There's A Stone In My Shoe

By Peter Dustin (February 2018)

There is nothing quite like being a member of a heritage organization with historical roots like those of the Society of Mayflower Descendants.  History becomes more personal.  Yet history as a rigorous discipline should be a “disinterested investigation” of the past.  The word from the Greek “historia” meant “inquiry”, “knowledge from inquiry”, “judge”.  In Middle English the word meant “story” in general [Wikipedia].  So what is “our” story?  How do I go about assessing the chronicles of events related to my ancestors, their time, their motivations, trials, tribulations, survival, and their story as it relates to other events of their time and to my time, place, and me?

Being a member of SMDPA descended from a Pilgrim is as a stone inside my shoe.  My ancestry in the context of the times has to be taken out and examined.  The vessel contains the great ironies and conflicts inherent in the European exploration of and settlement in the Americas.  A painful burden is passed down through the ages of how one’s lineage carries with it the tragic irony of how a persecuted people seeking liberty met and were saved by a people who were in a process of losing their lives and liberty.  We celebrate our blood line, our ancestors’ sacrifices and survival, but usually give only a small voice to and in remembrance of the inhabitants of the land on which our ancestors settled.  Being a member of SMDPA almost 400 years after the Pilgrims arrival helps that stone work as an irritant to read and think more broadly and deeply.

The inhabitants of the “New World” started to suffer from abductions and by the diseases of the Europeans in the sixteenth century. In the Sail1620 website, Robert Jennings Heinshohn, Ph.D. writes in “Pilgrims and Wampanoag” that “Eighty percent of the Wampanoag died in the plague of 1616-18 and fearing attack by the Narragansetts, sought a peaceful alliance protection and peace with the Pilgrims.”

A peace treaty was written between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag on March 22, 1621.  In Massasoit’s friendship lies one of the grand ironies of “New England” history. 

There was a lone and “alone” “American” survivor who had lost his people (the Patuxet, a tribe of the Wampanoag confederation) and who was a prime saver of the Pilgrims. Bradford writes, “About the 16th of March [1621]… [Samoset] told them also of another Indian whose name was [Tisquantum] Squanto, a native of this place, who had been in England and could speak better English than himself…[A]bout four or five days after, came...the aforesaid Squanto…[He] continued with them and was their interpreter and was a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation. He showed them how to plant corn, where to take fish and other commodities, and guided them to unknown places, and never left them till he died.  He was a native of these parts, and had been one of the few survivors of the plague hereabouts.  He was carried away with others by one Hunt, a captain of a ship, who intended to sell them for slaves in Spain; but he got away for England, and was received by a merchant in London, and employed in Newfoundland and other parts, and lastly brought into these parts by a Captain Dermer.”

Bradford also writes, “Though I bequeath you no estate, I leave you in the enjoyment of liberty”. 

How odd.  It was the first Americans (natives) who inexorably would have little left of their “estate” and would lose their liberty. No sachem was a king to them; “chiefs” served as wise persons, leaders, in a more democratic form of society that existed here before the Mayflower Compact and the making of the United States. Eventually descendants of the Pilgrims would free themselves of their King.  Kings ruled by divine right.  The theory of divine right was developed by James VI of Scotland (1567–1625), and came to the fore in England under his reign as James I of England (1603–1625) [Wikipedia].

James I based his theories in part on his understanding of the Bible:

“The state of monarchy is the supremest thing upon earth, for kings are not only God's lieutenants upon earth and sit upon God's throne, but even by God himself they are called gods. There be three principal [comparisons] that illustrate the state of monarchy: one taken out of the word of God, and the two other out of the grounds of policy and philosophy. In the Scriptures kings are called gods, and so their power after a certain relation compared to the Divine power. Kings are also compared to fathers of families; for a king is truly parens patriae [parent of the country], the politic father of his people. And lastly, kings are compared to the head of this microcosm of the body of man.” [A speech to Parliament 1610] [Wikipedia].

