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possibly could. When I came to the ship, there
were two canoes and in either of them three savages,
of whom two were below at the fire; the others
seated in their canoes about the ship, and because
we could not entice them aboard, we gave them a
can of peas and bread, which they carried to the
shore to eat; but one of them brought back our can
presently and staid aboard with the other two; for
he being young of a ready capacity, and one we
most desired to bring with us into England had
received exceeding kind usage at our hands and was
therefore much delighted in our company. When
our captain was come, we consulted how to catch
the other three at shore, which we performed thus:
we manned the Lighthorseman [boat] with seven or
eight men; one, standing before, carried our box of
merchandise as we were wont when I went to
traffic with them, and a platter of peas, which meat
they loved, but before we were landed one of them
(being so suspiciously fearful of his own good) with-


drew himself into the wood. The other two met us
on the shore side to receive the peas, with which we
went up the cUff to their fire and sat down with
them; and while we were discussing how to catch
the third man who was gone, I opened the box and
showed them trifles to exchange, thinking thereby
to have banished fear from the other, and drawn
him to return; but when we could not, we used
little delay but suddenly laid hands upon them and
it was as much as five or six of us could do to get
them into the Lighthorseman ; for they were strong,
and so naked as our best hold was by their long hair
on their heads; and we would have been very loth
to have done them any hurt, which of necessity we
had been constrained to have done if we had at-
tempted them in a multitude; which we must and
would rather than have wanted them, being a matter
of great importance for the full accomplishment of
our voyage."

Among these five was Tahanedo, a Sagamore.
Sir Ferdinando Gorges writes of them that when
they landed at Plymouth, England, he seized them
and, further, that they were all of one nation but
of several parts and several families, and concludes,
*'This accident must be acknowledged the means,
under God, of putting on foot and giving life to all
our plantations; and having kept them fully three
years, I made them able to set me down what great
rivers run up into the land, what men of note were
seated on them, of what power they were, how
allied, and what enemies they had."

The reason given for this kidnapping of the


natives by Waymouth was, not for the purpose of
making slaves of them, but to treat them kindly
and thus induce them to give his employers informa-
tion concerning the country that could not other-
wise be obtained — a fine distinction in the view of
our modern ideas of slavery. They were to be held
for a long period of time against their will, to per-
form service for the men by whom they were held,
but not as slaves.

It appears that in 1606, two of these captives
were sent out with Captain Henry Challons on a
trading expedition, but Challons and the natives were
captured by the Spaniards. How long they were
held does not appear, but they are both known to
have returned to England at a later date.

In 1611, another of Gorges' captains, Edward
Harlow, seized three natives at ''Monhigon" Is-
land. One of them got away and, gathering a
number of others with him, he made a demonstra-
tion against the ship and cut loose a boat which they
took to the shore, and which the ship's crew were
unable to retake. Harlow then went south as far
as ''Capoge'^ (undoubtedly Martha's Vineyard).
My reason for saying undoubtedly Martha's Vine-
yard is the similarity between this name and one of
the Indian names of that island, Capawack, and the
further fact that the name of one of the men whom
he seized there is identical with that of the sachem of
that island in 1621. At Capoge, Harlow seized two
Indians named Coneconam and Epenow, and at
Nohono, he seized another named Sakaweston.
With these five he returned to England.


In 1614 still another of Gorges' captains named
Hobson, on an expedition to the New England coast
brought back Epenow with him. It is related that
when he arrived in his native country, Epenow con-
spired with some of his friends to effect his escape,
and that they came to rescue him with twenty
canoes; that Epenow shpped from the ship, and his
friends in the canoes let fly such a shower of arrows
upon and about the ship that its crew were unable
to retake him.

In 1619, Captain Thomas Dermer, another of
Gorges' captains, on the occasion of his visit to the
New England coast, met Epenow, who told him of
his escape. Epenow learned from him that he was
in Gorges' service and made inquiry about him, but
probably believing that Dermer had been sent to
recapture him and take him back to England, he
gathered a number of his people and attacked Der-
mer, apparently with the intent to take him prisoner;
''but he being a brave stout gentleman," drew his
sword and freed himself from them, though not with-
out much difficulty, as it is related that he received
fourteen wounds in the encounter, of so serious a
nature that he was obliged to go to Virginia to have
them attended to.

