The story began in 1614 when a band of English explorers sailed home to England with a ship full of Patuxet Indians bound for slavery. They left behind smallpox which virtually wiped out those who had escaped. By the time the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts Bay they found only one living Patuxet Indian, a man named Squanto who had survived slavery in England and knew their language. He taught them to grow corn and to fish, and negotiated a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Nation. At the end of their first year, the Pilgrims held a great feast honoring Squanto and the Wampanoags.Most of us haven't studied enough history to be able to answer this smear job, but I found this page of information which touches on so many aspects of the history of early English and European investigations of America, USING ORIGINAL SOURCES, it makes the cherrypicked lies of the first link only too clear.
The true story is a mixture of good and bad human motivations and relations, as most true stories of human interactions are. Scroll down about 3/4 of the page to "1615" where the relevant information begins that contradicts the revisionist lies.
According to this source I found, it was in 1615 that an English ship took TWENTY Indians to sell as slaves in Spain. Is that a "ship full of Patuxet Indians" as the first link claims? I'm a bit confused by the information at the second link but it appears that the Indian Squanto was among them but went to England rather than Spain, learned English and returned four years later, in time to help the Pilgrims when they arrived.
The first link also asserts without evidence or qualification that it was the slave ship that caused the death of the Patuxit Indians of smallpox, but the second link has better source information and makes it clear that the cause of their death was not known, though it was a "plague" that wiped them out. A "great sickness" also wiped out most of the Pilgrims in their first year. But the need of revisionists is always to blame the "white man" for some reason for everything.
The first link also says the Pilgrims found only one living Patuxet Indian, Squanto, who had "survived slavery," (had he even been made a slave?) but the Pilgrims didn't "find" him at all. Samoset, another Indian who knew some English, made first contact with the Pilgrims and then brought Squanto to them.
Here is a separate page on Squanto linked from the first that says he was not captured to be a slave but was trained to be a guide and interpreter for English sea captains. Later apparently he was captured and sold to Spain as a slave but lived among monks and eventually returned to England. The details are pretty complicated but his life as a slave appears to have been very short lived at most. But he did return to his native land in 1619, finding his own people wiped out by "the plague," and was a great help to the Pilgrims when they arrived -- as much for his own benefit as out of kindness to the Pilgrims, but why not, that's the story of humanity after all.
This same page on Squanto says that the "plague" that killed so many Indians was never clearly identified, though apparently Europeans were immune to it.
[NOTE: Before the Great Plague of 1616-17 had finally run its course, it killed between one-third to perhaps as much as eighty per cent of the Indians of southern New England, located between Narragansett Bay and the Penobscot River. The disease has never been identified. "The savages died like rotten sheep, and their bodies before and after death were exceedingly yellow." Europeans were apparently immune to the plague's ravages, and not all tribes in the area were affected by the Great Plague, as the Massachusetts tribe to the north of the Patuxets seems to have escaped unscathed.]The story of Squanto ends:
In November 1623, while on a trading expedition to the Massachusetts Indians, Squanto came down with Indian fever. Squanto died suddenly, "attended with bleeding much at the nose." Before his death, Squanto talked with Governor Bradford and asked him "to pray for him, that he might go to the Englishmen's God in heaven, and bequeathed sundry of his things to sundry of his English friends as remembrances of his love, of whom they had a great loss."Now I'm going to copy out a very long passage about the period after they connected with Squanto, including the first Thanksgiving and the breakdown of friendly relations with the Indians.
Bradford's appreciation of Squanto was expressed in his history, Of Plimoth Plantation, when he says: ". . .Squanto continued with them (the Pilgrims) and was their interpreter and was a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation. He directed them how to set their corn, where to take fish, and to procure other commodities, and was also their pilot to bring them to unknown places for their profit, and never left them till he died."
CONTINUING PEACEFUL RELATIONSThere are many side pages linked from the above at the site that have more good information.
During the next few months, the Native Americans and the colonists worked together to till and plant the first successful crops. The first feast of Thanksgiving, in October of 1621, was a harvest festival filled with fellowship, good food and games. The Indians and the colonists shared the fruits of their labor: venison, duck, turkey, corn and pumpkin.
