Pilgrims and the Indians

The Pilgrims and the Indians … an Interesting History

Pilgrims And IndiansThe year was 1620, nearly four hundred years ago … and still more than one hundred and fifty years before the birth of a new nation called the United States. In England, a small group of people, called Pilgrims, had courageously decided that they had to leave their native country to start a new life in “the Americas.” The reason: religious persecution.

England was a Protestant country, but the Pilgrims were not Protestants or, at least, chose not to observe that religion. For their “sin,” life became close to unbearable. They were hounded and persecuted and treated very badly.

So, in 1620, they requested permission to travel to the new land to start a colony in the name of the King and England. Permission was granted and the Pilgrims set sail on a boat known as the Mayflower. Actually, there is more to the start of this story than what I’ve told. The Pilgrims, one hundred and twenty in number, originally set sail on two ships, not one. The second, smaller ship began taking on water when barely out of port and both ships returned to London safely.

A few days later, they set sail once again, in a single ship – the Mayflower. 102 Pilgrims and as many as 30 crew members endured the rough and rugged trip across the Atlantic Ocean, a voyage that took an incredible sixty-six days. And, when they finally spotted land, they discovered that they were in Plymouth Rock and not in northern Virginia, their actual destination.

Interestingly, the Pilgrims arrived in the Americas totally unprepared for what lie ahead … a cold and difficult winter. It would be even more difficult for them because they came without food supplies and did not know how to hunt … to fish … to farm … or to gather food. And that is where the Indians become part of this story. The tribe in Plymouth Rock was known as the Wananpoag. From the time the Pilgrims arrived, they sought a peaceful and friendly co-existence with these natives of the Americas. And their friendly approach was rewarded.

While their cultures were different and their appearances were very different, they managed to get along very well. Harmony ruled the day. And some of the Indians began to teach these new colonists how to survive. In fact, during that first winter, the Pilgrims learned all of the basic skills that had served the Indians for countless millennia – hunting, fishing, farming … and gathering.

This ability to get along lasted for at least forty years and, as history reminds us, resulted in such celebrations as Thanksgiving which, in 1620, was celebrated in August and not in November. However, it should be noted that all was not perfect in this new friendship between two vastly different cultures.

The Pilgrims brought with them from England diseases to which the Indians had never been exposed. The result of this was tragic and predictable. With no prior exposure and no natural immunity, many Indians got sick and perished. Sadly, over time, it led to the virtual eradication of the Wonanpoag, a result that was unintentional, but predictable.