In “Indian Givers” by Jack Weatherford, he writes of Louis Armand de Lom d’Arce, Baron de Lahontan, who wrote several short books on the Huron Indians of Canada based on his stay with them from 1683 to 1694.  One of the Hurons is reported by him as explaining, “We are born free and united brothers, each as much a great lord as the other, while you are all the slave of one sole man.  I am the master of my body, I dispose of myself, I do what I wish, I am the first and the last of my Nation…subject only to the Great Spirit [Brandon, p. 90]”

Weatherford writes, “The most consistent theme in the descriptions penned about the New World was amazement at the Indians’ personal liberty, in particular their freedom from rulers and from social classes based on ownership of property.  For the first time the French and the British became aware of the possibility of living in social harmony and prosperity without the rule of a king.”  There was probably little the Pilgrims knew of Indian culture in their decision to seek passage to the “New World”.  The separatists among them were Puritan dissenters wanting to function independently from the Church of England.  The voyage was to plant a colony in Northern Virginia “for the glory of God, the advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country….”

My Pilgrim ancestor signed the Mayflower compact as one of “…the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James…”   It is worthwhile to contemplate how the “civil body politic” established in the Mayflower Compact compared with the then present customs and cultures of the Americans.

The Mayflower Compact was one of the influences in the making of the United States Constitution. “It was the first plan of government written and acted on in what is now the United States. Its basic principles of self-government and common consent set an important precedent in the colonies and influenced the framers of the Constitution. It states a belief in the idea that political authority rests in the hands of the people, "people have a say in the government.” ” [—constitution]

Thus a little prod in the shoe is a thing to catch attention.  You may find more of what you stand on today.

How “boundaries” might be defined for land was at the heart of peaceful coexistence between American Indians and Europeans or the lack thereof. 

Massasoit would say, “What is this you call property? It cannot be the earth, for the land is our mother, nourishing all her children, beast, birds, fish and all men.  The woods, the streams, everything on it belong to everybody and are for the use of all.  How can one man say it belongs only to him?”  The society of the Indian sent out ripples and embedded sand in the shoes of great minds and also skeptics.

So as a Pilgrim descendant I also have some not disinterested interest for things “native” and those Americans who have given the world so much and with whom my ancestors are star crossed. Thus emerge musings from that stone in my shoe that ripple outward.

Jack Weatherford writes, “Egalitarian democracy and liberty as we know them today owe little to Europe.  They are not Greco-Roman derivatives somehow revived by the French in the eighteenth century.  They entered modern western thought as American Indian notions translated into European language and culture…Henry Steel Commager wrote that during the Enlightenment “Europe was ruled by the wellborn, the rich, the privileged, by those who held their places by divine favor, inheritance, prescription, or purchase” [Commanger, p. 154]…As Commanger explained it, Europe only imagined the Enlightenment, but America enacted it.  This Enlightenment grew as much from its roots in Indian culture as from any other source…Modern democracy as we know it today is as much the legacy of the American Indians, particularly the Iroquois and the Algonquians, as it is of the British settlers, of French political theory, or of all the failed efforts of the Greeks and Romans.”

Peace came and peace collapsed.

King Philip's War 1675-1678, the last test and breakdown of peace between the Wampanoag and Pilgrims, joined a list of uprisings and conflicts between various Indian tribes and the French, Dutch, and English colonial settlements of Canada, New York, and New England. These include the Powhatan wars of 1610–14, 1622–32, and 1644–46 in Virginia, the Pequot War of 1637 in Connecticut, the Dutch-Indian war of 1643 along the Hudson River, and the Iroquois Beaver Wars of 1650 [Wikipedia].

The Covenant Chain was a series of alliances and treaties developed during the seventeenth century, primarily between the Iroquois Confederacy (Haudenosaunee) and the British colonies of North America, with other American Indian tribes added. Because of the standing relationship with the Iroquois and the extensive influence of the Haudenosaunee, in August 1675, New York's Governor Sir Edmund Andros asked them for help in ending regional conflicts of the time in New England and the Chesapeake. They negotiated the signing of several treaties that expanded the number of tribes and colonies involved:

  • A 1676 treaty between the Mohawk nation and the colonies of Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut which ended King Philip’s War in New England, as the Mohawk denied Metacom (Massasoit’s son) gunpowder and attacked his winter camp. It also addressed relations between the Iroquois and a number of other tribes, including the Mahican of the Hudson River, and the Nipmuc, Mohegan, and Massachusett of New England.
  • A 1677 treaty between the Five Nations of the Iroquois and the Delaware (Lenape), on one side, and the colonies of Virginia and Maryland, allied with the Susquehannock on the other, to obtain peace.