We are told any misgivings between the two races faded from memory and the peaceful relations between the Pilgrims and their Indian friends continued. In his A Letter Sent from New England in December, 1621, Edward Winslow reported: "Wee have found the Indians very faithfull in their Covenant of Peace with us; very living and readie to pleasure us: we often goe to them, and they come to us; some of us have bin fiftie myles by Land in the Country with them; the occasions and Relations . . . Yea it hath pleased God so to possess the Indians with a feare of us, and love unto us, that not onely the greatest King amongst them call Massasoyt, but also all the Princes peoples round about us, have either made sute unto us, or beene glad of any occasion to make peace with us, so that seaven of them at once have sent their messengers to us to that end . . . So that there is now great peace amongst the Indians themselves, which was formerly, neither would have bin but for us; and we for our parts walke as peaceably and safely in the wood, as in the hie ways in England, we entertain them familiarly in our houses, and they as friendly bestowing their Venison on us."
TRADE WITH THE PILGRIMS
The Pilgrims had a deep and sincere friendship for the natives that endured for over fifty years. Nine thousand years of coping with the wilderness had ceased with the arrival of a more advanced culture. Rugged cutting steel blades, farming tools, trim clothing, warm blankets, glass and metal containers and ornaments that no stone or shell work could duplicate-all these were available for trade. The Indians had all the makings of a good trade-plenty of pelts and a surplus of land. Outside their planting fields and villages lay vast tracts of unused countryside. John Josselyn, a non-puritan who visited America for a second time in 1663, reported, "Their merchandise are their beads [wampum], which are their better money. Of these there are two sorts: blue beads and white beads. The first is their gold, the last their silver. These they work out of certain shells so cunning… They drill them and string them, and make many curious works with them to adorn the persons of their sagamors and principal men and young women, as belts, girdles, tablets, borders for their women's hair, bracelets, necklaces, and links to hang in their ears."
THE GATHERING STORM CLOUDS OF DISTRUST
The peace born of mutual support and trust eventually eroded. Another plague-the small pox epidemic of 1633-34-swept away thousands of Algonquins and made more land available. Only between fifteen to eighteen thousand Native People still survived in all of New England. Meanwhile, the expanding colonial towns were bulging with the new arrivals, eager to start claiming and clearing their own piece of America.
Land transfer was not a simple matter. The colonial laws guarded the rights of the natives. Only through qualified agents could purchases be made. Interpreters must be present, as well as several witnesses for both parties. The Indian owner or his family must be present for the formal signing, for unlike communal tribal lands of the western Indians, much of the land was owned by individual tribesmen. Finally, the sachem must also add his mark if he were in agreement. If all this puzzled the land-rich warrior, he may have been aware of his rights under English law. And when all was said and done, he generally retained his right to hunt and fish on the property. To the twentieth century mind, trade goods seems a small price to pay for a slice of real estate. But values must be interpreted as to time and place, and the Algonquin was certain he had the best of the bargain. In 1675, a full-scale war erupted between the increasing number of colonists and the Indians. Now known as King Phillip's War, after the name of the Massasoit's son, who was then chief, the clash lasted eleven years and caused great destruction on both sides.
The Wampanoag were defeated, and peaceful relations between the two groups were forever shattered.
The peaceful relations between the Pilgrims and Indians had lasted 54 years, during the lifetimes of the Massasoit and the original members of Plymouth Colony. [my emphasis]
Part V. First Pilgrim Thanksgiving
The background for the Pilgrim's first Thanksgiving is found in Bradford's History. In the fall of 1621, their first fall in the New World, "They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwelling against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength, and had all things in good plenty; for as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All summer there was no want. And now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first, but afterward decreased by degrees. And besides water fowl, there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, and now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion.--And thus they found the Lord to be with them in all their ways, and to bless their out-goings and in-comings..."
In their first ten months at Plymouth, just passed, they had erected seven dwellings, a Common Meeting house and three small store houses for food, clothing and other supplies.
