1911 illustration of Tisquantum ("Squanto") teaching the Plymouth colonists to plant maize.
c. 1574 – c, 1594
(now Plymouth, Massachusetts)
|Died||late November 1622 o.s.
Mamamoycke (or Monomoit)
(now Chatham, Massachusetts)
|Known for||Guidance, advice, and translation services to the Mayflower settlers|
Tisquantum (//; c. 1585 (±10 years ?) – late November 1622 o.s.), more commonly known by the diminutive variant Squanto, was a member of the Patuxet tribe best known for being an early liaison between the native populations in Southern New England and the Mayflower Pilgrims who made their settlement at the site of Squanto's former summer village.
The Patuxet tribe lived on the western coast of Cape Cod Bay, where in 1614 Squanto was abducted by the Englishman Thomas Hunt and brought first to Spain and then England, where he lived for several years with a merchant involved in a project to settle Newfoundland. Squanto eventually returned to his native village only to find that his tribe had been wiped out by an epidemic infection; Squanto was the last of the Patuxet.
When the Mayflower landed in 1620, Squanto worked to broker peaceable relations between the Pilgrims and the local Pokanokets. He played a key role in the early meetings in March 1621, partly because he spoke English. He then lived with the Pilgrims for 20 months, acting as a translator, guide, and advisor. He introduced the settlers to the fur trade, and taught them how to sow and fertilize native crops, which proved vital since the seeds which the Pilgrims had brought from England largely failed. As food shortages increased, Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford relied on Squanto to pilot a ship of settlers on a trading expedition around Cape Cod and through dangerous shoals. During that voyage, Squanto contracted what Bradford called an "Indian fever." Bradford stayed with him for several days until he died, which Bradford described as a "great loss."
Considerable mythology and legend has grown up around Squanto over time, largely because of early praise by Bradford and owing to the central role that the Thanksgiving festival of 1621 plays in American folk history. Squanto was less the "noble savage" that later myth portrayed him and more a shrewd, practical advisor and a dependable, loyal diplomat.
Documents from the 17th century variously render the spelling of Tisquantum's name as Tisquantum, Tasquantum, and Tusquantum, and alternately call him Squanto, Squantum, Tantum, and Tantam. Even the two Mayflower settlers who dealt with him most closely spelled his name differently: William Bradford nicknamed him "Squanto" while Edward Winslow invariably referred to him by what historians believe is his proper name, Tisquantum. One suggestion of the meaning is that it derives from the Algonquian expression for the rage of the Manitou, "the world-suffusing spiritual power at the heart of coastal Indians’ religious beliefs." Manitou was not a being. Rather it was "the spiritual potency of an object … or a phenonmenon," the force which made "everything in Nature responsive to man." Other suggestions have been offered,[a] but all involve some relationship to beings or powers that the English associated with the devil or evil.[b] It is therefore unlikely that it was his birth name rather than one he acquired or assumed later in life, but there is no historical evidence on this point. The name may suggest, for example, that he underwent special spiritual and military training (as a pniesesock, or otherwise), and for this reason was selected for his role as liaison with the English settlers in 1620 (see below). Or perhaps the name was selected at the time of his 1621 encounter with the English settlers either as a defense to their cultural or religious influence or because he was entering a cultural no-mans-land.[c]
Almost nothing is known of Squanto's life before his first contact with Europeans, and even when and how that first encounter took place is subject to contradictory assertions.
"[T]he time and circumstances of Squanto's birth are unknown." But given that first-hand descriptions of him written between 1618 and 1622 do not remark on his youth or old age, it has been suggested that a reasonable presumption is that he was in his twenties or thirties when he was forcibly embarked to Spain in 1614, and therefore was born around 1585 (±10 years).
While records do not exist which describe his childhood or years before his abduction, a description of the social world in which he lived during his formative years may provide some insight. The interrelated societies that lived in southern New England at the time of English settlement attempts at the beginning of the 17th century referred to themselves as Ninnimissinuok, a variation of the Narragansett word Ninnimissinnȗwock, meaning roughly "people" and signifying "familiarity and shared identity." Squanto's band or tribe, the Patuxet, occupied the coastal area west of Cape Cod Bay. Squanto himself told an English trader that the Patuxet once numbered 2,000. They spoke a dialect of Eastern Algonquian common to peoples as far west as Narragansett Bay.[d] The various Algonquian dialects of Southern New England were sufficiently similar to allow effective communications.[e] The term patuxet refers to the site of Plymouth, Massachusetts and, according to some writers (who may have misunderstood their source), means "at the little falls."[f] Politically it has been generally (although not universally) inferred that the Patuxet had been subjugated by the so-called Wampanoags (Pokanoket)[g] and made part of the so-called Wampanoag confederacy. Since the Patuxet had been decimated by disease before European settlement (see below), there are no written records of Patuxet life by first-hand observers. In such a case reasonable conclusions about a culture's organization and beliefs may be made by reference to other tribes in the same area "which may be expected to share cultural traits." In this case the Southern New England tribes were closely related linguistically (through similar Algonquin languages), politically (by the Pokanoket suzerainty), economically (by trade) and ethnically.
Unlike the native inhabitants living in northern Maine and Canada where the annual growing season was insufficiently long to reliably produce maize harvests (and they, as a result, were required to live a fairly nomadic existence) the southern New England Algonquins were "rudimentary sedentary cultivators." Although their habitations were relatively mobile, being made of striplings fixed in a circle in the ground with their tops tied by walnut bark (with hole for smoke from central fire inside), covered with mats of reed, hemp and hides, the one main migration of the entire population of each tribe (including women and children) was a biannual one and took place only from winter residence (in warmer forested areas) to summer habitation (near the cornfields) and back again.[h] Maize and other cultivated vegetables made up a substantial part of the Ninnimissinuok diet. William Wood noted in his 1634 report that "to speake paradoxically, they be great eaters, and yet little meate-men …" Stanford nutritionist M.K. Bennett concluded that 60% of their daily caloric intake came from grain products and only 10% from animal or bird flesh (as opposed to more than 20% in the average diet in mid-20th-century America). To support their dependence on corn cultivation, the men cleared fields, broke the ground and fertilized the soil with fish and crustaceans, while the women tended to weeding with clam-shell hoes, with assiduity that amazed English settlers.[i] The proficiency at horticulture allowed the southern New England Natives to accumulate enough surplus not only for their own winter needs, but also for trade (especially to northern native bands), and as the English settlers repeatedly sought, to relieve their distress for many years when the harvests of the English proved insufficient.
Socially the groups that made up the Ninnimissinuok were hierarchically stratified and presided over by one (or sometimes two) sachem (ordinarily a male but women could act as sachems when male heirs were absent). Sachems acquired their positions by selection from a hereditary group (perhaps matrilineal). The polity of the sachem was called a sontimooonk or sachemship. The members of this polity were those who pledged to defend not only the sachem himself by the institution of the sachemship itself. Colonial writers noted that sachemships could themselves be subjected to a ruler over many sachems, a great sachem or kaeasonimoog, which the English writers referred to as "kings."[j] Sachems held dominion over specific territories marked by geographical identifiers.[k] The authority of the sachem was absolute within his domain. It was traditional, however, that for the sachem to strive to achieve a consensus in all important matters. One factor limiting the despotism of sachems was the option, said to have been frequently exercised, for a subject to leave a particular sachem and live under a more congenial ruler. The chief functions of the sachem were to allocate land for cultivation, to manage the trade with other sachemships or more distant native societies, to dispense justice (including passing on capital punishment), to collect and store tribute from harvests and hunts in part at least for later redistribution, to aid in trade and for gifts in aid of foreign policy, and the making and conducting war. It was on the authority of great sachem Massasoit, for example, that Squanto was dispatched to live among and assist the English settlers in the years 1621 and 1622.
Sachems were advised by "principal men" of the community, called ahtaskoaog, generally called "nobles" by the English. Sachems achieved consensus through the consent of these men, who probably also were involved in the selection of new sachems (among those within the prescribed degree of kinship to the incumbent). One or more "principal men" were almost always present when sachems ceded land, perhaps suggesting that their consent was necessary. In addition, among the Pokanoket, according to Edward Winslow, there was a class called the pniesesock, which collected the annual tribute to the sachem, led warriors into battle and had a special relationship with one of the gods, Abbomocho (Hobbomock) invoked in powwows for healing powers, a force that the English associated with the devil.[l] The priest class came from this order, and aside from healing powers, the shamans also acted as orators, giving them political power within their societies. Salisbury has suggested that Squanto was a pniesesock. This class may have produced something of a praetorian guard, equivalent to the "valiant men" described by Roger Williams among the Narragansett, the only Southern New England society (other than the Pokanoket) with a permanent military elite. Whether or not Squanto received special training for such a position, it is likely he underwent the initiation ordeal of Pokanoket or Patuxet youth, which required them to endure an entire winter alone.[m] In addition to the class of commoners (sanops), there were outsiders, wanderers who attached themselves to a tribe or band; this last group had few rights except the expectation of protection against any enemy they shared with the larger group.
For nearly a century before the landing of the Mayflower in 1620, the Ninnimissinuok sporadically experienced direct contact by European explorers and for decades before that the indirect consequences of European cod fishermen off the Newfoundland banks.[n] The effect of these early encounters, though gradual and perhaps unattributable when they occurred, were profound. First, and more immediately catastrophic, Europeans brought a variety of diseases[o] for which the aboriginal population had no resistance. Mortality rates eventually rose to 90% throughout the entire continent. When the English settlers arrived, they discovered that vast swaths of Southern New England, previously prepared for cultivation and settlement by extensive deforestation and land preparation was devoid of all inhabitants. Second, more gradual but equally profound for the economic and social conditions of the Natives, the trading system engaged in at first by the Newfoundland fishermen, and later, more systematically by the French and English, called, for short, the "Fur Trade," destroyed the previously existing continental intertribal pattern of exchange in which the Natives traded local products in a system of extensive and peaceful commerce. That system was replaced by an economy driven by the demand of the Europeans for one product (animal pelts). The new economy resulted in intense intertribal rivalries and hostilities, which eventually allowed the English to play one off against the other. In addition to contributing to the first two causes of calamity, the English created immense ill-will and eventually hostilities by their aggressive approach to settlement, the brutality of which was apparent even before the first settlers. This was the result of the system the English employed which depended exclusively on private profiteers.[p] Richard Hakluyt made plain the goals that the entrepreneurs would pursue in an "inducement" he wrote in 1585: "The ends of this voyage are these: 1, to plant the Christian religion; 2, To trafficke; 3, To conquer; Or, to do all three." The first goal was never seriously pursued.[q] The 1605 voyage of George Weymouth showed how cavalierly the English entrepreneurs and their agents treated American Natives to achieve the second and third goals.
In 1605 George Weymouth, sponsored by Henry Wriothesley and Thomas Arundell, set out on an expedition to explore the possibility of settlement in upper New England. A report of the voyage, written by James Rosier (hired by Arundell to make detailed observations), was published soon after the expedition's return. The pamphlet described the physical resources available to settlers on the islands and coast of Maine (harbors, rivers, soil, trees, wild fruit and vegetables, and so forth). The compelling part of the story, however, is the crew's encounters with the Natives,[r] which began eleven days after the Archangel first moored among the Georges Islands, on May 30, 1605, as the ship was anchored in Muscongus Bay and the captain and 13 men had gone off in the shallop to explore. The report tells how the remaining crew had a chance encounter that afternoon with a hunting party, developed a sign language with them, and over several days encouraged their trust with gifts and then trade.[s]
On his return, as though they had agreed on how to treat the aboriginal inhabitants on arrival, Weymouth joined in the hospitality, offering the Natives bread and peas which they were unfamiliar with and amazing them with a sword magnetized with a lodestone. After three days of hospitality and trading, Rosier suggested that the crew visit their homes to trade.[t] Rosier wrote that cultivating their trust was part of the plan to colonize once they had decided that the land was prime for European settlement.[u] On June 3, as they themselves had suggested, the English set out to visit their homes. They became skittish when a large assembly came to escort them and decided not to go. Rosier claimed that they then decided to kidnap a number of Natives, although why this followed from their belief that the Natives intended mischief is not made entirely clear by Rosier.[v] No thought was given that the Natives were providing an honor guard or even that it was Rosier's own proposal the previous day that they should go to the Natives' homes. Instead, the Englishmen presumed the Natives were acting in accordance with their preconception of "salvages," and rather than simply retreat, they decided that they would kidnap some of them (later when they were not outnumbered), although Rosier never explains what this was intended to accomplish:
These things considered, we began to joyne them in the ranke of other Salvages, who have beene by travellers in most discoveries found very trecherous; never attempting mischiefe, until by some remisnesse, fit opportunity affordeth them certain ability to execute the same. Wherefore after good advise taken we determined so soone as we could to take some of them, least (being suspitious we had discovered their plots) they should absent themselves from us.
