November 28, 2013 12:45 AM Subscribe
posted by Blasdelb (92 comments total)
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On March 22, 1621, a Native American delegation walked through what is now southern New England to meet with a group of foreigners who had taken over a recently deserted Indian settlement. At the head of the party was an uneasy triumvirate: Massasoit, the sachem (political-military leader) of the Wampanoag confederation, a loose coalition of several dozen villages that controlled most of southeastern Massachusetts; Samoset, sachem of an allied group to the north; and Tisquantum, a distrusted captive, whom Massasoit had brought along only reluctantly as an interpreter. Massasoit was an adroit politician, but the dilemma he faced would have tested Machiavelli. About five years before, most of his subjects had fallen before a terrible calamity. Whole villages had been depopulated. It was all Massasoit could do to hold together the remnants of his people. Adding to his problems, the disaster had not touched the Wampanoag’s longtime enemies, the Narragansett alliance to the west. Soon, Massasoit feared, they would take advantage of the Wampanoag’s weakness and overrun them. And the only solution he could see was fraught with perils of its own, because it involved the foreigners—people from across the sea.
The Indians who first feasted with the English colonists were far more sophisticated than you were taught in school. But that wasn't enough to save them In addition to providing a beautifully written account of what happened, the article does something subtle but incredibly cool in using a Native centered perspective that really illuminates how dramatically silenced and othered Native voices are in other accounts.
For more check out these two books by Charles C. Mann, this article comes from a chapter in the first,
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created