standoff ensued. Finally Winslow exhibited the decisiveness that later led to his selection as colony governor. Wearing a full suit of armor and carrying a sword, he waded through the stream and offered himself as a hostage. The colonists took the sachem to an unfinished house and gave him some cushions on which to recline. Massasoit wore the same deerskin shawls and leggings as his fellows and, like them, had covered his face with bug-repelling oil and reddish purple dye.
Around his neck hung a pouch of tobacco, a long knife and a thick chain of the prized white shell be called wampum. The meeting between the Wampanoag and the English colonists marked a critical moment in American history. The foreigners called their colony Plymouth; they themselves were the famous Pilgrims.
As schoolchildren learn, at that meeting the Pilgrims obtained the services of Tisquantum, usually known as Squanto. In the s, when I attended high school, a popular history text was America: Its People and Values. A friendly Indian named Squanto helped the colonists. He showed them how to plant corn and how to live on the edge of the wilderness. A soldier, Capt. Miles Standish, taught the Pilgrims how to defend themselves against unfriendly Indians.
My teacher explained that maize was unfamiliar to the Pilgrims and that Squanto had demonstrated the proper way to plant it—sticking the seed in little heaps of dirt, accompanied by beans and squash that would later twine themselves up the tall stalks. And he told the Pilgrims to fertilize the soil by burying fish alongside the maize seeds. Following this advice, my teacher said, the colonists grew so much maize that it became the centerpiece of the first Thanksgiving. In our slipshod fashion, we students took notes. But the impression it gives is entirely misleading.
He moved to Plymouth after the crucial meeting and spent the rest of his life there, during which time he indeed taught the Pilgrims agricultural methods, though some archaeologists believe Tisquantum picked up the idea of fish fertilizer from European farmers, who had used the technique since medieval times. But America: Its People and Values never explains why he so enthusiastically helped the people who had invaded his homeland. Skipping over such complexities is understandable in a book with limited space.
The lack of attention, however, is symptomatic of a larger failure to consider Indian motives, or even that Indians might have motives. Much the same is true of the alliance Massasoit negotiated with Plymouth. From the Indian point of view, why did he do it? The alliance was successful from the short-run Wampanoag perspective, for it helped to hold off the Narragansett. But it was a disaster from the point of view of New England Indian society as a whole, because it ensured the survival of Plymouth Colony, which spearheaded the great wave of British immigration to New England.
All of this was absent not only from my high-school textbooks, but from the academic s they were based on. This omission dates back to the Pilgrims themselves, who ascribed the lack of effective Native resistance to the will of God.
Vietnam War-era denunciations of the Pilgrims as imperialist or racist simply replicated the error in a new form. Whether the cause was the Pilgrim God, Pilgrim guns or Pilgrim greed, Native losses were foreordained; Indians could not have stopped colonization, in this view, and they hardly tried. But beginning in the s, historians grew dissatisfied with this view.
Their work fed a tsunami of inquiry into the interactions between Natives and newcomers in the era when they faced each other as relative equals. More than likely Tisquantum was not the name he was given at birth. The Wampanoag, in turn, were part of an alliance with the Nauset, which comprised some 30 groups on Cape Cod, and the Massachusett, several dozen villages clustered around Massachusetts Bay.
All of these people spoke variants of Massachusett, a member of the Algonquian language family, the biggest in eastern North America at the time. In Massachusett, the name for the New England shore was the Dawnland, the place where the sun rose. The inhabitants of the Dawnland were the People of the First Light. Ten thousand years ago, when Indians in Mesoamerica and Peru were inventing agriculture and coalescing into villages, New England was barely inhabited, for the excellent reason that it had been covered until relatively recently by an ice sheet a mile thick. As the sheet retreated, people slowly moved in, though the area long remained cold and uninviting, especially along the coastline.
Because rising sea levels continually flooded the shore, marshy Cape Cod did not fully lock into its contemporary configuration until about b. By the end of the first millennium A. Scattered about the many lakes, ponds and swamps of the cold uplands were small, mobile groups of hunters and gatherers. Most had recently adopted agriculture or were soon to do so, but cultivated crops were still a secondary source of food, a supplement to the wild products of the land. Because extensive fields of maize, beans and squash surrounded every home, these settlements sprawled along the Connecticut, Charles and other river valleys for miles, one town bumping up against the other.