So the next day they abducted five Natives, three by duplicity and two by violence.[w] In discussing the violence necessary to grab hold of two Natives, Rosier lets fall that the kidnapping had been long planned, saying that they would have risked greater violence to secure their victims because the capture of Natives was "a matter of great importance for the full accomplement of our voyage." The idea was undoubtedly conceived by the entrepreneurs back in England as a way to become familiar with the land and inhabitants that they intended to conquer. The plan operated, however, at cross-purposes with their attempt to create good will. Not long after Weymouth's crew had left, Champlain, sailing from the north, met a man named Anaffon, a minor trader in furs, at Monhegan Island on July 31. The Native told Champlain of the English who had been there fishing not long before and "under cover of friendship" had murdered five Natives of the area. The English had not hidden their perfidy; instead, they were thought to have committed worse crimes than they did. At any rate, all five hostages were taken to England and three were given (without explanation) to Sir Ferdinando Gorges. Gorges was an investor in the Weymouth voyage and became the chief promoter of the scheme when Arundell withdrew from the project. In a book published in 1658, a decade after Gorges had died, and presumably written when Gorges was quite old, Gorges wrote of his delight in Weymouth's kidnapping, and named Squanto as one of the three given over to him.
[Captain George Weymouth, having failed at finding a Northwest Passage], happened into a River on the Coast of America, called Pemmaquid, from whence he brought five of the Natives, three of whose names were Manida, Sellwarroes, and Tasquantum, whom I seized upon, they were all of one Nation, but of severall parts, and severall Families; This accident must be acknowledged the meanes under God of putting on foote, and giving life to all our Plantations ….
Circumstantial evidence makes nearly impossible the claim that it was Squanto among the three taken by Gorges,[x] and no modern historian entertains this as fact.[y] But Gorges's involvement in the abductions is an important part of Squanto's story. The abductions were an intentional policy of the English entrepreneurs and lead directly to Squanto's own abduction (although unauthorized by the London entrepreneurs). But even before that the abduction of Natives became a regular feature of the English colonial enterprise. Gorges, chief among the entrepreneurs, wanted to impress on the Natives the superiority of the English technology and military might that would back colonists, and the colonial entrepreneurs wanted to learn as much as they could from their captives about the lands and peoples of the New World. And they displayed their victims prominently to attract financing and public support for their commercial project. It is difficult to understand how they did not see that the policy was destined to misfire by creating a hostility toward the English among the natives peoples of New England which would prove dangerous to those sent to man colonial outposts. It is more difficult to understand how they continued the policy after the experience with these first captives. Two of the captives, Manedo and Sassacomit, were sent back with Captain Henry Chollons in 1606, but the ship was intercepted by the Spanish. Manedo was lost, but Sassacomit, seriously injured, was lodged in a Spanish prison. In an odd foreshadowing of Squanto's own fate, Sassacomit was forced to escape his bondage in Spain and make his way to England before he could be returned to his home in what is now Maine. That may not be the only coincidence uniting the two.[z] Two other of the kidnapped Abenaki were returned to Maine in connection with Gorges's plan to found a trading colony there. His idea was that the returned Abenaki would act as liaison between the English settlers and the local population. Instead of providing a safe entrée for the English escorting him, however, one of the two, Skidwarres, had to be forced to identify himself so that the Natives would stop the attack they made on the English. Skidwarres once home, did not persuade the Abenaki to trade with the English but instead warned them to be wary of them. The conduct of Skidwarres and fellow abductee Tahanedo, nurtured the mistrust that would eventually doom the Sagadahoc colony. This experience did not deter Gorges or other English entrepreneurs from continuing the practice of abducting local men to be transported to England. In fact it would be used in the Cape Cod area as well. But the practice of kidnapping was only part of the brutally imperious policy of the privately financed imperial enterprise which created the political and social landscape that the Mayflower settlers would have to navigate, and it would be Squanto who gave them the most important assistance in this endeavor.
English plans to colonize New England began to take concrete form in the early to mid 1590s when Edward Hayes wrote a treatise to Lord Burghley setting forth the rationale and procedure for settlement.[aa] The first expedition to set out from England to southern New England was fully in accord with Hayes's principles. On May 14, 1602 Captain Bartholomew Gosnold together with a 32-man crew aboard the Concord made landfall off the southern coast of Maine. They had set off almost two months before from Falmouth with the purpose of setting up a small fishing outpost of 20 of the crew who would stay the winter. They were there hailed by a "Biscay shallop" containing eight men, who the English discovered were not "Christians" as they had supposed but "savages" of "swart" color who had many European accoutrements and acted boldly among the English.[ab] They proceeded westward until they came upon a cape, which they called Cape Cod for the abundant fish, The captain explored the land and found a young Native boy, wearing copper ear decorations and an apparent willingness to help the Englishman. Continuing down the Atlantic coast of Cape Cod, pivoting on Gilbert's Point, they coasted westward observing numerous Natives on shore, many running after them to gaze.
The crew eventually saw (and named) Martha's Vineyard, which they explored but found no inhabitants on it. From there they sailed about the various islands now called Elizabeth until they came upon Cuttyhunk Island (which they called Elizabeth Island), where on the 20th of May they determined to establish the proposed settlement on the western part of the island. They selected the island in the middle of a large fresh water lake in the south of the island for which they made a flat-bottomed boat to transport from the island to larger island that encompassed it. Each time they encountered Natives, whether on their coasting expeditions or Gosnold's separate explorations while the others were building the fort, such as his visit to the mainland on May 31,[ac] the Natives showed themselves ready to trade. Indeed, their metal ornaments and their supply of furs to offer show that they had already become acculturated to European ways and they were willing to accommodate. It became, from the Natives' point of view, the ritual that bonded the two cultures. Gosnold's men were interested, however, with the trade that would enrich them and their commercial underwriters in Europe so spent more time tending to the harvesting of sassafras root and cedar wood than daily encounters with the Natives. In fact, they made a conscious effort to prevent the Natives from finding out the location of their fort. It is unclear how the situation developed but by June 11 the relations had become so strained that a party of two Englishmen out hunting for shellfish for food were set upon by four Natives who shot one in the side with an arrow. Shortly thereafter, a dispute arose between those settlers who were supposed to remain and those who were returning to England, which resulted in the decision to end the settlement project. All of the settlers embarked on the return voyage on June 17.
No attempt was made by the English to learn from this encounter with the local populations. The entrepreneurs were interested only in return on investment, and viewed the Natives simply as a means to achieve European commercial goals. Over the next decade settlers would involve themselves in a series of increasingly hostile encounters, and by the time of the Mayflower landing the amiable helpfulness that Gosnold first discovered among all the Ninnimissinuok had become open hostility.
The failure of this first enterprise did not dampen colonizing plans. Brereton's report of the area omitted any problems with local inhabitants and (like all exploration reports) painted a glowing picture of Northern Virginia. The following year, 1603, the 23-year-old Martin Pring was commissioned to command a second attempt to settle New England, again financing it against a return cargo of sassafras. Pring must have been anticipating hostile (or unwanted) Native activity because they brought with them "two excellent Mastives," one of which "would carrie a halfe-Pike in his mouth." Of the use of these dogs Pring wrote: "when we would be rid of the Savages company wee would let loose the Mastives, and suddenly without cry they would flee away." They found sassafras in sufficient quantity in a bay,[ad] and immediately built a barricado for defense against the inhabitants. Pring insisted that they were constantly visited by groups of Natives as large as "one hundred and twentie at once." He does not explain, however, how relations with the locals deteriorated from harmony[ae] to the day when the settlers fired their cannon and set the mastiffs on 140 of them, but it probably had to do with the abrupt conduct of the English, insensitivity to local customs (which they used only when convenient), and their brutal use of the dogs.
English interest in exploiting northern Virginia turned northward for a while (beginning with Weymouth and his exploration and abductions), but Native antipathy toward the English was spreading widely. In contrast to the French who, under Champlain, were able to make a peaceful coasting expedition in Cape Cod Bay in 1605, the English seemed unable to form any working relation with the native populations. "Instead their blustering approach, particularly their violence and their unwillingness to enter into reciprocal relationships, was fanning Indian resentment toward their nation." This as much as anything else doomed Gorges's Sagadahoc Colony among the Abenaki.
English kidnapping of Natives did not stop with the failure of Weymouth's abductions to achieve its purpose. In fact, by 1610 Native Americans on display in England was such a common event that Shakespeare makes a joke of it in The Tempest.[af] The following year Shakespeare's friend, Henry Wriothesley, who had already cosponsored Weymouth's kidnapping expedition in 1605, underwrote another one under Captain Edward Harlow, although it was ostensibly to discover an island around Cape Cod. Unable to find the island they reached the cape where “they detained three Salvages aboard them;” one, Pechmo, leapt overboard and got away. He brought back friends who set up a hail of arrows to cut away a boat from the stern of the vessel. Three English seamen were wounded by arrows. When they anchored at the Ile of Nohono, Natives in canoes again attacked the English until they were driven off with guns. At that place the English kidnapped another Native then proceeded to Capawe (Capawack or Martha’s Vineyard) where they took two more, including the sachem Epenow. Again a Native ended up in the hands of Gorges. Gorges wrote that he obtained Epenow from Captain Henry Harley,[ag] although he denied knowing how Harley got him, except that Gorges was told that "he had been shewed in London for a wonder."
Gorges seems to have thought that his failure to obtain the loyalty of the Natives kidnapped by Weymouth was owing to not having kept them in his custody long enough. Epenow he kept for three years. In that time Epenow convinced him that Martha's Vineyard had gold mines of great wealth. In 1614 Gorges consulted with Wriothesley and determined to send Epenow back with Captain Hobson, who had been with Harlow in 1611 when Epenow was kidnapped. He persuaded Hobson to stake ₤100 of his own money on the adventure. Gorges also sent two additional Natives he had in captivity, Assacomet (from Weymouth's expedition) and Wanape, who was from southern New England (and sent to Gorges via the Isle of Wight). When they reached their destination, the principal inhabitants (including relatives of Epenow) came on board. They promised to come again in the morning to trade. But Epenow had secretly let them know that he was held captive, and the next morning they came with twenty canoes which stood their ground while Epenow went overboard. They escaped under a hail of arrows which wounded Hobson and some of the crew. Gorges ends the tale by lamenting the incompetence of Hobson's men.
In 1614 an English expedition headed by John Smith sailed along the coast of Maine and Massachusetts Bay, collecting fish and furs. Smith returned to England in one of the vessels and left Thomas Hunt in command of the second ship. Hunt was to complete the haul of cod and proceed to Málaga, Spain where there was a market for dried fish. Without authority, Hunt decided to enhance the value of his shipment by adding human cargo. So he sailed to Plymouth Harbor ostensibly to trade with the village of Patuxet. The Patuxet had not been part of the fur trade for as long as their neighbors to the north had been, but they "were producing substantial fur surpluses by the time of Smith's visit in 1614…", and from their interaction with Champlain, Smith, and other traders, the other Patuxet "had learned something of European approaches to trade, diplomacy and military conflict and had witnessed some of their technological accomplishments." Nevertheless, Hunt was able to lure twenty Patuxet, including Squanto, aboard his vessel under promise of trade. Once aboard they were confined, and the ship sailed across Cape Cod Bay where Hunt abducted seven more from the Nauset. Hunt then set sail for Málaga.
Smith and Gorges both disapproved of Hunt's decision to enslave the natives. Gorges worried about the prospect of “a warre now new begun between the inhabitants of those parts, and us," although he seemed mostly concerned about whether this event had upset his gold-finding plans with Epenow on Martha's Vineyard. Smith suggested Hunt got his just deserts because "this wilde act kept him ever after from any more imploiment to those parts.” Gorges saw Hunt's comeuppance in the fact that he was unable to sell his entire lot of slaves.
Hunt, according to Gorges, took the Natives to the "Straits" where he sold as many as he could. But when the "Friers of those parts" discovered what he was doing, they took the rest to be "instructed in the Christian Faith; and so disappointed this unworthy fellow of his hopes of gaine …" What basis he had, if any, for this claim is unknown; in fact, it is likely he never met Squanto, at least before 1619.[ah] In any event, despite later fictionalized versions of Squanto's life, Gorges makes no claim that he was one of the slaves who were taken up by the friars "to be instructed in the Christian faith" and those who relate his history heard directly from Squanto's mouth (Bradford, Winslow and Pratt) do not relate such an incident.