The treaties marked a new era in colonial history, in which the Chesapeake had nearly eighty years of peace, although not always with equal understanding.  In a Covenant Chain council that took place in 1692, the Iroquois leaders asserted:

You say that you are our father and I am your son...

...We will not be like Father and Son, but like Brothers.


The French and Indian War may have had a direct part in ending peace in the “Chesapeake area” but there were also great changes over time from the epidemics, shifting alliances, continued spread of colonization, and intertribal conflicts.

In 1988 Congress passed a resolution stating:

Whereas, the original framers of the constitution, including most notably, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, are known to have greatly admired the concepts, principles and government practices of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy; and


Whereas, the Confederation of the original thirteen colonies into one Republic was explicitly modeled upon the Iroquois Confederacy as were many of the democratic principles which were incorporated into the Constitution itself ….


The Congress, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution, acknowledges the historical debt which this Republic of the United States of America owes to the Iroquois Confederacy and other Indian Nations for their demonstration of enlightened, democratic principles of government …. []

That vessel of a shoe with its stone has many threads.

Here is a quote “upon suffering beyond suffering” of Crazy Horse’s in meeting with Sitting Bull four days before Crazy Horse was killed by U.S. soldiers as they attempted to imprison him:

“The Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world; a world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations; a world longing for light again.  I see a time of Seven Generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again.  In that day, there will be those among the Lakota who will carry knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things and the young white ones will come to those of my people and ask for this wisdom.  I salute the light within your eyes where the whole Universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am at that place within me, we shall be one.”  []


So with Pilgrim in my bones I want to be careful of getting puffed up with our compact of civility as loyal subjects to “our dread Sovereign Lord King James”. Be thankful for a stone in the shoe. In the search of sources to extract the story of my ancestor and of the clash of cultures and peoples, misrepresentation has a way of sneaking in through the imagination of the popular mind.  In the Washington City Paper, January 26, 2018 Kriston Capps writes “Made in America” about The National Museum of the American Indian’s “Americans” exhibition that takes a scathing look at how the imagery of American Indians has long been appropriated and exploited in American culture.  The same is true of Pilgrims. A leading example that Capps highlights is, “Of all the pop-culture on view in “Americans”, nothing sticks to the theme like the packaging for Land O’ Lakes butter.  The transcendentalist box art features a Plains Indian maiden kneeling on virgin homeland, eagerly awaiting a pilgrim on whom to bestow her gift of salted sweet-cream butterfat.  The contents of the product have as little to do with Native Americans as they do with a heart-healthy diet.”


So beware popularization in imagination.  Jim Magnuson, in his third year as playwright in residence at Princeton University, as Peter Joseph writes in the Princeton Alumni Weekly of April 17, 1973, had written “Squanto” that was to premiere that month.  “Jim goes back into American history in search of myths and stories, especially clichés, making himself what Assistant Professor of English Robert Knapp calls “a really American playwright.”  Using a highly developed sense of anachronism, he forces the audience to look closely at the clichéd parts of life.  “He revivifies them,” explains Knapp.  “In some ways he’s a pop artist, but he examines things more closely than pop artists do.”  He’s forever exploring the American culture—the baseball player, the Wild West, Thanksgiving.  Jim himself bills “Squanto” as “an epic of the Americans’ past replete with pilgrims, Shakespeare, Caliban, Spanish nuns, the ghost of Elizabeth I, and the host at the first Thanksgiving.”  His uncanny knack for introducing levity into solemn traditions and aspects of the American culture is especially effective in “Squanto” ”. The poster for the play reflects the conditions that define Squanto, whose story must be teased out for us to imagine (

“There’s a Stone in My Shoe” by Wanagitoskan, a.k.a. Peter G. Dustin, Pilgrim descendant.

Mayflower Ancestor:  John Howland, 1592/3 – February 23, 1672/3.

Howland as part of his history was an assistant to John Carver. John Carver oversaw the making of the treaty with Massasoit.  Howland accompanied Edward Winslow in the exploration of the Kennebec River in Maine.  A fur trading post was established. John Howland was placed in charge of it.  This was the colony’s most important assignment for the furs he got from the Indians went a long way in repaying the Pilgrim debt to the merchant adventurers who had financed the journey to the New World. By 1628 the Pilgrims were operating a year-round trading post just south of where Fort Western now stands, which is the oldest surviving wood fort in New England.  It is also interesting to take note of John’s siblings who arrived before 1624.  Quakers started to arrive in 1656/57 to Plimoth. “In good measure, the Quakers were to Plymouth what the Separatists had been to England, only now the roles were reversed…Few families were more identified with the Quakers than those of Arthur and Henry Howland…[“Plymouth Colony” by Eugene Aubrey Stratton]”.  Henry was made a freeman of Duxbury in 1633.

