To understand ourselves it is important to understand our ancestors, and a part of them, and their heritage, lives on in us today. To the world the American Indians seemed like a forgotten people when the English colonists first arrived and began to occupy their lands. I want to give special thanks to my cousin, Mary Hilliard, for her assistance and encouragement in researching and preparing this book.
Wherever possible I have tried to find at least two sources for the genealogical data, but this has not always been possible. I have also found Franklin Elewatum Bearce's history, Who Our Forefathers Really Were, A True Narrative of Our White and Indian Ancestors, to be very helpful. It is certainly possible that such a record may contain errors, but it is also very fortunate that we have access to this record as it presents firsthand knowledge of some of the individuals discussed in this book.
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Sometime before the colonial period, the Iroquoian tribes began moving from the southern plains eastward across the Mississippi River and then northeasterly between the Appalachians and the Ohio River Valley, into the Great Lakes region, then through New York and down the St.
Though they were neighbors and had similar skin color, these two groups of Indians were as dissimilar as the French and the Germans in Europe. Federations, as well as the individual tribes, were fluid organizations to the extent that the sachem was supported as long as he had the strength to maintain his position.
Belonging to a federation meant that an annual tribute had to be sent to support the great sachem and his household, warriors had to be sent if he called for a given number to go to war, and strictest obedience and fidelity was demanded. Some of these federations had as many as thirty member tribes supporting their Great Sachem, although many of these tribes would be counted by more than one sachem, as any tribe that was forced to pay tribute was considered as part of that Great Sachem's federation. Any member of the society who dishonored himself, in anyway, was no longer worthy of the respect of his people. When viewing the typical Indians of America, one would describe them as having a dark brown skin. They wore relatively little clothing, especially in summer, although the women were usually somewhat more modest than the men. The English resented the fact that the Indians wouldn't convert to Christianity as soon as the missionaries came among them. The various tribes of New England spoke basically the same language and could understand each other well. There are many words used commonly in our language today that were learned from these New England Indians: Squaw, wigwam, wampum, pow-wow, moccasin, papoose, etc.
Today there is little doubt that prior to Columbus's voyage, the Norsemen sailed to the coast of North America early in the eleventh century.
We do not have a record of all of the European contact and influence on the Indians in the early years of exploration because the greatest exposure came from the early European fishermen and trappers who kept no records of their adventures, as opposed to the explorers. In 1524, Giovanni da Verrazano wrote the first known description of a continuous voyage up the eastern coast of North America. As the fur trade became increasingly more important to Europeans, they relied heavily on the Indians to do the trapping for them.
Another problem with which the Indians had to contend was the White man's diseases for which they had no tolerance nor immunity. In the spring of 1606, Gorges sent Assacumet and Manida, as guides on a ship with Captain Henry Chalons, to New England to search for a site for a settlement.
In 1614, Captain John Smith, who had already been involved in the colony at James Town, Virginia, was again commissioned to take two ships to New England in search of gold, whales or anything else of value.
Dermer wanted to trade with the local Indians of the Wampanoag Federation and asked Squanto if he would guide them and be their interpreter. Derner was given safe passage through Wampanoag land by Massasoit and soon returned to his ship. When the Pilgrims left England in the Mayflower, their stated intent was to establish a settlement on the mouth of the Hudson River, at the site of present day New York City. The Pilgrims returned to the Mayflower and, after many days of exploration, found a more suitable location.
On March 16, 1621 the Pilgrims were surprised by a tall Indian who walked boldly into the plantation crying out, "Welcome! The Pilgrims gestured for Massasoit to join them in their fort but, he in turn, gestured for them to come to him. When the amenities were ended, the English brought out a treaty they had prepared in advance, which specified that the Wampanoags would be allies to the English in the event of war with any other peoples and that they would not harm one-another; and that when any Indians came to visit the plantation they would leave their weapons behind. After the ceremonies were ended, Governor Carver escorted Massasoit to the edge of the settlement and waited there for the safe return of Winslow. Part of Massasoit's willingness to make an alliance with the English must be credited to his weakened condition after suffering from the recent epidemics which left his followers at about half of the strength of his enemies, the Narragansetts.