The outrage was long remembered by the Natives around Cape Cod Bay. In 1621 the Nauset refused the advances of the first Mayflower scouting party and eventually attacked them. Even when the English settled Plymouth, far from the home of the Nausets, the Natives haunted the settlement from a nearby hill. Squanto later mediated a meeting between the Plymouth settlers and the Nauset on Cape Cod, and the English learned what deep pain still remained from the kidnapping. A woman, who they thought was at least 100 years old, came out to meet them, yet could not look at them "without breaking forth into great passion, weeping and crying excessively." She told them that Hunt had taken her three sons and now "shee was deprived of the comfort of her children in her old age." Epenow in Martha's Vineyard was not yet finished with his revenge, and the Nauset would help him.
No records show how long Squanto lived in Spain, what he did there or how he "got away for England" (as Bradford put it).[ai] Prowse asserts that he spent four years in slavery in Spain and then was smuggled aboard a ship belonging to Guy's colony, taken to Spain and then to Newfoundland but offers not authority. Smith attested that Squanto lived in England "a good time," although he does not say what he was doing there. Plymouth Governor William Bradford, the Englishman who knew him best (and most sympathetically), recorded that after Spain he lived in Cornhill in the City of London with John Slany ("Master John Slanie"). Slany was a merchant and shipbuilder who became another of the merchant adventurers of London hoping to make money from colonizing projects in America. He was an investor in the East India Company. But more importantly for Squanto he was one of the grantees of the Newfoundland patent and treasurer of the Company of Adventurers and Planters of London and Bristol who were to exploit the grant. This association may have had something to do with obtaining Squanto from Málaga.[aj] Slany's motive in housing him was probably no more disinterested than Gorges's in detaining his Natives.
During the time Squanto spent in Spain and England, a virulent pestilence descended on southern New England. There is no consensus on what disease struck—if indeed it was only one disease. The testimony of the two eye witnesses who wrote about it, however, attests to the extraordinarily lethal consequences of the epidemic. Richard Vines, along the Saco River in Maine in the employ of Ferdinando Gorges to assess the nature of winters there in 1616–17, informed Gorges that he and his men lived in the same cabins with the Natives, but they did not experience the head aches that were a symptom of the plague that rendered that country "void of Inhabitants." That the English could live in close proximity to the afflicted leaves little doubt that the sickness was a virgin soil epidemic. Thomas Dermer, also in the employ of Gorges, in 1619 having dispatched to London a shipment of furs and fish from Monhegon Island, took a small bark and sailed down the coast of New England towards Virginia. He wrote Samuel Purchas in December describing the "plague" he had seen all along the coast, of seeing "the sores of some that had escaped, who described the spots of such as usually die." Aside from headaches and sores there were three other symptoms: jaundice,[ak] fever and epistaxis.[al] This evidence from contemporary and near contemporary witnesses[am] has led to diagnoses of yellow fever (generally now discounted),[an] smallpox,[ao] the plague,[ap] leptospirosis complicated by Weil syndrome[aq] and other explanations.[ar]
Whatever the nature of the infection, there is no doubt about the extent and devastating impact of the epidemic. The fury of the contagion began no later than 1617 and continued unabated until 1619, and may have continued in population pockets for years after that.[as] The sweep of the devastation was enormous. The coastal Abenaki as far north as the Kennebec were nearly wiped out. Due south on Cape Cod the three villages there numbered 100 by 1621, whereas Champlain estimated that two of them contained between 650–800. On the coast between those villages and the Kennebec there was nothing but devastation. Where Champlain and Smith found almost continual habitation and agriculture, there was nothing but empty land. The Agawam on Cape Ann were decimated, the Pawtucket (near modern Lowell, Massachusetts) were almost totally destroyed. The Pennacook, Massachuset and Pokanoket were nearly annihilated. Squanto's people were essentially wiped out, the village abandoned. Smith wrote that in three successive years "neere two hundred miles along the Sea coast, that in some places there scarce remained five of a hundred …" But the epidemic ended at the border of the Pokanoket and the Narragansett, for there was no trading between them; the Narragansett traded with the Dutch, and not part of the French network. The conclusion is almost inescapable: the infection was introduced into the pax commerce the French built up, and "the very source of the Indians' momentary prosperity and harmony–the French trade–apparently brought about their subsequent impoverishment and destruction as well. For years afterwards the signs of death would mar the landscape. Edward Winslow on his first journey inland to the village of Pokanoket saw the evidence of many towns now abandoned: "Thousands of men have lived there, which dyed in a great plague not long since: and pitty it was and is to see, so many goodly fieldes, & so well seated, without men to dress and manure the same." Not many years later Thomas Morton walked the forests around Boston harbor and saw "in a place where many inhabited, there hath been but one left a live, to tell what became of the rest, the living being (as it seemes) not able to bury the dead, they were left for the Crowes, Kites and vermin to prey upon. And the bones and skulls upon the severall places of their habitations, made such a spectacle after my coming into those partes, that, as I travailed in the forest nere the Massachussets, it seemed to mee a new found Golgatha."
John Smith reported a story of how this calamity originated. He told of a shipwreck where two men escaped on shore, one dying and the other living among the Massachuset people. The survivor tried to persuade the Natives of the superiority of the Christian God, but the sachem mocked him showing his assembled people from a hilltop and asked the Christian “if God has so many people and able to kill all those?” The Christian assured him God did, and according to Smith, of the five or six hundred about Massachusets, after the sickness there remained but thirty and their neighbors slaughtered 28 of them. The remaining two surrendered their Country to the English. Thomas Morton elaborated on this story, having the Christians be Frenchmen, and had the Massachusetts set on the men in the harbor, burning their vessel and bringing the survivors to Peddocks Island. They crew were distributed among five local sachem, who treated them as slaves. One of the survivors warned his tormentors of God's wrath, which warning was spurned, and the pestilence followed on the heels of that arrogance. The story was embellished to the point of becoming a Puritan parable under Cotton Mather,[at] but may have had a kernel of truth, as Dermer and Squanto would find out.
How Squanto came to be in Newfoundland in 1618 was not explained. Slany, associated as he was with the royal land grant there and the company who intended to settle or otherwise exploit it, doubtless had means to send Squanto there, perhaps by one of he vessels regularly in the fish and wine trade among Newfoundland, the Mediterranean and England. According to the report by the Plymouth Council for New England which Gorges authored and published in 1622, Squanto was in Newfoundland "with Captain Mason Governor there for the undertaking of that Plantation” possibly meaning he was indentured there. Also at Cuper's Cove in Conception Bay was Thomas Dermer, an adventurer in the interest of Gorges who had accompanied Smith on his abortive 1615 voyage to New England. Squanto and Dermer talked of New England while in Newfoundland, and Squanto so persuaded him that his (Dermer's) fortune could be made there (as Gorges put it Squanto "drew his affections wholly to follow his hopes that way") that Dermer wrote Gorges of his belief and requested that Gorges send him a commission to act in New England.
The next season Gorges sent Captain Rowcraft to meet Dermer at Monhegan, but through a combination of events sounding implausible, Rowcraft ended up going to Virginia (where he once lived), got into a fight and was killed.[au] Not knowing that Rowcraft had been dispatched to meet Dermer, Mason advised Dermer to sail to England to discuss the matter with Gorges rather than simply undertake the expedition without authorization. He arrived shortly after Rowcraft departed. Dermer and Gorges agreed on the New England plans. Gorges dispatched Dermer ("with his Salvage") on the next vessel ready in the fishing trade to New England, and Gorges also assigned him a group of men to join with Rowcraft. Not knowing that Rowcraft had gone to Virginia, Dermer was unsure what to do. He soon heard from the mutineers that Rowcraft had gone to Virginia. So Dermer waited until a vessel from there brought news of Rowcraft's death. He decided to take the pinnace assigned to Rowcraft the year before to continue the plans that Gorges laid out for him; namely, to travel the coast from Gorges's failed Sagadahoc Colony to Capawack (Martha's Vineyard) where Gorges's dreams of gold mines ended, taking notes of his observations of the coast and sending them to Gorges.
Dermer, Squanto and crew of a pinnace of five tons left Monhegan Island for their coasting voyage. Before sailing, Squanto probably had heard reports of the sickness; Vines, after all, had reported to Gorges that "the plague" had struck Sagadahoc in 1616. On the coast, however, the reality was probably worse than could be imagined. Dermer reported: "I found some antient Plantations, not long since populous now utterly void; in other places a remnant remaines, but not free of sickness." When they reached Squanto's village of Patuxet, Dermer did not stop for a full report ("finding all dead"); instead they moved inland. A days' journey brought them to the village of Nemasket (spelled Nummasquyt by Dermer), from which place Dermer sent a messenger (probably Squanto) to the village of Pokanoket (Poconakit), near present day Bristol, Rhode Island, seat of the sachem the English would call Massasoit. The distance from Nemasket to Pokanoket being a day's journey, it was probably two or more days later when "two kings" ("almost certainly Massasoit and his brother Quadequina") with an armed guard numbering fifty returned with Squanto to Nemasket. Dermer wrote that the kings were "well satisfied" with what Squanto and Dermer told them (the kings "being desirous of noveltie") and so complied with their wishes, one of which was to redeem a French captive at Nemasket. Dermer later also redeemed a sailor who had escaped a shipwreck three years earlier at Mastachusit (possibly around Great Blue Hill, from which the Massachuset take their name). These sailors may have been the basis of Smith's tale in 1631 or the two in the more elaborate version of Morton in 1637 (explaining the divine cause of the epidemic).
By June 11, Dermer had discovered an island in the bay and had "good quarter" with the Natives there. From there he coasted to Monhegan. The vessel that had brought him from England was about to depart for there, and Dermer sent along a report of his activities to Gorges as well as soil samples. Also there was the Sampson which had come from Virginia and was to return. Because there were no men to protect his property there, he put most of most of his provisions aboard the Sampson and manned the pinnace and supplied it with the provisions needed for his coasting expedition. It was at Saco (Dermer called it "Sawahquatooke) that Dermer left Squanto who, he wrote, "desired (in regard of our long journey) to stay with some of our Savage friends" there, later writers presuming he went to look for remaining family.[av] Dermer set out but he went only about 40 league before they ran into a severe storm which put them to the choice ("Incidit in Syllam" as he put it) to either run the rocks or enter a dangerous broad bay. They tried but failed to do the former and were eventually driven aground a furlough from shore. To avoid being "beaten to pieces," they threw their provisions, most of their apparel and almost everything else overboard and were able to weather the storm until the next high water, which allowed them to get ashore and repair the injury and leaks they sustained to the pinnace. Without Squanto, Dermer soon encountered hostility from Natives. At Manamock in the southeast corner of Cape Cod, Dermer was captured by the Nauset, who were still seething over English atrocities, including Hunt's kidnapping raid. Dermer was forced to pay ransom in hatchets, but they still would not release him. He devised an escape and captured their sachem, for whose return they repaid the hatchets and a canoe full of corn, which Dermer desperately needed. He travelled to Martha's Vineyard where he had a friendly meeting with Epenow. (Dermer was evidently commissioned for this by Gorges, still pursuing gold mines there.) From there sailed to Virginia, with assorted adventures on the way (including an attack on Long Island). At Virginia, he hoped to repair the pinnace and place a deck on her for immediate return, but he and most of his men contracted a fever and were forced to spend the winter there.