Masassoit Ousamequin assiduously maintained peace for a half of a century. As an example he sold a tract of land 14 miles square to Myles Standish and others of Duxbury in 1649 to alleviate tension and maintain the peace. Peace with American Indians was to be tested and would not last; it was inevitable with the spread of colonization over the land.

The first breakdown was the "Standish's raid" (1622) on Wessagussett, which frightened American Indian leaders to the extent that many abandoned their settlements, resulting in many deaths through starvation and disease. Rather than strengthening their position, Standish's raid had disastrous consequences for the colony, as attested by William Bradford in a letter to the Merchant Adventurers: "[W]e had much damaged our trade, for there where we had [the] most skins the Indians are run away from their habitations". The only positive effect of Standish's raid seemed to be the increased power of the Massasoit-led Wampanoag tribe, the Pilgrims' closest ally in the region. [Wikipedia].

The second, the Pequot War (1637-1638), resulted in the dissolution of the Pequot tribe and a major shift in the local power structure. The war concluded with the decisive defeat of the Pequot. At the end, about seven hundred Pequots had been killed or taken into captivity. Hundreds of prisoners were sold into slavery to the West Indies; other survivors were dispersed as captives to the victorious tribes. [Wikipedia]. The Plymouth Colony had little to do with the actual fighting in the war as its force to assist “them of Massachusetts Bay and Conectacutt”, which had been formed  under an act of June 7, 1637 by the General Court, turned out not to be needed [“Plymouth Colony” by Eugene Aubrey Stratton].

The third, King Philip's War (1675-1678), had the most dramatic effect on local populations, resulting in the death or displacement of as much as 80% of the total number of American Indians of southern New England and the enslavement and removal of thousands of American Indians to the Caribbean and other locales. The population of New England colonists at the time totaled about 80,000 people. By 1676, the regional Indian population had decreased to about 10,000 (exact numbers are unavailable), largely because of epidemics. The Wampanoags and Pokanokets of Plymouth and eastern Rhode Island are thought to have numbered fewer than 1,000. About one in four were considered to be warriors.  The John Howland farm that had been at Rocky Nook was burned down in this war.

In American history books, the Indian Wars have often been treated as a relatively minor part of the military history of the United States and were long treated from the point of view of the United States. After 1970 younger historians took the American Indian point of view in their writings about the wars, dealing more harshly with the U.S. government's failures and emphasizing the impact of the wars on original peoples and their cultures.  The “Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest” by Frances Jennings is notable for strong attacks on the Puritans and rejection of traditional portrayal of the wars between the indigenous peoples and colonists.

 “During the French and Indian War, the Lenape initially sided with the French, as they hoped to prevent further British colonial encroachment in their territory. But, such leaders as Teedyuscung in the east and Tamaqua in the vicinity of modern Pittsburgh shifted to building alliances with the English. After the end of the war, however, Anglo-American settlers continued to kill Lenape, often to such an extent that the historian Amy Schutt writes the dead since the wars outnumbered those killed during the war.

The Treaty of Easton, signed in 1758 between the Lenape and the Anglo-American colonists, required the Lenape to move westward, out of present-day New York and New Jersey and into Pennsylvania, then Ohio and beyond. Sporadically they continued to raid European-American settlers from far outside the area.