It was on the occasion of this visit that Dermer
learned of another outrage perpetrated by the
whites upon the natives. In a letter dated June 20,
1620, he writes that the Pokanokets ''bear an in-
veterate malice to the English"; and that this
enmity was "aroused by an Englishman, who had
many of them on board, and made a great slaughter


with their murderers [small cannon or m.ortars] and
small shot, when, as they say, they offered no in-
jury." Dermer doubts whether these were English
or French, who, as Winslow learned on the occasion
of his visit to Sowams in 1621, did much fishing in
Narragansett Bay. Whether English or French is
not of much consequence. They were whites, and
their act would naturally arouse the ire of the out-
raged natives against the white race. From our

1 knowledge of the treatment of the natives by the
French as compared with that of the English, how-
ever, we are safe in concluding that Dermer had
very little reason for the doubt. This was another

I chapter in the history of malicious treatment of the

I Indians which would never have seen the light of
day but for this letter of Captain Dermer.

In this connection, the fact that this attack was
made upon the people of the same Great Sachem
who less than a year after the letter was written and
probably within seven or eight years of the time of
the outrage of which Dermer writes, trailed forty
miles to Plymouth to extend to the Pilgrims the
olive branch of peace, is worth a word of comment
in passing.

In 1614 Captain John Smith with a fleet of trad-
ing vessels visited the new world and skirted the
shores of New England from the Penobscot to and
around Cape Cod. From his observations made on
this occasion, he drafted a map of the coast, a copy
of which appears in Governor WiUiam Bradford's

j history of Plymouth Colony, as published by
the Massachusetts Historical Society. This map,


though not without its inaccuracies, shows such
famiUarity with the coast that it inevitably leads to
the conclusion that Smith must have made a careful
study of the topography of the shore; and there
can be no doubt that he made very many landings
all along this coast. If this is true, what he says
concerning Indian traits must be taken as applying
generally, and not to any particular tribe or to those
of any special locaUty. Captain Smith, writing of
the natives at that time, says ''they were silly
savages," and ''they were very kind, but in their
fury no less valiant, for upon a quarrel we had with
one of them, he only with three others, crossed the
harbor of Quonahassit [Cohasset] to certain rocks
whereby we had to pass, and there let fly their
arrows for our shot." As Smith proceeded down
the bay "upon small occasion," as he writes, further
difficulty arose, some forty or fifty Indians attacking
the English. The exact place of this encounter is
not given, but it was either in the territory of the
Massachusetts or that of the Wampanoags. It is
recorded that on this occasion the English fired upon
the natives, killing one and wounding another with
a shot through the thigh; and yet we are told on no
less an authority than that of Smith himself, that in
an hour after the encounter, they made up and were
friends again. It was on this voyage that Captain
Smith, sailing from the coast of New England for
Virginia, left one of his vessels, under command of
Captain Thomas Hunt, in Cape Cod Bay, to com-
plete the loading of his ship with fish, furs and oil
Captain Hunt, relieved of the restraint of his su-


perior, completed his cargo, and then to his eternal
infamy, enticed twenty-seven natives on board, and
sailed away with them to Malaga where he sold
them into slavery. These twenty-seven were made
up of twenty Patuxets and seven Nausets, among
the former of whom was Squanto, about whom we
shall see more hereafter, as well as of the fate of
the others.