The following spring Dermer sailed back to New England. His and Squanto's itinerary after rejoining are somewhat unclear because they are recorded in only by two sources: Gorges for the statement for the Council for New England as well as his much later semi-autobiographical recollections and a letter from Dermer, evidently to Gorges, a copy of which was only partially transcribed by William Bradford in his History of the Plymouth Plantation. The two sources are hard to reconcile and leave many gaps. As Baxter reconstructed it, Dermer first came directly to Monhegan without incident and spent the summer exploring the coast. This would account for how Squanto rejoined Dermer and possibly how Samoset (a native of the Pemaquid area who was the first Native to greet the Mayflower settlers) found his way to the Plymouth area with Squanto. Adams also believed that Dermer brought Samoset to Massachusetts, but it is not in either source. Gorges writes that owing to his failure to resolve favorably the Council for New England's disputes with the Virginia Company, he had given orders by his fishing ships to retire Dermer "until all things were cleared,"[aw] but this "worthy Gentleman" "resolutely resolved to pursue the ends he aimed at" and "could not be persuaded to look back, as yet …” He set off again down the coast of Maine and into Massachusetts, where he came again to Nemasket. According to the June 30, 1620 letter transcribed by Bradford, the natives of Nemasket and the Pokanoket generally, who the year before peacefully traded with him and allowed him to redeem two French sailors, now bore "an inveterate malice to the English." This was the result of an incident the previous year in which an English vessel invited several Natives on board ostensibly to trade. When onboard the sailors using "murderers" (a ship's gun which used small bullets and slugs) and small shot occasioned "a greater slaugher." Dermer doubted that it was an English vessel, but the Natives believed it because, as Dermer put it, "the French have so possessed them." Dermer concluded by noting that "Squanto cannot deny but they would have killed me when I was in Nemask, had he not entreated hard for me." This episode is not related by Gorges.[ax]
The final episode in Dermer's career with Squanto is recorded by both Gorges (twice) and Bradford with different details in all three versions. Dermer rounded the cape, first stopping at Nantucket ("Nautican") and then to Martha's Vineyard ("Capawike") to again meet with Epenow. Bradford writes that Squanto accompanied him ("he going ashore amongst the Indians to trade, as he used to do …"); Gorges is silent on what Squanto did. Gorges writes: "This Savage [Epenow] speaking some English, laughed at his escape [in 1614], and reported the story of it." Dermer replied that he came from Gorges, that he was one of his servants and that Gorges "was much grieved he [Epenow] had beene so ill used, as to be forced to steal away." Epenow asked questions about Gorges and, according to Gorges, "conceived he [Dermer] was come on purpose to betray him and conspired with some of his fellowes to take the Captaine.” Dermer drew his sword, and although he freed himself, received 14 mortal wounds in the process. He escaped with all possible speed to Virginia, but there contracted "the infirmity many of our Nation are subject unto at their first coming into those parts." Gorges's earlier version, officially for the Council for New England, merely reported that "he was betrayed by certaine new Salvages, who sodainly set upon him, giving him foureteene or fifteene wounds" before sailing to Virginia where he died. Bradford writes that the Natives set upon his men and killed all but Dermer and one who remained in the boat. Dermer escaped to the boat where the Natives were about "to cut off his head upon the cuddy [i.e., cabin] of the boat, had not the man rescued him with a sword." Bradford recorded that Dermer got off to Virginia and died "whether of his wounds or the diseases of the country, or both together, is uncertain." Not one of the three versions mentions what happened to Squanto.
Seventeen years after the event, however, Thomas Morton published his New England Canaan. In it he described the "Salvage" who had been "taken by a worthlesse man" (evidently Thomas Hunt) and "had been detained there [among the Pokanoket] as theire Captive.” This person, Morton continued, was induced by the Pokanoket to introduce himself to the new English settlers at Patuxet (soon to be called Plymouth), for the purpose of brokering a peace between the two peoples and to give him incentive to meet these new inhabitants “which was a thinge hee durst not himselfe attempt without security or hostage, promised that Salvage freedome …" It is on the basis of this writing that Salisbury evidently[ay] reconstructs Squanto's supposed captivity among the Pokanoket. He writes that the incident told to Dermer in Nemasket concerning the English slaughter of Natives invited onboard to trade "could only have revived the Indians' suspicion of the English that had prevailed before Squanto's return. These suspicions were now focused on Squanto himself, as Dermer's accomplice, and led to his being turned over to the Pokanoket with whom he remained until he was ransomed by the Plymouth colonists in March 1621." Salisbury concludes that after Dermer escaped "Squanto was again made a captive, this time of the Indians." But, whatever conclusions can be reached about Thomas Morton's credibiiity in general, (and Bradford came to think of his morals in general as very low) Morton's discussion concerning Squanto in the chapter in which he describes his captivity by the Pokanokets is hardly persuasive. Morton, who never knew Squanto, confuses him with Samoset in the very chapter, and he otherwise muddles the account. Earlier in his book he had Squanto act as ambassador from sachem Cheecatawback to the powerful Narragansett to continue a ruse by the sachem, which suggests that either the Natives who told him these stories or he himself used this famous Native as something of a stock character. In any event, Adams, who edited Morton's book and studied Morton's life (and does not regard him the reprobate that Bradford did), describes the chapter that Salisbury relies on: "This is a confused, rambling account of the familiar Indian incidents which took place during the first year after the landing at Plymouth. There is nothing of historical value in it, and nothing which has not been more accurately and better told by Bradford, Winslow, Mourt [‘’Mourt’s Relation’’] and [John] Smith. And none of those other sources state that Squanto was a captive of Massasoit.[az] There appears to be little reason to believe that Squanto was a prisoner of the Pokanoket. And there is no other account of what Squanto did from the time he left Dermer to the time he met the new settlers at Patuxet/Plymouth.
Having been delayed two months beyond its intended departure, the Mayflower, its crew and 102 passengers sighted land very late in the year on November 9, 1620 o.s.[ba] at Cape Cod. This being well north of the land their patent entitled them to settle, they spent a day attempting to track southward to the mouth of "Hudson's river" (their intended destination), but dangerous shoals and breakers caused them to return and anchor in Cape Cod Harbor. With no settlement site selected beforehand and no one onboard having any experience with the land in those parts (indeed, the ship did not even have soundings of the depths along the coast), and most critically the settlers' shallop having been severely battered during the storms in the crossing, the passengers were unable to disembark entirely from the Mayflower. On Saturday, November 11, after organizing themselves into something of a self-governing body,[bb] 15 armed men went ashore to gather wood and returned with optimistic reports of the land and soil. The next week, expecting the repair to the shallop to take five or six days, the settlers determined in the interim to send Myles Standish, the settlers' military adviser, with a band of heavily armed and armored men, to survey the Cape. Standish had the men armed and armored and marching in a military file. When they encountered their first native inhabitants, the Natives fled in terror.[bc] The next day, when they were confident the locals were out of sight, the armed band dug up Native mounds, and upon finding winter supplies of maize and beans, they took as much as they could carry in their containers, filling their pockets as well.[bd] They took so much husked corn that two men could barely carry it. (They would call this location "Cornhill.") At the Mayflower the repairs to the shallop were taking longer than expected. When they were completed a week and a half later, the settlers decided to send a larger force, this time headed by Captain Jones and including members of the crew as well as settlers. On November 27, Captain Jones set off with 34 men in both the shallop and longboat. The fallen snow, freezing water and bitter winds exacted a heavy toll.[be] Captain Jones was able to return to the ship with more than 10 bushels of husked corn, a bottle of oil and a bag of beans that the Natives had buried.[bf] Eighteen, under the command of Standish, remained. Although they continued digging in mounds, they found no more food, only graves, which they disinterred to inspect their contents and took "sundry of the pret[t]iest things away with us," covering up the corpse. While they were "thus ranging and searching," they came upon the summer homes of the inhabitants there, filled with utensils, mats, baskets, bits of food, hunting trophies and material for making mats. "[S]ome of the best things we tooke away with us … ." Whether or not Bradford's different justifications for these thefts rings true,[bg] it is true that "[l]ooting houses, graves, and storage pits was hardly the way to win the trust of the local inhabitants." Just how hostile they took these actions to be, the Natives showed when the settlers made their third expedition.
By the first week of December 1621 o.s. the settlers were becoming concerned that if they did not select a settlement site soon, the crew would simply leave them stranded, particularly if food supplies began to run low. Besides, continuing coasting expeditions in the heart of winter risked the health and life of men crucial to the enterprise. While there was some discussion of looking for a site north of Cape Cod Bay, it was decided to make one more effort to find the elusive river on the shores of Cape Cod. On December 6 Captain Standish took 11 settlers (six Separatists, three London adventurers and two seamen) together with eight of the ship's crew and set off. After several hours in tricky seas and bitter cold, they maneuvered to Wellfleet Harbor, noticed Natives busying themselves about a large "black thing," landed a league or two away where they set up their barricado for the night and watched a Native fire about four miles away.[bh] After landing, which took some time, they tried to find the Natives, who eluded them again. After a long day of "ranging up and downe,"[bi] at sundown they met up with the men from the shallop and made camp. At midnight they were alarmed by cries in the dark, which stopped after several musket shot. They convinced themselves it was a pack of wolves. When they roused at 5 the next morning, some took their armor down to the shallop and returned to hear the same cries; then there began a hail of arrows. Standish fired off his flintlock, but since only a couple men had their arms, he ordered them to wait on firing their matchlocks until they could see the attackers. When the men were able to regroup, their repeated fire at the trees behind which the Natives shot their arrows eventually chased them off. The settlers pursued them for a little while but gave up. They named the place of the first skirmish with the Nauset "First Encounter." The Englishmen were able to reach the shallop and continue their search for a settlement site, But after several hours of coasting westward, they fell into bad weather, and first their rudder broke and then at nightfall their mast broke into three pieces. They made it into the protection of Plymouth Bay and spent the night at Clark's Island. On Monday November 11, they landed on the mainland, the site of the now extinct Patuxets, and saw former cornfields and running brooks, :a place very good for situation." It was here they decided to settle.
Short of supplies, unprepared for a winter much colder than in England or Leiden and afflicted by the diseases that come from being ship bound in those times, they endured brutal conditions in what Bradford called "a hidious and desolate wilderness." As half the settler population died that winter, they constantly feared encounters with indigenous peoples. Bradford complained that unlike the shipwrecked Paul who was refreshed by the "barbarians" they were confronted with "savage barbarians [who] … were readier to fill [our] sides with arrows, than otherwise." Yet they experienced nothing but eerie silence.
As the English settlers struggled to survive working to build a settlement on the site of the village of Patuxet and spending nights on board the Mayflower, Native villages that surrounded them and their associated tribes farther away watched their movements all the while considering how to proceed. Both John Smith, who observed these people during his coasting expedition in 1614, and Daniel Gookin, who over a half century later interviewed old Natives who remembered or were told of the peoples who lived around the time of the Mayflower landing and thereafter, agreed that the villages were associated into loosely confederated associations. Although the confederations involved payment of tribute by the smaller villages to the dominant sachem, they were neither structured governments nor treaty alliances as the Europeans understood them (although they continued to treat them as such), for individuals or groups could leave the associations at will and join another village or different association. The dominant sachem's seat was more like a center of political power, "its strength diminishing as its distance from the center increased." And while the borders of these confederacies were necessarily indistinct, they nevertheless commanded such military power as the Natives could muster, and which the English feared. Both Smith and Gookin agree that there were three main associations which surrounded the area that the English planned to make their settlement.
The first group, to the north of the English settlement were the Massachuset, once a large and strong confederation. Known as the People of the Great Blue Hill, they extended from south of Massachusetts Bay to Cape Ann. Edward Johnson in the middle of the 17th century stated that they once numbered 30,000, but this was an exaggeration to make a rhetorical point. They nevertheless were substantial. One early 20th century antiquarian estimated that one of the sub-sachemships had a located near Concord, Massachusetts had a population of 3,000. The maps that Champlain drew of villages in 1605 showed that north of the Massachuset, villages were surrounded by stockades, but the Massachuset were not, apparently unafraid of attack. Before English settlement in Boston Bay, the Massachuset had been at war with both the Pokanoket and in alliance with them against the Narragansett. The epidemic of 1616–19, however, severely reduced their population, so much so that afterwards they lived in fear of their northern neighbors, who they called the Tarratines, bands of Abenaki who raided them and plundered their food supplies, which reduced their population further. As a result, by the winter of 1620 they were considerably weakened and withdrawn to the Charles River drainage basin.
The second group, the one to the west, south and east of the English settlers, were the Pokanoket, among which Squanto dwelt, whether as a prisoner, a member of the outsider class or otherwise. His people, the now nearly extinct Patuxet, inhabited the land on which the English were preparing for settlement. Smith and Gookin seem to disagree whether the Patuxet were once tributaries of the Pokanoket sachem.[bj] Because the Patuxet were not numerous enough to command their territory, the question has little importance with respect to the relations between the English and Pokanoket, who seem to have regarded the area as under their control. It might explain the status of Squanto, however. Among others who were affiliated with the Pokanoket as tributaries were the Nauset band, who lived on eastern half of Cape Cod and who were extremely hostile to the English, not only for their recent raids on their food stores and graves, but also for a decade of mistreatment. The sachem of the Pokanoket was called by the English Massasoit.[bk] The principal village of the confederation and Massasoit's tribal village was Pokanoket, located about 50 miles from Patuxet (Plymouth), near modern Bristol, Rhode Island.