Many evolutions of borders, boundaries, and land possessions in the history of the United States have been made and continue, even today.  For example, the border between North Carolina and South Carolina was clarified (1/17/17) following years of surveys and negotiation, moving 19 homes across state lines [Wikipedia].  The decade of the 1630’s was “…the period of the great migration from England, thousands of people for religious and economic reasons coming to settle in the New World…But most of the new colonists were going elsewhere, and by 1640 both the Bay Colony and Barbados were much larger than Plymouth…The leaders [of Plymouth] must have known that without people in sufficient numbers to settle the land, they would not be able to hold it for long.  Perhaps this was part of the reason why they decided to admit outsiders to create new towns within the colony bounds.”  This was also a period in which the Plymouth Colony was encountering encroachment by the Dutch, French, and Bay Colony on their outposts.  Plymouth lost their Penobscot trading post in Maine to the French.  The expansion of the Plymouth trading post near Windsor on the Connecticut River was terminated by the Bay Colony after the Indian populations were annihilated by disease and the Bay people started to arrive in large numbers. Plymouth was left with “the house it had built for trading and a small fraction of the land (one-sixteenth) it had originally bought from the Indians, and the Bay settlers took over all other land [“Plymouth Colony” by Eugene Aubrey Stratton].”   

The Wampanoag were organized as a confederacy with lesser sachems and sagamores under the authority of a Grand Sachem. Although the English often referred to Wampanoag sachems as "kings," there was nothing royal about the position beyond respect and a very limited authority. Rank had few privileges, and Wampanoag sachems worked for a living like everyone else. Wampanoag sachems were bound to consult not only their own councilors within their tribe but also any of the "petty sachems," or people of influence, in the region. They were also responsible for arranging trade privileges, as well as protecting their allies in exchange for material tribute.  Both women and men could hold the position of sachem, and women were sometimes chosen over close male relatives.

“Our name, Wampanoag, means People of the First Light…Today, about 4,000-5,000 Wampanoag live in New England. There are three primary groups – Mashpee, Aquinnah, and Manomet – with several other groups forming again as well. Recently, we also found some of our relations in the Caribbean islands. These people are descendants of Native Wampanoag People who were sent into slavery after a war between the Wampanoag and English. We, as the People, still continue our way of life through our oral traditions (the telling of our family and Nation's history), ceremonies, the Wampanoag language, song and dance, social gatherings, hunting and fishing.” {}

Slightly more than 2,000 Wampanoag are counted as enrolled members of the nation today (many have ancestry including other tribes and races), and many live near the reservation (Watuppa Wampanoag Reservation) on Martha's Vineyard. It is located in the town of Aquinnah (formerly known as Gay Head), at the extreme western part of the island. It has a land area of 1.952 square kilometres (482 acres), and a 2000 census resident population of 91 persons.

Several bands of the Wampanoag have organized governments: Aquinnah of Gay Head, Herring Pond, Mashpee, Pocasset, Pokonoket and Seekonk. Only the Aquinnah and Mashpee bands have gained federal recognition, although the other bands are recognized by the state of Massachusetts and have also applied for federal recognition as tribes.

Some genealogy experts testified that the tribes did not demonstrate the required continuity since historic times. For instance, in his testimony to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the historian Francis Hutchins said that the Mashpee "were not an Indian tribe in the years 1666, 1680, 1763, 1790, 1834, 1870, and 1970, or at anytime between 1666 and 1970 (Day 36, 130–140). In his opinion, an Indian tribe was "an entity composed of persons of American Indian descent, which entity possesses distinct political, legal, cultural attributes, which attributes have descended directly from aboriginal precursors." (Day 36, 124). Without accounting for cultural change, adaptation, and the effects of non-Indian society, Hutchins argued the Mashpee were not an Indian tribe historically because they adopted Christianity and non-Indian forms of dress and appearance, and chose to remain in Massachusetts as "second-class" citizens rather than emigrating westward (note: to Indian Territory) to "resume tribal existence." Hutchins also noted that they intermarried with non-Indians to create a "non-white," or "colored," community (Day 36, 130–140). Hutchins appeared to require unchanged culture, including maintenance of a traditional religion and essentially total social autonomy from non-Indian society." {Wikipedia}.

The existence of the Plymouth Colony was ended by proclamation of the charter of the Province of Massachusetts Bay on October 17, 1691 [Wikipedia].

“The National Monument to the Forefathers, formerly known as the Pilgrim Monument, that commemorates the Mayflower Pilgrims was dedicated on August 1, 1889 and honors their ideals as later generally embraced by the United States” [Wikipedia].

By the 1890 census the extent of settlement made the frontier line obsolete.

The Society of Mayflower Descendants in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was founded July 1, 1896.

The Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, Massachusetts, was built between 1907 and 1910, to commemorate the first landfall of the Pilgrims in 1620, and the signing of the Mayflower Compact in Provincetown Harbor. [Wikipedia].