The purpose of introducing these narratives briefly
in this place has been to throw such light as they
afford upon the character of the aborigines as they
were first seen by the bold explorers and traders
from Europe. I have quoted freely from the writ-
ings of the men who mingled with them after the
acts of violence to which I have called attention,
some of which occurred in the immediate vicinity
of the Indians whose kindly traits were so clearly
manifested, or in such close proximity to them that
knowledge of the outrages on the part of the Eng-
lish must have reached the men who still received
them with open arms, and appeared desirous of
maintaining friendly relations with them, and of
bartering their valuable furs for such trinkets and
baubles as appealed to their native simplicity. The
testimony of all these men is to the same effect, and
establishes beyond peradventure the fact that they
were kind, courteous, hospitable and of gentle dis-
position. ''Silly savages" they may have been, in
the sense that they knew not the value of what
they gave, measured by the standard of what they
received, unskilled in the arts of commerce, but not
the treacherous and blood-thirsty fiends that their


descendants have been painted; not entirely with-
out cause it must be admitted, but, what is the

It is undoubtedly true that training for war was
looked upon as the most important part of the edu-
cation of the Indian youth, and that wars between
the tribes were waged altogether too frequently and
without what would be considered justifiable cause
among civiUzed peoples; and no attempt has ever
been made to controvert the charge so often made
that unnecessary cruelties were indulged in by the
warring nations. I shall not attempt to justify
burning prisoners at the stake or the practice of re-
moving a portion of a war victim's scalp as a trophy
of the conflict; but will content myself by simply
calling attention to the fact that all human progress
has been by slow stages and that, as nations have
climbed the ladder of civilization round by round,
they have, with each successive upward movement,
shaken off some of the practices of the lower life in
which their fathers had indulged ; but that this climb-
ing has been going on through countless ages, and
that the conduct of each succeeding generation has
been according to its light. Old customs die hard,
and it is much easier to walk in the trodden path
than to blaze new trails. The primitive red men
who occupied the land at the time of its discovery
by Europeans had made comparatively little prog-
ress along the path of civilization, though they
were not the totally benighted children of evil that
some would have us believe. They still lived, for
the most part, by hunting and fishing, and the num-


ber of people who can subsist in this way upon any-
given territory is necessarily limited by the natural
increase in the game and fish. They had no domes-
tic animals, and for meat depended upon the hunt.
They were, therefore, extremely zealous in guarding
the boundaries of their hunting grounds to protect
them against trepasses by the occupants of neigh-
boring localities; and any serious invasion of their
territory which resulted in the taking of the game
which meant life or death to them was a most seri-
ous offence, and one that was almost certain to re-
sult in war. And these wars were frequently waged
to the complete extermination or subjugation of one
of the contending parties. This was not necessarily
the result of any inherent cruelty or love of kilUng
one's enemies merely for the sake of killing, but for
the purpose of so reducing them as to make further
acts of violence either to the persons of the con-
querors or against their hunting grounds a matter
of the remotest possible chance; as well as to make
of them an example that would strike terror into the
hearts of other possible trespassers. They had not
made the progress that enabled them to discard, in
their treatment of their slain or captured enemies,
the practices they had learned from their fathers;
although there is no doubt that they had ameliorated
the conditions of warfare to some considerable ex-
tent since the beginning of their history. They
simply lived according to the light the Great Spirit
had vouchsafed them, and, if left to themselves,
might, by the long and tedious process of racial
evolution, have developed a civilization which would


compare favorably with that of the nations of the
old world. It has been said of them that they
never forgave an injury or forgot a benefit. Too
many of their critics, in considering their character,
forget the last part of this saying. But, taking the
testimony of the men who mingled freely with them
as establishing the characteristics to which I have
alluded, how shall we account for the atrocities per-
petrated upon the whites by the sons of the men
whom Gosnold, Rofier and Smith describe? Per-
haps the first intimation of one great cause is to be
found in Governor Bradford's account of the enter-
tainment of Samoset at Plymouth on the sixteenth
and seventeenth of March, 1621. Samoset came
from Monhegan, the island from which Harlow
carried away two natives in 1611, and probably in
close proximity to the place of Captain Waymouth's
adventure a few years before. Monhegan was one
of the noted Indian fishing places and was frequently
resorted to by English visitors to these parts before
and after the times referred to. It was in fact the
site of one of the earliest English attempts at colo-
nization in New England. Samoset had mingled
with the English voyagers sufficiently to pick up a
few words of their language and apparently had ac-
quired a taste for English beer, for Bradford tells us
that he asked for that beverage on the occasion of
his first entertainment at Plymouth, and was given
''strong water." Ah! There is one answer to the
degradation of the ''silly savages." "Strong water."
The Indian's "fire water," first supplied to them by
the whites, whether for the purpose of so benumb-