The third group was the farthest from the English—the Narragansett, who lived west of the Pokanoket in what is now Rhode Island. They were not touched by the epidemic, and that created the complicating factor in the relations among the Natives surrounding the English. The Narragansett were a very large Indian society. While they may not have numbered 30,000 in 1641 as claimed, they were nevertheless (as De Forest writes) "the densest aboriginal population in New England" owing to the abundant supply of fish easily accessible from the ample beaches in what is now Rhode Island. Roger Williams claimed that he saw "many thousands" of men and women in their annual semi-religious harvest dance before a 200 foot long house "upon a plaine neer the Court (which they call Kittcickan̄ick) …" Gookin estimated they could put more than 5,000 men under arm and noted that they "oftentimes" waged war with the Pequots to their west and the Pokanoket and Massachuset federations to their east. Winslow in 1622 heard the Narragansetts "reported to be many thousands strong …"
Although the Pokanoket may not have been as severely affected by the epidemic as either the Massachuset or the Patuxets and others, they were seriously weakened. This weakened condition allowed the Narragansetts to force them to withdraw from their position at the head of Narraganset Bay to the Taunton River drainage system. Moreover, the Pokanoket, Massachuset and their affiliated tribes, lost their ability to trade for European goods, by bartering their vegetable surplus with the Abenaki in the north. The Narragansetts now monopolized all European goods by virtue of their command of the southern commerce via Long Island. Given that the epidemic so thoroughly disrupted Native societies, their political relations, food supply and trade, there was great temptation for one group to commit acts of predation on a weaker neighbor. So if the Pokasets engaged the English to their east, they would expose themselves to predation by the Narragansetts on their west. On the other hand, the English were an undeniable threat. Many allies of the Pokanoket regarded Europeans with white hot hatred. The Nauset were willing to kill Europeans who merely sought to trade with them. These English, however, seemed worse. They were not interested in trade; quite the reverse, they helped themselves to plunder. And unlike the previous boatloads of Europeans, these English brought women and children, probably the first European women and children these people had ever seen. These newcomers were also building habitations without consulting local inhabitants. Massasoit was faced with the dilemma whether to throw in with the English, who might protect him from the Narragansett, or try to put together a coalition to oust the English. To decide the issue, according to Bradford's account (who says he learned of it later), "they got all the Powachs of the country, for three days together in a horrid and devilish manner, to curse and execrate them with their conjurations, which assembly and service they held in a dark and dismal swamp." Philbrick sees this as a convocation of shamans brought together to drive the English from the shores by supernatural means.[bl] Salisbury, however, attributes the description to the English excessive fear of witchcraft and sees the meeting as the means by which the "Pokanoket were ritually purging themselves of their hostility toward the English. Whatever the purpose, out of this meeting arose the decision to approach English settlers to find out if their intentions were peaceful or not.
There is no record of why Massasoit made this decision, but it is significant that he had with him two men who were familiar with the English, one intimately so. First there was Squanto, who spent a great deal of time with the English, much of it in England itself, and he already proved himself to be persuasive in preventing and ceasing hostilities by the Natives against the English. A subsequent settler at Plymouth, who lived at Plymouth for a little while when Squanto was still alive, related in a declaration in 1668 (late in his life and decades after the events) what he heard of Squanto's influence: "This man tould Massassoit what wonders he had seen in Eingland & yt if he Could make Einglish his friends then […] Enemies yt weare to strong for him would be Constrained to bowe to him …" The second man was Samoset. Samoset was a minor Abenakki sachem (sagamore) who haled from the Muscongus Bay bay area of present-day Maine. Both Adams and Morison speculate that he was brought to the Cape Cod area by Dermer (in 1619 or 1620). He evidently learned his English from English fishermen who plied those waters.[bm] Massasoit chose Samoset for the initial contact.
The Plymouth settlement was on high alert at the time. On February 16, 1620/21 a settler went off fowling. As he hid himself in the reeds by a creek awaiting birds about a mile and a half from the settlement, he spotted a dozen Natives "marching towards our plantation" and heard in the distance "the noyse of many more." The settler hid until they were out of sight and then hastily returned to spread the alarm. Standish and Francis Cooke, working in the woods, hastened home, leaving their tools behind them. The settlers organized a watch and began to make ready their weapons, "which by the moysture and rayne were out of temper." The Natives took the tools left in the woods The next day the settlers elected Standish as their military commander. While they were thus meeting, they spied two Natives peering at them over Strawberry Hill less than a quarter of a mile away. The Natives made gestures inviting the settlers come to them; the settlers returned the gesture, took up arms and sent Standish and Stephen Hopkins to meet the two, but they departed. Again "noyse of a great many more" was heard in the distance, but no one was seen. This encounter seriously disturbed the settlers, and they resolved to mount their cannons.
By Friday, March 16, Captain Jones and some of the crew having brought two pieces of the ordnance from the ship, the settlers were about to continue their military organization, when to their great alarm Samoset "boldly came alone" in their midst. Samoset, however, proved to be entirely guileless. With a conviviality evidently learned from the English fishermen he long knew, he even asked for a beer (they gave him "strong water" and food, instead). He spent the day giving them intelligence of the surrounding peoples, and spent the night.[bn]
That Sunday, March 18, Samoset brought five men with him all bearing deer skins and one cat skin. The settlers entertained them, but, it being the Sabbath, refused to trade with them, although encouraging them to return with more furs. All left but Samoset, who, feigning sickness, lingered until Wednesday. That day, after Samoset left, again Natives taunted the settlers from the hill and again disappeared when Standish and three others approached the hill. It was on Thursday, March 22 that Samoset appeared again, this time with Squanto. Besides a few skins and newly caught fish, the men brought important news: Massasoit, his brother Quadrquina and all of their men were close by. After an hour's discussion, the sachem and his train of sixty men appeared on Strawberry Hill. The two sides unwilling to make the first move, it was Squanto who, shuttling between the groups, effected the simple protocol that permitted Edward Winslow to approach the sachem. Winslow, with Squanto as translator, proclaimed the loving and peaceful intentions of King James and the desire of their governor to trade and make peace with him. After Massasoit ate, further protocols involving the exchanges of hostages, allowed Standish (with the protection of half a dozen musketeers) to lead the sachem to a "house then building," which was quickly furnished with pillows and a rug. Governor Carver then came, "with Drumme and Trumpet after him," to meet Massasoit. After drinking "a great draught" of strong water (enough to make Carver "sweate all the while after") and then a repast of fresh meat, the parties negotiated a treaty of peace and, significantly, mutual defense between the Plymouth settlers and the Pokanoket people. According to Bradford, "all the while he sat by the Governour, he trembled for feare," and therefore the settlers probably could have made the treaty more unequal than it was.[bo] Massasoit's followers "applauded" the treaty, and the peace terms were kept during Massasoit's lifetime, and the settlers would be called upon to fulfill their mutual defense obligations. There would be an issue concerning the obligation to hand over criminals (it was the settlers who seemed to be in breach), one that involved Squanto, but that was a year in the future.
When Massasoit and his train left the day after the treaty, Samoset and Squanto remained. It was Squanto, however, whom Bradford[bp] developed a relationship with and came to rely on. With the departure of the Mayflower at the beginning of April, it was a great comfort to have someone with experience in the land and peoples in whom they could trust. Bradford considered him "a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation." Squanto instructed them in survival skills and acquainted them with their environment: "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."
Unlike other Natives in the area, of whom Bradford and Winslow constantly complained for frequently and in large numbers coming to seek food from the settlers, Squanto made himself useful from the start. The day after Massasoit left Plymouth, Squanto spent the day at Eel River, treading eels out of the mud with his feet. The bucketful of eels he brought back were "fat and sweet." Collection of eels became part of the settlers' annual practice.[bq] But Bradford makes special mention of Squanto's instruction concerning native horticulture.
Squanto had arrived just at the time that the planters were to sow their first crops in the Western Hemisphere. Bradford said that in thitehis regard "Squanto stood them in great stead, showing them both the manner how to set it, and after how to dress and tend it." While it is true that the Plymouth settlers were primarily artisans ("printers, weavers, watchmakers, and carpenters and carpenters with little farming experience") who could use any advice on agriculture, the reference to "the manner how to set it," seems to mean more than simply how to plant the seeds. Indeed, southern New England native planting methods were quite different from northern European methods. First, fields were cleared by burning (conifers especially) or by girdling (especially hardwood trees) to prepare for the following growing season. Thomas Morton observed the native practice of biannual burning of undergrowth, to which he ascribed the characteristic landscape of New England as like English parks with only occasional trees.[br] In planting season instead of plowing furrows for seed overturning a large amount of top soil, the Natives made small mounds of soil by hand or shell tools in which to place the seeds (and when the soil was depleted fish was also added for fertilizer).[bs] When the corn sprounted, bean seeds were added to the same mounds so that they stalks could be used for support for the bean runners. Squash vines were trained along the mounds to protect the corn stalk roots and reduce weeds. The combination of the three plants was characteristic of native agriculture with the legumes fixing atmospheric nitrogen for the other plants, the maize providing support and the squash reducing the need to weed. Unlike the English farmers at home, the Natives were willing to plant on hillsides (usually the southern) and tops of hills. What Bradford especially mentioned was how Sqanto showed them how to fertilize exhausted soil:
he told them, except they got fish and set with it [corn seed] in these old grounds it would come to nothing. And he showed them that in the middle of April they should have store enough [of fish] come up the brook by which they began to build, and taught them how to take it, and where to get other provisions necessary for them. All of which they found true by trial and experience.
Edward Winslow made the same point about the value of Indian cultivation methods in a letter to England at the end of the year:
We set the last Spring some twentie Acres of Indian Corne, and sowed some six Acres of Barly and Pease; and according to the manner of the Indians, we manured our ground with Herings or rather Shadds, which we have in great abundance, and take with great ease at our doores. Our Corn did prove well, & God be praysed, we had a good increase of Indian-Corne, and our Barly indifferent good, but our Pease were not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sowne."
The method shown by Squanto became the regular practice of the settlers.[bt]
This testimony by the two Plymouth plantation leaders has been challenged by ethnologist Lynn Ceci in the late 20th century. She did not dispute that Squanto taught the early English settlers how to manure their corn crop with fish (which she conceded "is an excellent fertilizer for corn") but rather that Squanto was teaching them an "Indian" technology, rather than one he acquired, during his years of bondage, from European sources. Her argument rests on (i) the conclusion that in places other than southern New England the condition for fish fertilization by natives did not exist and therefore was not a "common and widespread practice in any part of Native North America," (ii) the absence of English sources that attest to Native use of fish fertilizer[bu] (iii) that some early English settlers testified that they had not seen Natives use fertilizer and that they were "too lazy to catch fish," (iv) that fertilization was an "advanced trait" and one that was unnecessary (and overly burdensome given the manpower available to Native societies and their lack of draught animals) since Natives could simply leave their fields fallow as was observed by early explorers and (v) there is scattered European authority that shows that southern Europeans used marine fertilizers for crops and occasional examples of English use of fish fertilizer, one of which Squanto may have come into contact with. Various historians have disputed Ceci's analysis, arguing that she (i) ignored evidence pointing to the aboriginal origins of the fish fertilization practice;[bv] (ii) failed to consider the ulterior motives settlers had for denigrating native husbandry and work ethic; namely, that land-hungry settlers used the principle of vacuum domiciliun to claim that Natives never "used" their lands (in prescribed English manner) and therefore had no title,[bw] (iii) failed to consider the considerably greater pre-epidemic population which would have made changing plots (requiring tree-clearing) less easy and at the same time provided manpower for widespread fertilization when she speculated that it was easier for Natives to abandon established fields and obtain new ones. (iv) betrayed ignorance of the fact that the English had no draft animals or wagons until 1624, when she assumed that the English settlers could more easily fertilize fields because of the Indians lacked draft animals and even wagons, (v) ignored the fact that the Natives had more available manpower than the Plymouth settlers and produced crops of higher yield when she calculated the amount of labor required to fertilize, and (vi) did not consider the difference between native American agriculture and European (and even Newfoundland) farming (which did not grow maize and the farmers did not plant seeds in mounds over fish deposited as manure) when reviewing the possible, but scanty, evidence of European fertilization by fish. An additional suggestive piece of evidence for aboriginal use of fish fertilizer is the use of the same Algonquian word for certain small fish and fertilizer.[bx] A recent writer who has reviewed all the literature has concluded that Ceci's claim has been "authoritatively refuted." However that dispute turns out, neither Ceci nor anyone else has ever challenged the facts that it was Squanto who showed the Plymouth settlers how to plant native foods, that his method yielded better results than their own planting of English crops and that Squanto's assistance was crucial to the fledgling settlement's survival during its first year.
Squanto also introduced the Plymouth colony to the means to reduce their financial obligation to their sponsors and fellow stockholders in London. Squanto had been familiar with the fur trade for many years. (His participation in it was in fact what caused him to be kidnapped in 1614.) Squanto showed the settlers how they could obtain pelts with the "few trifling commodities they brought with them at first." The settlers not only were unprepared to engage in the extensive network of Native bands created by the French, they knew nothing about it. In fact, Bradford reported that there was not "any amongst them that ever saw a beaver skin till they came here and were informed by Squanto."