Along the coast, where Tisquantum and Massasoit lived, villages tended to be smaller and looser, though no less permanent. Unlike the upland hunters, the Indians on the rivers and coastline did not roam the land; most shoreline families would move a minute walk inland, to avoid direct exposure to winter storms and tides. Each village had its own distinct mix of farming and foraging—one adjacent to a rich oyster bed might plant maize purely for variety, whereas a village just a few miles away might subsist almost entirely on its harvest, filling great underground storage pits each fall.
Bragdon, an anthropologist at the College of William and Mary. In the Wampanoag confederation, one of these quicksilver communities was Patuxet, where Tisquantum was born at the end of the 16th century.
Tucked into the great sweep of Cape Cod Bay, Patuxet sat on a low rise above a small harbor, jigsawed by sandbars and so shallow that children could walk from the beach hundreds of yards into the water before it reached their he. To the west, maize hills marched across the sandy hillocks in parallel rows.
Beyond the fields, a mile or more away from the sea, rose a forest of oak, chestnut and hickory, open and park-like, the underbrush kept down by expert annual burning. But the most important fish harvest came in late spring, when the herring-like alewives swarmed the fast, shallow stream that cut through the village.
A fire burned constantly in the center, the smoke venting through a hole in the roof. It was also less leaky than the typical English wattle-and-daub house. Around the edge of the house were low beds, sometimes wide enough for a whole family to sprawl on together; they were usually raised about a foot from the floor, platform-style, and piled with mats and furs.
Going to sleep in the firelight, young Tisquantum would have stared up at shadows of hemp bags and bark boxes hanging from the rafters. Voices would skirl up in the darkness: one person singing a lullaby, then another person, until everyone was asleep. In the morning, when he woke, big, egg-shaped pots of corn-and-bean mash would be on the fire, simmering with meat, vegetables or dried fish to make a slow-cooked dinner stew.
Pilgrim writers universally reported that Wampanoag families were close and loving—more so than English families, some thought. Europeans in those days tended to view children as moving straight from infancy to adulthood around the age of 7 and often thereupon sent them out to work.
Indian parents, by contrast, regarded the years before puberty as a time of playful development, and they kept their offspring close by until they married. Boys like Tisquantum explored the countryside, swam in the ponds at the south end of the harbor, and played a kind of soccer with a small leather ball; in summer and fall they camped out in huts in the fields, weeding the maize and chasing away birds. Archery began at age 2. By adolescence, boys would make a game of shooting at each other and dodging the arrows.
The primary goal of Dawnland education was molding character. Men and women were expected to be brave, hardy, honest and uncomplaining. Chatterboxes and gossips were frowned upon. When Indian boys came of age, they spent an entire winter alone in the forest, equipped only with a bow, hatchet and knife. These methods worked, Wood added. To master the art of ignoring pain, prospective pniese had to subject themselves to such experiences as running barelegged through brambles. And they fasted often, to learn self-discipline. After spending their winter in the woods, pniese candidates came back to an additional test: drinking bitter gentian juice until they vomited, repeating this process over and over.
Patuxet, like its neighboring settlements, was governed by a sachem who enforced laws, negotiated treaties, controlled foreign contacts, collected tribute, declared war, provided for widows and orphans, and allocated farmland. The Patuxet sachem owed fealty to the great sachem in the Wampanoag village to the southwest, and through him to the sachems of the allied confederations of the Nauset in Cape Cod and the Massachusett around Boston.
Meanwhile, the Wampanoag were rivals and enemies of the Narragansett and Pequots to the west and the Abenaki to the north. Sixteenth-century New England was home toNative people or more, a figure that was slowly increasing. Most of them lived in shoreline communities, where rising s were beginning to change agriculture from an option to a necessity. These larger settlements required more centralized administration; natural resources like good land and spawning streams, though not scarce, needed to be managed.Sex text chat Plymouth United States
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