ing their senses that they would lose what little cun-
ning they had in trading or of creating an appetite
so insatiable that they would barter the fruits of the
hunt for an exhilarating draught of the beverage,
we can only conjecture, but we have seen so much
of its effects upon man that it is not difficult to
hazard an inference concerning the result. We have
seen men spend the price of their children's food to
obtain it; we have seen the mother under its in-
fluence desert her offspring; the son curse the
mother that gave him birth; and raise his hand
against the father who guided his first tottering
steps in infancy. We have seen it transform the
mild and kindly disposition into the fury of a
demon; and it is not difficult for us to picture the
change that would be wrought in the simple natives,
the ''silly savages," by its insidious influence. Add
to this the treatment they received at the hands of
the whites, and the story is complete. Their hos-
pitality and kindness repaid by violence, captivity
and slavery; their hunting grounds given over to
the axe and the plow ; their means of securing a live-
lihood constantly diminished by these encroach-
ments upon the lands they had inherited from their
fathers. What more is needed to efface whatever
progress a thousand years had seen, to arouse and
intensify all the old savage instincts that more care-
ful consideration and kindly treatment might have
obliterated? Instead of taking careful account of
the slumbering demon within them and repaying
kindness with kindness, the whites hurled among
them the firebrand of robbery, causeless slaughter,


slavery and outrage; and, because the wrongs of a
hundred years coupled with the white man's rum
transformed the ''silly savage," kind, courteous
and hospitable, into the blood-thirsty red skin of the
period beginning with the death of Miantonomo and
terminating only with the complete subjugaton of
the race on the western plains and in the mountain
fastnesses of the Cordilleras, we are told that
"There is no good Indian but a dead Indian."

The red man has been called blood-thirsty, cruel,
vindictive, false and treacherous, these being pro-
nounced by some writers the predominating traits
of the character of the race. There is much in their
dealings with each other and with the whites to sub-
stantiate the charge; but before passing judgment
on his race, let us look at him in comparison with
the men against whom he stood for the defence of
his native land; and then ''let him that is without
sin first cast a stone." Let torture stand as the
test of cruelty; and, in torture, the Mohican allies
of the Colonists were the past masters among the
New England Indians. Take the most cruel case
recorded in history to establish the charge, the case
related by an early historian. Among the prisoners
captured by Major Talcott of Connecticut was a
young Narragansett, who had been taken by some
of the Mohicans; and they asked permission to put
him to death by torture. Hubbard tells us this
was exceedingly painful for the English, and then
proceeds to say that one of the reasons for granting
the permission was "that they might have an ocular
demonstration of the savage, barbarous cruelties of


these heathen"; who, by the way, were their alhes,
and whose cruelties they sanctioned, knowing them
to be the most cruel and savage of the natives.
The other reason for granting the permission was,
"lest by a denial they might disoblige their Indian
friends." Now read Hubbard's description of what

"The Narragansett boasted that he had killed
nineteen Englishmen and had loaded his gun for
the twentieth, but not finding one, he had shot a
Mohegan rather than lose a good shot." His tor-
mentors "m-ade a great circle and placed him in the
middle so that all eyes might at the same time be
pleased with the utmost revenge upon him. They
first cut one of his fingers round in the joint at the
trunck of the hand with a sharp knife and then
brake it off; then they cut off another and another
until they had dismembered one hand of all its
digits, the blood sometimes spurting out in streams
a yard from his hands, which barbarous unheard of
cruelties, the English were not able to bear, it forc-
ing tears from their eyes. Yet did not the sufferer
ever relent or show any sign of anguish, for being
asked by some of his tormentors how he liked
the war, this insensible and hard-hearted monster
answered he liked it very well and found it as
sweet as Englishmen did their sugar. In this frame
he continued until his executioners had dealt with
the toes of his feet as they had done with the fingers
of his hands, all the while making himself dance
around the circle and sing, until he wearied both
himself and them. At last they brake the bones of


his legs, for which he was forced to sat down, which
it is said he silently did, till they had knocked out
his brains."