Writing a decade and a half after the event (which he did not witness), Thomas Morton stated that as a result of the peace treaty, Massasoit was "freed and suffered [Squanto] to live with the English …" If the Pokanoket ever held Squanto as a prisoner, they never treated him as such from the time of their first encounter with the Plymouth settlers.[by] For his part Squanto proved remarkably loyal to the English. One commentator has suggested the loneliness occasioned by the wholesale extinction of his people (perhaps in conjunction with an unrecorded kindness he received in his years with the English) as the motive for his attachment to the Plymouth settlers. Another has suggested, on the other hand, that it was part of a long game of self-interest he conceived while in the captivity of the Pokanoket only later to be hatched. The settlers, compelled by their own interestes, were forced to rely on Squanto because he was the only means by which they could communicate with the surrounding Natives, and he therefore was involved in every contact for the twenty months he lived with them.
The colony decided in June that a mission to Massasoit in Pokatoket would enhance their security and reduce visits by Natives who drained their food resources. Winslow wrote that they wanted to ensure the peace treaty was still valued by the Pokanoket and to reconnoitre the surrounding country and the strength of the various villages. They also hoped to show their willingness to repay the grain they stole on Cape Cod the last winter, in the words of Winslow to "make satisfaction for some conceived injuries to be done on our parts …"
Governor Bradford selected Edward Winslow and Stephen Hopkins to make the journey with Squanto. They set off on July 2[bz] carrying with them a present for Massasoit—a "Horse-mans coat" made of red cotton and trimmed "with a slight lace." The emissaries also took along a copper chain and a message, evidently agreed upon by the settlers at a meeting. The message expressed their desire to continue and strengthen the peace between the two peoples and also explained the purpose of the chain. Because the colonies were uncertain of their first harvest, they requested him to restrain his people from seeking entertainment as frequently as they had. But they wished always to entertain any guest of Massasoit. So if he gave anyone the chain, they would know that the visitor was sent by him and they would always receive him. The message also attempted to justify the settlers' conduct on Cape Cod and requested he send his men to the Nauset to express the English settlers' wish to make restitution. All settled, they departed at 9 a.m., and travelled for two days meeting friendly Natives along the way.[ca] When they arrived at Pokanoket, Massasoit had to be sent for, and when he arrived, at Squanto's suggestion Winslow and Hopkins gave him a salute with their muskets. Massasoit was grateful for the coat and graciously assured them on all points they made. He assured them that his thirty tributary villages would remain in peace and would bring furs to Plymouth. After spending two uncomfortable nights,[cb] Squanto was sent off to the various villages to seek trading partners for the English, and with Tokamahamon[cc] taking Squanto's place, the envoys returned to their settlement.[cd]
Winslow writes that shortly after he returned from Pokanoket[ce] a crisis arose that required an immediate mission to the Cape Cod Natives, the Nauset with whom the clashed at "First Encounter," and with whom they never made restitution for their takings not to mention their despoiling of graves. The crisis was this: one of the Billington children, John, had wondered off and had not returned for five days. Bradford sent word to Massasoit who made inquiry and found that the child had wondered into a Manumett village, who turned him over to the Nauset. The ten settlers that comprised the mission took along both Squanto (as a translator) and Tokamahamon ("a special friend," in Winslow's words). They sailed to Cummaquid by evening and spent the night anchored in the bay. At morning, the two Natives onboard were sent to speak to two Natives they saw lobstering. They were told that the boy was at Nauset, and the Cape Cod Natives invited all the men to take food with them. The Englishmen waited until the tide allowed the boat to reach the shore and then they were escorted to their sachem, Iyanough, who was in his mid-20s and in the words of Winslow "very personable, gentle, courteous, and fayre conditioned, indeed not like a Savage …" The colonists were lavishly entertained, and Iyanough even agreed to accompany them to the Nauset. While in this village they met an old woman, "no lesse then an hundred yeeres old," wanted to see the Englishmen, and told them of how her two sons were kidnapped by the Hunt at the same time Squanto was and she had not seen them since. Winslow assured her that they would never treat Natives that way and "gave her some small trifles, which somewhat appeased her." After their lunch, the settlers with the sachem and two of his band, took the shallop to Nauset, but the tide being such that the boat could not reach shore, the English sent on Inyanough and Squanto to meet the Nauset sachem Aspinet. While the English remained in the their shallop, Nauset men "very thick" came to entreat them to come ashore, but Winslow's party was afraid because this was the very spot of First Encounter. Indeed, the one of the many whose corn they had stolen the previous winter came out to meet them. They promised to reimburse him.[cf] That night the sachem came with a train (of more than 100, the English estimated) and bore the boy out to the shallop. The colonists gave Aspinet a knife and one to the man who carried the boy to the boat. By this, Winslow considered "they made peace with us." The Nausets departed, but the English there learned (probably from Squanto) that the Narragansetts had attacked the Pokanoket and taken Massasoit. This was a great alarm because their own settlement was hardly well guarded given that so many were on this mission.[cg] The men tried to set off immediately, but they had no fresh water. After stopping again at Iyanough's village, they set off again for Plymouth.
This mission, which could have resulted in hostilities, instead resulted in a working relation or even peace between the Plymouth settlers and the Cape Cod Natives (both the Nausets and the Cummaquid). Winslow attributed that outcome to Squanto. Bradford wrote that the Natives whose corn had been stolen the previous winter came and received compensation and peace generally prevailed.
According to Winslow when the men who had rescued the Billington boy returned to Plymouth, it was confirmed to them that Massasoit had been ousted or taken by the Narragansetts. They also learned that Corbitant, a Pocasset sachem formerly tributary to Massasoit, was at Nemasket attempting to pry that band away from Massasoit. Corbitant was reportedly also railing against the peace initiatives that the Plymouth settlers had just had with the Cummaquid and the Nauset. Squanto was an especial object of Corbitant's ire not only because of his role in mediating peace with the Cape Cod Natives but also because he was the principal means by which the settlers could communicate with the natives: "if he were dead, the English had lost their tongue," he reportedly said. Hobomok, a Pokanoket pniese residing among the English,[ch] had also been threatened before for his loyalty to Massasoit. Squanto and Hobomok were evidently too frightened to try to seek out Massasoit, and instead went to Nemasket to find out what they could. Tokamahamon, however, went looking for Massasoit. When at Nemasket Squanto and Hobomok were discovered by Corbitant, who captured both and while Corbitant was holding Squanto with a knife to his breast, Hobomok broke free and ran to Plymouth to alert them, thinking Squanto had died.
Bradford's chronology is somewhat different and he makes no mention of a possible abduction of Massasoit. As he describes it, the event happened sometime after the mission to the Nauset when "peace and acquaintance was pretty well established with the natives around them." Squanto and Hobomok were off on "business among the Indians" and on their return, they encountered Corbitant at Nemasket and fell into a quarrel during which he threatened to stab Hobomok. The latter escaped and informed the settlers that he feared Squanto was dead. In any event, Governor Bradford organized an armed task force under the command of Standish, consisting of a dozen or so men.[ci] They set off before daybreak on August 14 under the guidance of Hobomok. The plan was to march the 14 miles at Nemasket, rest and then take the village unawares in the night. Hobomok lost the way, however, but Winslow of Hopkins, who had twice been to the place on their trip to Pokanoket and back, were able to navigate the group so as to arrive in time to eat before raiding the house at which Corbitant was staying, according to Hobomok. The surprise was total, and the villagers were terrified. The English could not make the Natives understand that they were only looking for Corbitant, and there were "three sore wounded" trying to escape the house. At last the militiay came to understand that Squanto was unharmed and staying in the village and that Corbitant and his train returned to Pocaset. While the English searched the dwelling, Hobomok got on top of it and called for Squanto and Tiquantum, both of whom came. The settlers commandeered the house for the night. The next day they explained to the village that they were only interested in Corbitant and those supporting him. They warned that if he continued threatening the English settlers or encouraged orthers or if Massasoit did not return from the Narragansetts or if anyone attempted harm to any of his subjects (including Squanto and Hobomok), the English would inflict retribution. That day they marched back to Plymouth with Nemasket villagers helping bear their equipment.
Bradford wrote that this action resulted in a firmer peace, and that "divers sachems" congratulated the settlers and more came to terms with them. Even Corbitant, through Massasoit, made his peace. Nathaniel Morton much later recorded that on September 13, 1621 o.s. nine sub-sachem[cj] came to Plymouth and signed a document purporting to declare themselves "Loyal Subjects of King James, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland …" Neither Bradford nor Winslow describe any such meeting, and Morton does not explain why the document does not contain any other terms as did the Treaty with Massasoit the same year. One of the signatories, "Caunbatant," is believed by Ford to be Corbitant. But if he came to Plymouth that day, it would contradict Bradford, who said that Corbitant's peace concession was through Massasoit because he was "shy to come near them a long while after."
The English resolved to meet with the last confederation of villages on their border—the Massachuset, who the settlers heard had frequently threatened them. On August 18, about a month after the return from Nemasket, a crew of ten settlers, as well as Squanto and two other Natives to interpret, set off around midnight, hoping to arrive before the next daybreak. But they misjudged the distance and were forced to ancmet'sor off shore and stay in the shallop over the next night. Once ashore they found a woman coming to collect the lobsters trapped, and she told them where the villagers were. Squanto was sent to make contact. When the settlers met the sachem, they discovered he presided over a considerably reduced band of followers. His name was Obbatinewat, and he was a tributary of Massasoit. He explained that his current location within Boston harbor ("in the bottome of the Massachuset bay") it was not a permanent residence since he moved regularly to avoid the Tarentines[ck] as well as the Squa Sachim (the widow of Nanepashemet ), another enemy. Obbatinewat agreed to submit himself to King James in exchange for the colonists' promise to protect him from his enemies. He also took them to see the squa sachem across the Massachusetts Bay.
On Friday, September 21 they went ashore (possibly at a place they called Squantum, Quincy, Massachusetts, near Dorchester) and marched three miles to a recently harvested cornfield. A mile further they found the house of Nanepashemet, built on a scaffod over raised poles six feet off the ground. Further on they came to a fort encircled by large poles and a trench breast-high. Inside the palisade was a house where Nanepashemet was buried. A mile further on they found the place where the sachem had been killed. Here the English stayed sending Squanto and another Native to find the people. There were signs of hurried removal, but they found the women together with their corn and later a man who was brought to the settlers, trembling. They assured him that they did not intend harm and he agreed to trade furs with them. Squanto urged that the English simply "rifle" the women and take their skins on the ground that "they are a bad people and oft threatned you," but the English insisted on treating them fairly. The women followed the men to the shallop, selling them everything they had, including the coats off their backs. As the colonists shipped off they noticed that the many islands in the harbor had been inhabited, some cleared entirely, but all the inhabitants had died. Although they returned with "a good quantity of beaver," the men who had seen Boston Harbor expressed their regret that they had not settled there.
During the fall of 1621 the Plymouth settlers had every reason to be contented with their condition, less than one year after the "starving times." Bradford expressed the sentiment with biblical allusion[cl] that they found "the Lord to be with them in all their ways, and to bless their outgoings and incomings …" Winslow was more prosaic when he reviewed the political situation with respect to surrounding natives in December 1621: “Wee have found the Indians very faithfull in their Covenant of Peace with us; very loving and readie to pleasure us …," not only the greatest, Massasoit, “but also all the Princes and peoples round about us” for fifty miles. Even a sachem from Martha's Vineyard, who they never saw, and also seven others came in to submit to King James "so that there is now great peace amongst the Indians themselves, which was not formerly, neither would have bin but for us …“
Bradford wrote in his journal that come fall together with their harvest of Indian corn, they had abundant fish and fowl, including many turkeys they took in addition to venison. He affirmed that the reports of plenty that many report "to their friends in England" were not "feigned but true reports." He did not, however, describe any harvest festival with their native allies. Winslow, however, did, and the letter which was included in Mourt's Relation became the basis for the tradition of "the first Thanksgiving."[cm]
Winslow's description of what was later celebrated as the first Thanksgiving was quite short. He wrote that after the harvest (of Indian corn, their planting of peas were not worth gathering and their barley harvest of barley was "indifferent"), Bradford sent out four men fowling “so we might after a more special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labours …” The time was one of recreation, including the shooting of arms, and many Natives joined them, including Massasoit and 90 of his men,[cn] who stayed three days. They killed five deer which they presented to Bradford, Standish and others in Plymouth. Winslow concluded his description by telling his readers that “we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie.”
The various treaties created a system where the English settlers filled the vacuum created by the epidemic. The villages and tribal networks surrounding Plymouth now saw themselves as tributaries to the English and (as they were assured) King James. The settlers also viewed the treaties as committing the Natives to a form of vassalage. Nathaniel Morton, Bradford's nephew, interpreted the original treaty with Massasoit, for example, as "at the same time" (not within the written treaty terms) acknowledginghimeself "content to become the Subject of our Sovereign Lord the King aforesaid, His Heirs and Successors, and gave unto them all the Lands adjacent, to them and their Heirs for ever.” The problem with this political and commercial system was that it "incurred the resentment of the Narragansett by depriving them of tributaries just when Dutch traders were expanding their activities in the [Narragansett] bay." In January 1622 the Narraganset responded by issuing an ultimatum to the English.