In spite of their numbers having been cut in half by sickness and death, they found reasons for thankfulness. They had gained their foot-hold on the edge of an inhospitable continent. They were well recovered in health and strength. They were making the best of a hard life in the wilderness. They had proved that they could sustain themselves in the new, free land. They were assured of the success of their purpose of establishing freedom. They had made firm friends with the Indians, who had been so kind to them.
The original account of the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving is in a letter from Edward Winslow in Plymouth, dated Dec. 21st, 1621 to George Morton in England. It was printed in Mourt's Relation, London, 1662. Winslow relates the following: "We set last spring some twenty acres of Indian corn, and sowed some six acres of barley and peas. According to the manner of the Indians we manured our ground with herrings (alewives) which we have in great abundance and take with great ease at our doors. Our corn did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase in Indian corn. Our barley did indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering. We feared they were too late sown. They came up very well and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might, after a special manner, rejoice together, after we had gathered in the fruits of our labors. They four in one day killed as many fowl as with little help besides, served the Company for almost a week, at which time, amongst our recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their great king the Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted. They went out and killed five deer, which they brought in to the Plantation, and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. Although it not always be so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty. -- We have found the Indians very faithful in their Covenant of Peace with us; very loving and ready to pleasure us. Some of us have been fifty miles into the country by land with them. -- There is now great peace amongst us; and we, for our parts, walk as peaceably and safely in the woods here as in the highways in England. - I never in my life remember a more seasonable year than we have enjoyed. -- If we have but once kine, horses and sheep, I make no question but men might live as contented here, as in any part of the world. -- The country wanteth only industrious men to employ, for it would grieve your hearts to see so many miles together with goodly rivers uninhabited, and withall to consider those parts of the world wherein you live to be seven greatly burdened with abundance of people."
For three days the Pilgrims and their Indian guests gorged themselves on venison, roast duck, goose and turkey, clams and other shell-fish, succulent eels, corn bread, hasty pudding, leeks and water-cress and other "sallet herbes," with wild plums and dried berries as dessert, all washed down with wine made of the wild grape. The affair was more like an out-door barbeque for the entire population, than a family reunion dinner.
This feasting involved the preparation of unusually large quantities of food, some of it unfamiliar. Only four of their married women had survived, and only five teenage girls, three of those being the sole survivors of their families. They must have been extremely industrious and efficient, and they must have worn themselves ragged, trying to fill a hundred and forty demanding stomachs for three days. Sufficient tribute has never been paid to them for making these festivities a success, under such trying conditions. Indeed, even the success of the Colony rested largely in their most capable and devoted hands.
The gathering was enlivened by contests of skill and strength: running, jumping, wrestling. Also, there were games of various kinds. The Indians were probably amazed to learn that the white men could play games not unlike their own. The Indians performed their dances and struck up their singing. Standish put his little army of fourteen men through their military review. Then followed feats of marksmanship, muskets performing against bows and arrows. The Massasoit and his braves headed home at last with a warmth of feeling for his white friends which survived even the harsh tests to which it was soon subjected.
Thus they elaborately celebrated the prospect of abundance until their next harvest.
Part VI. STARVATION TIME & FIVE KERNELS OF CORN
The first Pilgrim Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621 was a bountiful feast, but the inventory taken afterwards in preparation for winter proved the Pilgrims had grossly overestimated their harvest. The only way they could possibly get through the winter was to cut in half the already weekly rations of food. To make matters even worse, the ship Fortune arrived shortly thereafter with 35 new settlers. Only three were women. They came empty-handed and poorly clothed; ill-equipped for the approaching winter. Bradford wrote, "They were lusty young men, and many of them wild enough, who little considered whither or about what they went.-But there was not so much as biscuit or cake or any other victuals for them, neither had they bedding, but some sorry things they had in their cabins; not a pot nor pan to dress any meat in; nor over many clothes.-The Plantation was glad enough of this strength, but could have wished that many of them had been of better condition, and all of them better furnished with provisions."
Thus after a month the Fortune returned to England. The Fortune itself had to be supplied from the scant stores of the Colony for her return voyage.