On May 13, 2017, Ousamequin (Massasoit ) was repatriated to his original burial site on Burrs Hill Park overlooking Narragansett Bay. His remains and artifacts were collected from seven museums after a twenty year effort by the Wampanoag. Materials recovered from museums show that the burial area at Burr’s Hill was used by the Wampanoag and their ancestors for 2,500 years. Repatriated objects associated with Massasoit included a pipe, a knife, beads and arrowheads. {}.

The stone of blood and soil remains, also the stone of a “civil body politic”. In the practice of our institutions what sort of compact is there of “just and equal laws” working for “better ordering, and preservation” “for the general good”?  What does history tell? Domestic dependent native tribes are recognized sovereign nations. The United States must consult with tribes for federal projects on historic native ancestral lands. That story for today plays out like that of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.  American Indians are still taking a stand if only for their own general good. Is their voice heard?  

Pipeline cuts through land that by treaty belonged to the Great Sioux Nation, which was later confined to reservations like Standing Rock. The clashes on October 27, 2016, took place in the area indicated in red above. Source: Forensic Architecture, 2017

The Sioux have never ceded lands defined by the 1851 Treaty line and have never accepted monetary compensation:

For understanding of one version of American Indian thought about Thanksgiving,

watch (refresh):

More importantly another from

To have been delivered at Plymouth, Massachusetts, 1970 

Three hundred fifty years after the Pilgrims began their invasion of the land of the Wampanoag, their "American" descendants planned an anniversary celebration. Still clinging to the white schoolbook myth of friendly relations between their forefathers and the Wampanoag, the anniversary planners thought it would be nice to have an Indian make an appreciative and complimentary speech at their state dinner. Frank James was asked to speak at the celebration. He accepted. The planners, however , asked to see his speech in advance of the occasion, and it turned out that Frank James' views — based on history rather than mythology — were not what the Pilgrims' descendants wanted to hear. Frank James refused to deliver a speech written by a public relations person. Frank James did not speak at the anniversary celebration. If he had spoken, this is what he would have said: 

I speak to you as a man -- a Wampanoag Man. I am a proud man, proud of my ancestry, my accomplishments won by a strict parental direction ("You must succeed - your face is a different color in this small Cape Cod community!"). I am a product of poverty and discrimination from these two social and economic diseases. I, and my brothers and sisters, have painfully overcome, and to some extent we have earned the respect of our community. We are Indians first - but we are termed "good citizens." Sometimes we are arrogant but only because society has pressured us to be so.

It is with mixed emotion that I stand here to share my thoughts. This is a time of celebration for you - celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time of looking back, of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People. Even before the Pilgrims landed it was common practice for explorers to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them as slaves for 220 shillings apiece. The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans. Mourt's Relation describes a searching party of sixteen men. Mourt goes on to say that this party took as much of the Indians' winter provisions as they were able to carry. Massasoit, the great Sachem of the Wampanoag, knew these facts, yet he and his People welcomed and befriended the settlers of the Plymouth Plantation. Perhaps he did this because his Tribe had been depleted by an epidemic. Or his knowledge of the harsh oncoming winter was the reason for his peaceful acceptance of these acts. This action by Massasoit was perhaps our biggest mistake. We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people.

What happened in those short 50 years? What has happened in the last 300 years?

History gives us facts and there were atrocities; there were broken promises - and most of these centered around land ownership. Among ourselves we understood that there were boundaries, but never before had we had to deal with fences and stone walls. But the white man had a need to prove his worth by the amount of land that he owned. Only ten years later, when the Puritans came, they treated the Wampanoag with even less kindness in converting the souls of the so-called "savages." Although the Puritans were harsh to members of their own society, the Indian was pressed between stone slabs and hanged as quickly as any other "witch." And so down through the years there is record after record of Indian lands taken and, in token, reservations set up for him upon which to live. The Indian, having been stripped of his power, could only stand by and watch while the white man took his land and used it for his personal gain. This the Indian could not understand; for to him, land was survival, to farm, to hunt, to be enjoyed. It was not to be abused. We see incident after incident, where the white man sought to tame the "savage" and convert him to the Christian ways of life. The early Pilgrim settlers led the Indian to believe that if he did not behave, they would dig up the ground and unleash the great epidemic again. The white man used the Indian's nautical skills and abilities. They let him be only a seaman – but never a captain. Time and time again, in the white man's society, we Indians have been termed "low man on the totem pole." 