For the highest refinement in cruelty commend
me to this, permitted, countenanced, encouraged
and witnessed by the whites, professed followers of
Him who walked in Galilee, teaching peace and
good will to men. Cruel on the part of the Mo-
hicans! Certainly! Humane on the part of the
English? There was not a Wampanoag, a Narra-
gansett or a Nipmuck fighting under Metacomet,
who would not have dashed into the circle and
despatched the sufferer with one blow of the toma-
hawk before the completion of this orgy of cruelty;
yet the Christian English saw it through. Search
the annals of that war as written by white men, and
you will search in vain for such an atrocity on the
part of their enemies.

Indiscriminate slaughter is evidence of blood-
thirstiness, and the entire history of the war is a
history of indiscriminate slaughter. It was a war
of extermination. Settlements were destroyed, men,
women and children sharing the same fate. At
Kingston, Rhode Island, during the swamp fight,
the whites set fire to every habitable hut or tepee
and burned hundreds of women and children.

When Awashonk, the squaw sachem of the Sa-
konnets, and her devoted band were surrounded,
the entire remnant of the tribe numbering ninety-
six were killed. When Tuspaquin, the ''Black
Sachem" of Assawamsett, gave himself up on the
promise of a captaincy under Church, the first thing


that was done was to confront him with a firing
squad to see if he was bullet proof, the pretense
being that this was the condition on which the
promise depended — a condition undoubtedly added
after he had surrendered, for no one ever accused
Tuspaquin of being so devoid of reason as to volun-
tarily give himself up on a promise with such a
string as that attached to it.

They were vindictive, in the words of the men
who exposed the head of Weetamo, the squaw sa-
chem of Pocasset, on a pole at Taunton; who
divided with the Mohicans, Niantics and Pequots
the "glory of destroying so great a prince*' as
Canonchet, one shooting him, another cutting off
his head and quartering his body and another burn-
ing the quarters. They were vindictive according
to the testimony of the men who exposed the head
of Philip on a pole at Plymouth for more than
twenty years, after quartering his body and hanging
the quarters in the trees where he fell; and who sold
his wife and child (the grandson of Massasoit) into
slavery with thousands of other captives.

They were false and treacherous, say the men who
again and again promised amnesty to such as would
come in and give themselves up, and, when they
came in by hundreds, shot the leaders and sold the
others into slavery. Compare this with Awashonk's
conduct when Captain Church came to treat with
her and found himself surrounded by her warriors.
She had made no promises, and yet he came to con-
fer, and she would not allow him to be injured.

Search the white man's record of the entire war


and you will grow weary in searching before you
will find three instances of common decency on the
part of the whites to parallel the three I am about
to relate.

When the Indians approached Providence in
1676, Roger Williams went out alone to meet them
to try to dissuade them from their purpose of at-
tacking the town. He was seventy-seveti years of
age. ''Massachusetts," said he, ''can raise thou-
sands of men at this moment, and if you kill them,
the king of England will supply their places as fast
as they fall." ''Let them come," replied the
savages, ''we are ready. But as for you, Brother
Williams, you are a good man. You have been kind
to us many years. Not a hair of your head shall be
touched." And they kept their promise.

At the commencement of hostilities at Swansea,
the Indians captured two young sons of Sergeant
Hugh Cole and carried them to their camp. King
Philip, on hearing of this, ordered that no harm
should be done them, and sent a guard to shield
them from danger till they should arrive home ; for
as this "cruel, bloodthirsty, vindictive, false and
treacherous" savage said, "their father sometime
showed me kindness." King PhiUp, on the return
of the boys, send word to Sergeant Cole that it

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Online LibraryAlvin Gardner WeeksMassasoit of the Wampanoags; (Volume 1) → online text (page 3 of 18)