In June of 1621, about three months after the signing of the treaty, a young boy from the Colony was lost in the woods. When the English could not find the boy, Governor William Bradford, (who replaced John Carver, who died in April) sent to Massasoit for help in locating the boy. That summer Governor Bradford sent Edward Winslow and Stephen Hopkins, with Squanto, to Pokanoket (Massasoit's own tribe, on the peninsula where Bristol, R.I. From this trip of Winslow's, we learn more about the daily life of the Indians in this area. Massasoit urged his guests to stay longer but they insisted they must return to Plymouth before the Sabbath. Less than a month following this visit, Massasoit sent Hobomock, a high ranking member of the Wampanoag Council, to Plymouth to act as his ambassador and to aid the Pilgrims in whatever way they needed. Hobomock and Squanto were surprised at what they heard, and quietly withdrew from the camp to Squanto's wigwam but were captured there before they could get to Plymouth. Although the Narragansetts and Wampanoags were historical enemies and continually feuding over land, they did not usually put hostages of high rank to death.


Normally, treason was punishable by death and Massasoit would certainly have been justified in executing Corbitant for his part in the plot against him but, for some reason, Massasoit complete forgave him. Their first harvest was not a large one but the Pilgrims were.happy to have anything at all. During the winter, a rivalry developed between Squanto and Hobomock, the two Indians who now lived continually at Plymouth. According to the treaty he had signed with Plymouth, they were to turn over to him any Indians guilty of offense. In June and July, three ships arrived at Plymouth with occupants who expected to be taken in and cared for. In the winter of 1622-23, Governor William Bradford made trips to the various Indian tribes around Cape Cod to buy food to keep the Pilgrims from starvation. Next, Standish went to Cummaquid (Barnstable, MA.) where Iyanough was Sachem of the Mattachee Tribe.
Thinking that Massasoit was dead, they went instead to Pocasset, where they sought Corbitant who, they were sure, would succeed Massasoit as the next Great Sachem.
Winslow describes their arrival, where the Indians had gathered so closely that it took some effort to get through the crowd to the Great Sachem.
Since the Pow-wow's medicine had not produced any results, Winslow asked permission to try to help the ailing Sachem. Their second Thanksgiving was combined with the wedding celebration of Governor Bradford and Alice Southworth. Because of Massasoit's honored position, more was recorded of him than of other Indians of his time. Massasoit most likely became Sachem of the Pokanokets, and Great Sachem of the Wampanoags, between 1605-1615. The second son of Massasoit was Pometacomet, (alias Pometacom, Metacom, Metacomet, Metacomo or Philip.) Philip was born in 1640, at least 16 years younger than Alexander.
The third son, Sunconewhew, was sent by his Father to learn the white man's ways and to attend school at Harvard.
When his two oldest sons were old enough to marry, Massasoit made the arrangements for them to marry the two daughters of the highly regarded Corbitant, Sachem of the Pocasset tribe. The tribes of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, as well as some of the Nipmuck tribes of central Massachusetts, looked to him for Military defense and leadership. Following the plagues of 1617, which reduced his nation so drastically and left his greatest enemy, the Narragansetts of Rhode Island, so unaffected, Massasoit was in a weakened position. In 1632, following a battle with the Narragansetts in which he regained the Island of Aquidneck, Massasoit changed his name to Ousamequin (Yellow feather) sometimes spelled Wassamegon, Oosamequen, Ussamequen. In 1637, the English waged an unprovoked war of extermination against the Pequot Federation of Connecticut, which shocked both the Wampanoags and the Narragansetts so much that both Nations wanted to avoid hostilities with the feared English. After hearing of the death of his good friend, Edward Winslow in 1655, Massasoit realized that his generation was passing away.
As Massasoit's health began to decline, he turned more and more of the responsibilities over to Alexander who was a very capable leader and who was already leading the warriors on expedition against some of their enemies. Massasoit was succeeded, as Great Sachem, by his son Alexander, assisted by his brother, Philip. The younger generation saw, in Alexander, a strong, new leader who could see the danger of catering to the English. Both Philip and Weetamoo were very vocal in their condemnation of the English and word of their accusations soon reached Plymouth.
Together, Philip and Canonchet reasoned that it would take a great deal of preparation for such a war. Course Offerings While the courses offered by EdX are currently limited, the developers of the website share plans to develop more courses as interest grows.
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