Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mayflower

I recently finished an audiobook called The Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick, which covered the Pilgrims journey from England to Holland and finally to America where they hit Plymouth Rock and give thanks to Indians for not wearing any clothes.
First, let me tackle the Indians. I think Squanto was a scumbag. He was self-serving, and went behind Massasoit's back in order to gain power for himself. Do I blame him? I mean, he was captured and taken to England. On his return, he discovered that is people were completely wiped out. So, was he forced to take matters in his own hands and manipulate the Pilgrims and the Pokanokets the way he did? It's irrelevant. The truth is that when Massasoit demanded his death for the betrayal, William Bradford stood in the way because of his love for Squanto. This is the critical turning point in Pilgrim-Indian relations. Where did Bradford get the nerve to stand up to Massasoit, after all that man did for the Pilgrims?
Massasoit was in the same boat, however. To his thinking, building an alliance with the English would be the best option for his people. The Pokanokets were in desperate need of some friends, and the English could help defend from the Naragancets in the south. But he did his best to keep to the alliance. I mean, could the English have survived without Massasoit? Likewise, could the Pokanokets and Massasoit have become so powerful without the goods of the English?

Then we come to Philip. The cowardly piece of shit son of Massasoit. Now, Massasoit and Alexander, the elder of the brothers, put Philip in an awkward spot by selling so many plots of Indiana land. The English were greedy, yes. But were the Indians as greedy for English goods? They had no other resources. Wampum was a joke. The beaver in North America were basically extinct, so the fur trade was no longer possible. All that was left was land.
I think Philip tried to stand up for himself by making threats of war. But he never inteded to go through with an actual attack. Those threats, though, go to the warriors and to other Indians in the region who finally realized that the English were not going to stop. Those damned Puritans were going to push them off the continent if they didn't do something.
Philip, without thinking, created an impossible situation. The Puritans were set on settling things once and for all. Now the Puritans looked down upon all Indians with contempt. The other Indian communities had no choice but to defend themselves. Perhaps the best example is with the Naragancets and the battle in the swamp. Since the beginning of King Phillip's War, they had remained neutral. But they weren't idiots. They knew that eventually they'd get roped into the fighting. So they spent most of that year building a fort in the swamp. The Puritans, without any provoking from the Naragancets, and based on a rumor of a pan-Indian army, go after them and take the fort.
After a bloody battle, the English burn down the fort and kill many women and children. The Naragancets were forced to flee right into the arms of the Pokanokets and their allies. They had been attacked and had no choice to join the war.

The pilgrims could not have survived that first winter without the help of Massasoit and his Pokanokets. But as time went on, the English forgot the debt they owed to these people. The want for land was too tempting. Is there someone to blame? I'm not sure. Miles Standish was an aggressive soldier whose murder of Wituamit probably set the course for how things would go from then on. I think William Bradford did what he thought was right. Then he stood up for Squanto, which began the deterioration between the two groups.
Benjamin Church, however, is portrayed as a hero in this book. Do I consider him a hero? Let's look at what he's done.
He was the prototype frontiersman. On the island on which he lived, he had great relationships with the Indians, especially with the female sachum of the area. After a few blunders at the beginning of the war, he finally found his footing as a soldier. He revolutionanized warfare at the time. He took his friendly Indians and learned from them how to track Indians. Instead of finding a killing the Natvies, he took to finding and capturing them. If he couldn't persuade them to join his small army, then he would sell them into slavery. People look at him as a hero because he was more humane toward the Indians because at a time when everyone was suspicious and bitter toward the Native Americans, he took them in his company and fought and learned from them. He quelled the violence by trying to create alliances. What a great thing to do! How nice and friendly of him! But then he made a killing selling them to the West Indies and to the Carribean. This man almost single-handedly began the North American Slave Trade. Can we dub him a hero?
In the end, it turns out that the English and the Indians were both brtual and greedy. But I have to side with the Indians because they tried to help the new comers. When their thirst for land got out of control and made obsolete the treaties of their fathers, then the Indians had to defend themselves and their way of life. Obviously, they lost. Not just King Philip's War (which was not due to the Puritans, but rather to the Mohawks showing up from the north), but lost everything. The English in the 17th century started out playing nice and then demonized the Natives and took whatever they wanted through violence and manipulation.Which brings me to my final conclusion: the only thing worse than a Nazi is a Puritan.

1 comment:

truckparade said...

Great perspective, but I cannot agree with all of it. It could be more a part of my bias toward NatAm history/anthropology but inter-tribal warfare was a part of life anyhow, with or without Puritans. Especially with the Mohawks, there existed plenty of aggression, but with Puritans and an overwhelming sense of take over perpetuates "greed" and states of survival.

Meaning: What I see many people do is make the mistake in thinking that NatAm relations with settlers existed out of greed from both sides. But many do not tend to recognize is that it that these people (NatAm) were being forced out of their lands VERY early on. So the survivalist mode kicks in for Natives. If they see warfare with other tribes can bring about their survival they will perpetuate it with alliances with other nations or Puritans or settlers, etc.

I could go on, but I thought I would impart some of my opinion, and if you want articles on this, let me know. And really, great perspective.