Grim starvation now threatened their annihilation. The Pilgrim colonists could only tighten their belts. Many times the colonists supplied unexpected arrivals and distressed mariners, sometimes in large numbers, from their slender store.
The houses were very small, barely large enough for the families who, despite cold, hunger and sickness had built them. The new arrivals busied themselves by making additions to the seven houses where they were quartered.
From the first, the colonists had been repeatedly promised provisions from England, but the much needed relief never came.
The colonists struggled through the winter, but by May 1622 their food supply was completely gone and the harvest was four months away. According to Edward Winslow's account, the wildlife and fish were in short supply because the number of fowl decreased during the warm months and lacking the proper fishing gear they were prevented from taking advantage of the abundance of cod in the area.. Winslow stated, "And indeed, had we not been in a place where divers sorts of shell fish may be taken with the hand, we must have perished."
In desperation, Winslow was sent 150 miles up the Maine coast to buy, beg or borrow whatever provisions the English ships there could spare. All who were asked gave what they could and not one would accept payment of any kind.
By the time Winslow returned, the settlers were literally starving. The provisions were a godsend but there were many mouths to feed; when rationed out, each person received only 1/4 lb. of bread a day.
[The "Five Kernels of Corn" material is based largely on the work of Susan E. Roser of the Canadian Mayflower Society.]
1622 SUMMER HARVEST FAILS
The long awaited harvest of 1622 was a dismal failure. The Pilgrims had not yet perfected the art of growing corn. They had been busy building the fort and their lack of food that summer had left them too weak and weary to tend the fields properly. It seemed they now faced the prospect of another year with little food.
Yet another ship arrived at Plymouth, the Discovery, this one from Virginia on its way home to England. It had a cargo of what the settlers needed - knives, beads and assorted trinkets which could be traded with the Indians. Seeing how badly they needed the goods, the captain cheated them miserably, but they considered the ship's arrival a blessing - they could now trade with the Indians for food.
Corn was not known to Europeans until it was discovered in America. It is not too much to say that without the indigenous Indian corn, the Pilgrims could not have survived. None of the great variety of English garden seeds they had brought with them and planted ever produced a good harvest. Their food supply became precarious. Occasionally a deer, wild turkey, partridge or quail was bagged, if the hunters were fortunate; fish when fishermens' luck permitted, lobster, alms and eels, if and when they could be found. Wild berries, grapes, groundnuts, strawberries and such could be plucked in their season. Besides not having sufficient grain to make bread, they were also without butter, cheese and milk because they had no cattle.
By early 1623 the shallop had been rudely fitted out as a fishing vessel. It was constantly at sea, coming ashore only long enough to unload a catch and change crews. For months at a time the Pilgrims' diet consisted of fish, clams, groundnuts and whatever deer or water fowl could be hunted. Bradford wrote of this time, saying, "By the time our corn is planted, our victuals are spent, not knowing at night where to have a bite in the morning, and have neither bread nor corn for 3 or 4 months together; yet bear our wants with cheerfulness, and rest on Providence."
It was at this time, awaiting the harvest of 1623 they lived four or five days at a time on a few grains of corn.
Again their hopes rested on a good fall harvest. A six-week drought began in June and the crops turned brown and were slowly withering away. They turned to the only hope they had - intervention by God, and appointed a solemn day of humiliation and prayer. They assembled one July morning under a hot, clear sky and for nine hours prayed. Their prayers were answered by the next morning, and for the next two weeks they were greeted, in the words of Winslow with "such softe, sweet and moderate showers . . . As it was hard to say whether our withered corne or drooping affections were most quickened and revived." [my emphasis]
It turned out to be a double blessing from above. That same month arrived the ships Anne and Little James with 60 new settlers which came loaded with provisions.
The harvest in the fall of 1623 proved to be the best yet. It also promised a new beginning for the Pilgrim colonists, and they never starved again.
THE FIRST DEMOCRATIC COLONY HAD BEEN ESTABLISHED SUCCESSFULLY IN THE NEW WORLD