In December 1621 the Fortune (which had brought 35 more settlers) had departed for England.[co] Not long afterwards rumors began to reach Plymouth that the Narragansett were making warlike preparations against the English.[cp] Winslow believed that that nation had learned that the new settlers brought neither arms nor provisions and thus in fact weakened the English colony. Bradford saw their belligerency as a result of their desire to "lord it over" the peoples who had been weakened by the epidemic (and presumably obtain tribute from them) and the colonists were "a bar in their way."  In January 1621/22 a messenger from Narraganset sachem Canonicus (who travelled with Tokamahamon, Winslow's "special friend") arrived looking for Squanto, who was away from the settlement. Winslow wrote that the messenger appeared relieved and left a bundle of arrows wrapped in a rattlesnake skin. Rather than let him depart, however, Bradford committed him to the custody of Standish. The captain asked Winslow, who had a "speciall familiaritie" with other Indians, to see if he could get anything out of the messenger. The messenger would not be specific but said that he believed "they were enemies to us." That night Winslow and another (probably Hopkins) took charge of him. After his fear subsided, the messenger told him that the messenger who had come from Canonicus last summer to treat for peace, returned and persuaded the sachem on war. Canonicus was particularly aggrieved by the "meannesse" of the gifts sent him by the English, not only in relation to what he sent to colonists but also in light of his own greatness. On obtaining this information, Bradford ordered the messenger released.
When Squanto returned he explained that the meaning of the arrows wrapped in snake skin was enmity; it was a challenge. After consultation, Bradford stuffed the snake skin with powder and shot and had a Native return it to Canonicus with a defiant message. Winslow wrote that the returned emblem so terrified Canonicus that he reused to touch it, and that it passed from hand to hand until, by a circuitous route, it was returned to Plymouth.
Notwithstanding the colonists' bold response to the Narragansett challenge, the settlers realized their defenselessness to attack. Bradford instituted a series of measures to secure Plymouth. Most important they decided to enclose the settlement within a pale (probably much like what was discovered surrounding Nenepashemet's fort). They shut the inhabitants within gates that were locked at night, and a night guard was posted. Standish divided the men into four squadrons and drilled them in where to report in the event of alarm. They also came up with a plan of how to respond to fire alarms so as to have a sufficient armed force to respond to possible Native treachery. The fence around the settlement required the most effort since it required felling suitable large trees, digging holes deep enough to support the large timbers and securing them close enough to each other to prevent penetration by arrows. This work had to be done in the winter and at a time too when the settlers were on half rations because of the new and unexpected settlers. The work took more than a month to complete.
By the beginning of March, the fortification of the settlement had been accomplished. It was now time when the settlers had promised the Massachuset they would come to trade for furs. They received another alarm however, this time from Hobomok, who was still living with them. Hobomok told of his fear that the Massachuset had joined in a confederacy with the Narraganset and if Standish and his men went there, they would be cut off and at the same time the Narraganset would attack the settlement at Plymouth. Hobomok also told them that Squanto was part of this conspiracy, that he learned this from other Natives he met in the woods and that the settlers would find this out when Squanto would urge the settlers into the Native houses "for their better advantage." This allegation must have come as a shock to the English given that Squanto's conduct for nearly a year seemed to have aligned him perfectly with the English interest both in helping to pacify surrounding societies and in obtaining goods that could be used to reduce their debt to the settlers' financial sponsors. Bradford consulted with his advisors, and they concluded that they had to make the mission despite this information. The decision was made partly for strategic reasons. If the colonists cancelled the promised trip out of fear and instead stayed shut up "in our new-enclosed towne," they might encourage even more aggression. But the main reason they had to make the trip was that their "Store was almost emptie" and without the corn they could obtain by trading "we could not long subsist …" The governor therefore deputed Standish and 10 men to make the trip and sent along both Squanto and Hobomok, given "the jealousy between them."
Not long after the shallop departed, "an Indian belonging to Squanto's family" came running in. He betrayed signs of great fear, constantly looking behind him as if someone "were at his heels." He was taken to Bradford to whom he told that many of the Narraganset together with Corbitant "and he thought Massasoit" were about to attack Plymouth. Winslow (who was not there but wrote closer to the time of the incident than did Bradford) gave even more graphic details: The Native's face was covered in fresh blood which he explained was a wound he received when he tried speaking up for the settlers. In this account he said that the combined forces were already at Nemasket and were set on taking advantage of the opportunity supplied by Standish's absence. Bradford immediately put the settlement on military readiness and had the ordnance discharge three rounds in the hope that the shallop had not gone too far. Because of calm seas Standish and his men had just reached Gurnet's Nose, heard the alarm and quickly returned. When Hobomok first heard the news he "said flatly that it was false …" Not only was he assured of Massasoit's faithfulness, he knew that his being a pniese meant he would have been consulted by Massasoit before he undertook such a scheme. To make further sure Hobomok volunteered his wife to return to Pokanoket to assess the situation for herself. At the same time Bradford had the watch maintained all that night, but there were no signs of Natives, hostile or otherwise.
Hobomok's wife found the village of Pokanoket quiet with no signs of war preparations. She then informed Massasoit of the commotion at Plymouth. The sachem was "much offended at the carriage of Tisquantum" but was grateful for Bradford's trust in him [Massasoit]. He also sent word back that he would send word to the governor, pursuant to the first article of the treaty they had entered, if any hostile actions were preparing.
Winslow writes that "by degrees wee began to discover Tisquantum," but he does not describes the means or over what period of time this discovery took place. There apparently was no formal proceeding. The conclusion reached, according to Winslow, was that Squanto had been using his proximity and apparent influence over the English settlers "to make himselfe great in the eyes of" local Natives for his own benefit. Winslow explains that Squanto convinced locals that he had the ability to influence the English toward peace or war and that he frequently extorted Natives by claiming that the settlers were about to kill them in order "that thereby hee might get gifts to himself to work their peace …"
Bradford's account agrees with Winslow's to this point, and he also explains where the information came from: "by the former passages, and other things of like nature," evidently referring to rumors Hobomok said he heard in the woods. Winslow goes much further in his charge, however, claiming that Squanto intended to sabotage the peace with Massasoit by false claims of Massasoit aggression "hoping whilest things were hot in the heat of bloud, to provoke us to march into his Country against him, whereby he hoped to kindle such a flame as would not easily be quenched, and hoping if that blocke were once removed, there were no other betweene him and honour" which he preferred over life and peace. Winslow later remembered "one notable (though) wicked practice of this Tisquantum"; namely, that he told the locals that the English possessed the "plague" buried under their storehouse and that they could unleash it at will. What he referred to was their cache of gunpowder.[cq]
Captain Standish and his men eventually did go to the Massachuset and returned with a "good store of Trade." On their return they saw that Massasoit was there and he was displaying his anger against Squanto. Bradford did his best to appease him, and he eventually departed. No long afterward, however, he sent a messenger demanding that Squanto be put to death. Bradford responded that although Squanto "deserved to die both in respect of him [Massasoit] and us," but said that Squanto was too useful to the settlers because otherwise he had no one to translate. Not long afterward, the same messenger returned, this time with "divers others," demanding Squanto. They argued that Squanto being a subject of Massasoit, was subject, pursuant to the first article of the Peace Treaty, to the sachem's demand, in effect, rendition. They further argued that if Bradford would not produce pursuant to the Treaty, Massasoit had sent many beavers' skins to induce his consent. Finally, if Bradford still would not release him to them, the messenger had brought Massasoit's own knife by which Bradford himself could cut off Squanto's head and hands to be returned with the messenger. Bradford avoided the question of Massasoit's right under the treaty[cr] but refused the beaver pelts saying that "It was not the manner of the English to sell mens lives at a price …” The governor called Squanto (who had promised not to flee), who denied the charges and ascribed them to Hobomok's desire for his downfall. He nonetheless offered to abide by Bradford's decision. Bradford was "ready to deliver him into the hands of his Executioners" but at that instance a boat passed before the town in the harbor. Fearing that it might be the French, Bradford said he had to first identify the ship before dealing with the demand. The messenger and his companions, however, "mad with rage, and impatient at delay" left "in great heat."
The ship the English saw pass before the town was not French, but rather a shallop from the Sparrow, a shipping vessel sponsored by Thomas Weston and one other of the Plymouth settlement's sponsors, which was plying the eastern fishing grounds. This boat brought seven additional settlers but no provisions whatsoever "nor any hope of any." In a letter they brought, Weston explained that the settlers were to set up a salt pan operation on one of the islands in the harbor for the private account of Weston. He asked the Plymouth colony, however, to house and feed these newcomers, provide them with seed stock and (ironically) salt, until he was able to send the salt pan to them. The Plymouth settlers had spent the winter and spring on half rations in order to feed the settlers that had been sent nine months ago without provisions. Now Weston was exhorting them to support new settlers who were not even sent to help the plantation. He also announced that he would be sending another ship that would discharge more passengers before it would sail on to Virginia. He requested that the settlers entertain them in their houses so that they could go out and cut down timber to lade the ship quickly so as not to delay its departure. Bradford found the whole business "but cold comfort to fill their hungry bellies." Bradford was not exaggerating. Winslow described the dire straits. They now were without bread "the want whereof much abated the strength and the flesh of some, and swelled others." Without hooks or seines or netting, they could not collect the bass in the rivers and cove, and without tackle and navigation rope, they could not fish for the abundant cod in the sea. Had it not been for shellfish which they could catch by hand, they would have perished. But there was more, Weston also informed them that the London backers had decided to dissolve the venture. Weston urged the settlers to ratify the decision; only then might the London merchants send them further support, although what motivation they would then have he did not explain. That boat also, evidently,[cs] contained alarming news from the South. John Huddleston, who was unknown to them but captained a fishing ship that had returned from Virginia to the Maine fishing grounds, advised his "good friends at Plymouth" of the massacre in the Jamestown settlements by the Powhatan in which he said 400 had been killed. He warned them: "Happy is he whom other men's harms doth make to beware." This last communication Bradford decided to turn to their advantage. Sending a return for this kindness, they might also seek fish or other provisions from the fishermen. Winslow and a crew were selected to make the voyage to Maine, 150 miles away, to a place they had never been. In Winslow's reckoning, he left at the end of May for Damariscove.[ct] Winslow found the fishermen more than sympathetic and they freely gave what they could. Even though this was not as much as Winslow hoped, it was enough to keep them going until the harvest.
When Winslow returned the threat they felt had to be addressed. The general anxiety aroused by Huddleston's letter was hieghtened by the increasingly hostile taunts they learned of. Surrounding villagers were "glorying in our weaknesse," and the English heard threats about how "easie it would be ere long to cut us off." Even Massasoit turned cool towards the English, and could not be counted on to tamp down this rising hostility. So they decided to build a fort on burying hill in town. And just as they did when building the palisade, the men had to cut down trees, haul them from the forest and up the hill and construct the fortified building, all with inadequate nutrition and at the neglect of dressing their crops.
They might have thought they reached the end of their problems but in June 1622 the settlers saw two more vessels arrive, carrying 60 additional mouths to feed arrived. These were the passengers that Weston had written would be unloaded from the vessel going on to Virginia. That vessel also carried more distressing news. Weston informed the governor that he was no longer a part of the company sponsoring the Plymouth settlement. The settlers he sent just now, and requested the Plymouth settlement to house and feed, were for his own enterprise. The "sixty lusty men" would not work for the benefit of Plymouth; in fact he had obtained a patent and as soon as they were ready they would settle an area in Massachusetts Bay. Other letters also were brought. The other venturers in London explained that they had bought out Weston, and everyone was better off without him. Weston, who saw the letter before it was sent, advised the settlers to break off from the remaining merchants, and as a sign of good faith delivered a quantity of bread and cod to them. (Although, as Bradford noted in the margin, he "left not his own men a bite of bread.") The arrivals also brought news that the Fortune had been taken by French pirates, and therefore all their past effort to export American cargo (valued at ₤500) would count for nothing. Finally Robert Cushman sent a letter advising that Weston's men "are no men for us; wherefore I prey you entertain them not"; he also advised the Plymouth Separatists not to trade with them or loan them anything except on strict collateral."I fear these people will hardly deal so well with the savages as they should. I pray you therefore signify to Squanto that they are a distinct body from us, and we have nothing to do with them, neither must be blamed for their faults, much less can warrant their fidelity." As much as all this vexed the governor, Bradford took in the men and fed and housed them as he did the others sent to him, even though Weston's men would compete with his colony for pelts and other Native trade. But the words of Cushman would prove prophetic.
