A Military Mission:

“There in the midst of them we manifested again our intendment, assuring them, that although Corbitant had now escaped us yet there was no place should secure him and his from us if he continued his threatening us and provoking others against us, who had kindly entertained him and never intended evil towards him till he now so justly deserved it.”  (75)

[1]  It is quite evident that the movie Plymouth Adventure left out a crucial reality: natives existed in the new world.  The relationship between native and settler here in New England is much different from what we know of past history with the Spaniards, and it is important to recognize that to dispel the possible assumption that relations proceeded here in the same cruel manner as they did in New Spain.

[2]  The writers of Mourt's Relation describe a more peaceful encounter with the natives than we see in past native encounters.  During their initial months in the new land, for instance, the Pilgrims befriended a translator named Squanto, and he became instrumental in establishing communication.   In addition, the Pilgrims made a treaty with Massasoit that promised mutual peace and mutual assistance in war.  Although there were combative relations between the two groups, one could argue that this was a necessary means by which the new settlers and the natives came to realize their boundaries.

[3]  A good example of  unbloodthirsty military behavior by the Pilgrims occurs when Squanto, their most effective communicator, is presumed captured and killed by Corbitant, who was rebelling against Massasoit.  So, upholding their part of the treaty, preparing to fight a "just war," they forcibly entered Corbitant's camp with an armed force, only to learn that Squanto was, in fact, alive.  Incredibly, saying "as for those who are wounded, we are sorry" (75), they apologized for the harm done and even brought the wounded “enemy” back to their settlement for treatment.

[4]  Now, in contrast, the Spaniards acted as if they were the natives with a birthright to New World lands, treating the natives as a subhuman enemy.  For the most part the Spanish dealt with these human beings of another culture as if they were merely pests.  Here at the Plymouth settlement, however, one sees quite a different relation between European and native.  The Pilgrims acknowledged not only native existence but native equality, and the treaty is a good example of that.  Fear naturally ran through the minds of these new settlers and occasionally violence occurred between the groups, however Mourt's Relation depicts substantially more respect for the natives and less wanton action towards them than our knowledge of Spanish first contacts might prepare us for.

Megan Snyder

(page references to Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, ed. Dwight B. Heath [Bedford: Applewood Books, 1963])