Weston's men, "stout knaves" in the words of Thomas Morton, were roustabouts collected for adventure and they scandalized the mostly strictly religious villagers of Plymouth. Worse, they stole the colony's corn, wandering into the fields and snatching the green ears for themselves. When caught, they were "well whipped," but hunger drove them to steal "by night and day." The harvest again proved disappointing, so that it appeared that "famine must still ensue, the next year also" for lack of seed. And they could not even trade for staples because their supply of items the Natives sought had been exhausted. Part of their cares were lessened when their coasters returned from scouting places in Weston's patent and took Weston's men (except for the sick, who remained) to the site they selected for settlement, called Wessagusset (now Weymouth). But not long after, even there they plagued Plymouth, who heard, from Natives once friendly with them, that Weston's settlers were stealing their corn and committing other abuses. At the end of August a fortuitous event staved off another starving winter: the Discovery, bound for London, arrived from a coasting expedition from Virginia. The ship had a cargo of knives, beads and other items prized by Natives, but seeing the desperation of the colonists the captain drove a hard bargain: He required them to buy a large lot, charged them double their price and valued their beaver pelts at 3s. per pound, which he could sell at 20s. "Yet they were glad of the occasion and fain to buy at any price …"
The Charity returned from Virginia at the end of September–beginning of October. It proceeded on to England, leaving the Wessagusset settlers well provisioned. The Swan was left for their use as well. It was not long after they learned that the Plymouth settlers had acquired a store of trading goods that they wrote Bradford proposing that they jointly undertake a trading expedition, they to supply the use of the Swan. They proposed equal division of the proceeds with payment for their share of the goods traded to await arrival of Weston. (Bradford assumed they had burned through their provisions.) Bradford agreed and proposed an expedition southward of the Cape.
Winslow wrote that Squanto and Massasoit had "wrought" a peace (although he doesn't explain how this came about). With Squanto as guide, they might find the passage among the Monomoy Shoals to Nantucket Sound;[cu] Squanto had advised them he twice sailed through the shoals, once on an English and once on a French vessel. The venture ran into problems from the start. When in Plymouth Richard Green, Weston's brother-in-law and temporary governor of the colony, died. After his burial and receiving directions to proceed from the succeeding governor of Wessagusset, Standish was appointed leader but twice the voyage was turned back by violent winds. On the second attempt, Standish fell ill. On his return Bradford himself took charge of the enterprise. In November they set out. When they reached the shoals, Squanto piloted the vessel, but the master of the vessel did not trust the directions and bore up. Squanto directed him through a narrow passage, and they were able to harbor near Mamamoycke (now Chatham).
That night Bradford went ashore with a few others, Squanto acting as translator and facilitator. Not having seen any of these Englishmen before, the Natives were initially reluctant. But Squanto coaxed them and they provided a plentiful meal of venison and other victuals. They were reluctant to allow the English to see their homes, but when Bradford showed his intention to stay on shore, they invited him to their shelters, having first removed all their belongings. As long as the English stayed, the Natives would disappear "bag and baggage" whenever their possessions were seen. Eventually Squanto persuaded them to trade and as a result, the settlers obtained eight hogsheads of corn and beans. The villagers also told them that they had seen vessels "of good burthen" pass through the shoals. And so, with Squanto felling confident, the English were prepared to make another attempt. But suddenly Squanto became ill and died.
The sickness seems to have greatly shaken Bradford, for they lingered there for several days before he died. Bradford described his death in some detail:
In this place Squanto fell sick of Indian fever, bleeding much at the nose (which the Indians take as a symptom of death) and within a few days died there; desiring the Governor 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.
Without Squanto to pilot them, the English settlers decided against trying the shoals again and returned to Cape Cod Bay.
The English Separatists may have comforted themselves by believing that Squanto had become a convert, but it is doubtful that he subscribed to Christianity in any orthodox way. William Wood writing a little more than a decade later explained why some of the Ninnimissinuok began recognizing the power of "the Englishmens God, as they call him": "because they could never yet have power by their conjurations to damnifie the English either in body or goods" and since the introduction of the new spirit "the times and seasons being much altered in sever or eight years, freer from lightning and thunder, and long droughts, suddaine and tempestuous dashes of rain, and lamentable cold Winters." Although the English counted Squanto and later Hobomok among their first converts, the two probably "hoped to add the Christian God to their personal arrays" of deities. Willison suggested another reason that Squanto likely wished for heaven: "for he may well have feared what would happen if he chanced to meet Massasoit in the Happy Hunting Grounds."
Philbrick speculates that Squanto may have been poisoned by Massasoit. His bases for the claim are (i) that other Native Americans had engaged in assassinations during the 17th century; and (ii) that Massasoit's own son, the so-called King Philip, may have assassinated John Sassamon, an event that led to the bloody King Philip's War a half-century later. He suggests that the "peace" Winslow says was lately made between the two could have been a "rouse" but does not explain how Massasoit could have accomplished the feat on the very remote southeast end of Cape Cod, more than 85 miles distant from Pokanoket.
Squanto is reputed to be buried in the village of Chatham Port.[cv]
Because almost all the historical records of Squanto were written by English Separatists and because most of that writing had the purpose to attract new settlers, give account of their actions to their financial sponsors or to justify themselves to co-religionists, they tended to relegate Squanto (or any other Native American) to the role of assistant to them in their activities. No real attempt was made to understand Squanto or Native culture, particularly religion. The closest that Bradford got in analyzing him was to say "that Squanto sought his own ends and played his own game, … to enrich himself." But in the end, he gave "sundry of his things to sundry of his English friends."
Historians' assessment of Squanto depended on the extent they were willing to consider the possible biases or motivations of the writers. Earlier writers tended to take the colonists' statements at face value. Current writers, especially those familiar with ethnohistorical research, have given a more nuanced view of Squanto, among other Native Americans. As a result, the assessment of historians has run the gamut. Adams characterized him as "a notable illustration of the innate childishness of the Indian character." By contrast, Shuffelton says he "in his own way, was quite as sophisticated as his English friends, and he was one of the most widely traveled men in the New England of his time, having visited Spain, England, and Newfoundland, as well as a large expanse of his own region." Early Plymouth historian Judge John Davis, more than a half century before, also saw Squanto as a “child of nature,” but was willing to grant him some usefulness to the enterprise: “With some aberrations, his conduct was generally irreproachable, and his useful services to the infant settlement, entitle him to grateful remembrance.” In the middle of the 20th century Adolf was much harder on the character of Squanto ("his attempt to aggrandize himself by playing the Whites and Indians against each other indicates an unsavory facet of his personality") but gave him more importance (without him "the founding and development of Plymouth would have been much more difficult, if not impossible."). Most have followed the line that Baylies early took of acknowledging the alleged duplicity and also the significant contribution to the settlers' survival: "Although Squanto had discovered some traits of duplicity, yet his loss was justly deemed a public misfortune, as he had rendered the English much service."
As for monuments and memorials, although many (as Willison put it) "clutter up the Pilgrim towns there is none to Squanto …" The first settlers may have named after him the peninsula called Squantum once in Dorchester, now in Quincy, during their first expedition there with Squanto as their guide. Thomas Morton refers to a place called "Squanto's Chappell," but this is probably another name for the peninsula.
Squanto rarely makes appearances in literature or popular entertainment. Of all the 19th century New England poets and story tellers who drew on pre-Revolution America for their characters, only one seems to have mentioned Squanto. And while Henry Wadsworth Longfellow himself had five ancestors aboard the Mayflower, "The Courtship of Miles Standish" has the captain blustering at the beginning, daring the savages to attack, yet the enemies he addresses could not have been known to him by name until their peaceful intentions had already been made known:
Let them come if they like, be it sagamore, sachem, or pow-wow,
Aspinet, Samoset, Corbitant, Squanto, or Tokamahamon!
Squanto is almost equally scarce in popular entertainment, but when he appeared it was typically in implausible fantasies. Very early in what Willison calls the "Pilgrim Apotheosis," marked by the 1793 sermon of Reverend Chandler Robbins, in which he described the Mayflower setters as "pilgrims," a "Melo Drama" was advertised in Boston titled "The Pilgrims, Or the Landing of the Forefathrs at Plymouth Rock" filled with Indian threats and comic scenes. In Act II Samoset carries off the maiden Juliana and Winslow for a sacrifice, but the next scene presents "A dreadful Combat with Clubs and Shileds, between Samoset and Squanto." Nearly two centuries later Squanto appears again as an action figure in the Disney film Squanto: A Warrior's Tale (1994) with not much more fidelity to history. Squanto (voiced by Frank Welker appears in the first episode ("The Mayflower Voyagers", aired October 21, 1988) of the animated mini-series This Is America, Charlie Brown. A more historically accurate depiction of Squanto (as played by Kalani Queypo) appeared in the National Geographic Channel film Saints & Strangers, written by Eric Overmyer and Seth Fisher, which aired the week of Thanksgiving 2015.
Where Squanto is most encountered is in literature designed to instruct children and young people, provide inspiration, or guide them to a patriotic or religious truth. This came about for two reasons. First, Lincoln's establishment of Thanksgiving as a national holiday enshrined the New England Anglo-Saxon festival, vaguely associated with an American strain of Protestantism, as something of a national origins myth, in the middle of a divisive Civil War when even some Unionists were becoming concerned with rising non-Anglo-Saxon immigration. This coincided, as Ceci noted, with the "noble savage" movement, which was "rooted in romantic reconstructions of Indians (for example, Hiawatha) as uncorrupted natural beings—who were becoming extinct—in contrast to rising industrial and urban mobs." She points to the Indian Head coin first struck in 1859 "to commemorate their passing.'" Even though there was only the briefest mention of "Thanksgiving" in the Plymouth settlers' writings, and despite the fact that he was not mentioned as being present (although, living with the settlers, he likely was) Squanto was the focus around both myths could be wrapped. He is, or at least a fictionalized portray of him, thus a favorite of a certain politically conservative American Protestant groups.[cw]
The story of the selfless "noble savage" who patiently guided and occasionally saved the "Pilgrims" (to whom he was subservient and who attributed their good fortune solely to their faith, all celebrated during a bounteous festival) was thought to be an enchanting figure for children and young adults. Beginning early in the 20th century Squanto entered high school textbooks,[cx] children's read-aloud and self-reading books,[cy] more recently learn-to-read and coloring books[cz] and children's religious inspiration books.[da] Over time and particularly depending on the didactic purpose, these books have greatly fictionalized what little historical evidence remains of Squanto's life. Their portraits of Squanto's life and times spans the gamut of accuracy. Those intending to teach a moral lesson or tell history from a religious viewpoint tend to be the least accurate even when they claim to be telling a true historical story.[db] Recently there have been attempts to tell the story as accurately as possible, without reducing Squanto to a mere servant of the English.[dc] There have even been attempts to place the story in the social and historical context of fur trade, epidemics and land disputes. Almost none, however, have dealt with Squanto's life after "Thanksgiving" (except occasionally the story of the rescue of John Billington). An exception to all of that is the publication of a "young adult" version of Philbrick's best-selling adult history. Nevertheless, given the sources which can be drawn on, Squanto's story inevitably is seen from the European perspective.
Their Sachims cannot bee all called Kings, but onely some few of them, to whom the rest resort for protection, and pay homage unto them, neither may they warre without their knowledge and approbation, yet to be commanded by the greater as occasion serveth. Of these sort is Massassowat our friend, and Conanacus of Nanohigganset our supposed enemy.
Wood also described great sachems: "A King of large Dominions hath his Viceroyes, or inferiour Kings under him, to agitate his State-affaires, and keepe his Subjects in good decorum. Other Officers there be, but how to distinguish them by name is some-thing difficult … ." Massassoit, as Winslow pointed out, was such a great sachem or kaeasonimoog as his Pokanoket presided over other sachemships, including Squanto's Patuxet.
This essay was published in the same work, Mourt's Relation, in which Winslow explained that their corn harvest this first year was from seeds planted and manured "according to the manner of the Indians …" Later, when Puritans began settling the Massachusetts Bay Colony the principle was frequently invoked by John Winthrop (the senior) and John Cotton.
"their land is spacious and void & there are few and doe but run over the grasse … they are not industrious, neither have art, science, skill or facilitie to use either the land or the commodities of it, but all spoils, rots, and is marred for want of manuring, gathering, ordering, &c. As the ancient Patriarckes therefore removed from straiter places to the more roomthy, where the Land lay idel and waste and none used it, though there dwelt inhabitants by them … so it is lawfull now to take a land now which none useth, and make use of it.
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