Has the Wampanoag really disappeared? There is still an aura of mystery. We know there was an epidemic that took many Indian lives - some Wampanoags moved west and joined the Cherokee and Cheyenne. They were forced to move. Some even went north to Canada! Many Wampanoag put aside their Indian heritage and accepted the white man's way for their own survival. There are some Wampanoag who do not wish it known they are Indian for social or economic reasons. What happened to those Wampanoags who chose to remain and live among the early settlers? What kind of existence did they live as "civilized" people? True, living was not as complex as life today, but they dealt with the confusion and the change. Honesty, trust, concern, pride, and politics wove themselves in and out of their [the Wampanoags'] daily living. Hence, he was termed crafty, cunning, rapacious, and dirty. 

History wants us to believe that the Indian was a savage, illiterate, uncivilized animal. A history that was written by an organized, disciplined people, to expose us as an unorganized and undisciplined entity. Two distinctly different cultures met. One thought they must control life; the other believed life was to be enjoyed, because nature decreed it. Let us remember, the Indian is and was just as human as the white man. The Indian feels pain, gets hurt, and becomes defensive, has dreams, bears tragedy and failure, suffers from loneliness, needs to cry as well as laugh. He, too, is often misunderstood.

The white man in the presence of the Indian is still mystified by his uncanny ability to make him feel uncomfortable. This may be the image the white man has created of the Indian; his "savageness" has boomeranged and isn't a mystery; it is fear; fear of the Indian's temperament! 

High on a hill, overlooking the famed Plymouth Rock, stands the statue of our great Sachem, Massasoit. Massasoit has stood there many years in silence. We the descendants of this great Sachem have been a silent people. The necessity of making a living in this materialistic society of the white man caused us to be silent. Today, I and many of my people are choosing to face the truth. We ARE Indians! 

Although time has drained our culture, and our language is almost extinct, we the Wampanoags still walk the lands of Massachusetts. We may be fragmented, we may be confused. Many years have passed since we have been a people together. Our lands were invaded. We fought as hard to keep our land as you the whites did to take our land away from us. We were conquered, we became the American prisoners of war in many cases, and wards of the United States Government, until only recently. 

Our spirit refuses to die. Yesterday we walked the woodland paths and sandy trails. Today we must walk the macadam highways and roads. We are uniting. We're standing not in our wigwams but in your concrete tent. We stand tall and proud, and before too many moons pass we'll right the wrongs we have allowed to happen to us. We forfeited our country. Our lands have fallen into the hands of the aggressor. We have allowed the white man to keep us on our knees. What has happened cannot be changed, but today we must work towards a more humane America, a more Indian America, where men and nature once again are important; where the Indian values of honor, truth, and brotherhood prevail. You the white man are celebrating an anniversary. We the Wampanoags will help you celebrate in the concept of a beginning.  It was the beginning of a new life for the Pilgrims. Now, 350 years later it is a beginning of a new determination for the original American: the American Indian. 

There are some factors concerning the Wampanoags and other Indians across this vast nation. We now have 350 years of experience living amongst the white man. We can now speak his language. We can now think as a white man thinks. We can now compete with him for the top jobs. We're being heard; we are now being listened to. The important point is that along with these necessities of everyday living, we still have the spirit, we still have the unique culture, we still have the will and, most important of all, the determination to remain as Indians. We are determined, and our presence here this evening is living testimony that this is only the beginning of the American Indian, particularly the Wampanoag, to regain the position in this country that is rightfully ours. 

September 10, 1970”

One of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention – John Rutledge of South Carolina – read lengthy tracts from the Iroquois Constitution to the other framers, beginning with the words “We, the people, to form a union, to establish peace, equity, and order ….”, a quote attributed to an Iroquois chief from 1520 (Johansen 1998:60-61, quoting Charles L. Mee's book The Genius of the People). Sound familiar? Rutledge continued to refer to the Iroquois Great Law of Peace while chairing his committee at the Constitutional Convention (Johansen 1998:77).

The Iroquois Constitution also contained the following rule: In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations. The original language is as follows: "In all of your deliberations in the Confederate Council, in your efforts at law making, in all your official acts, self-interest shall be cast into oblivion. Cast not over your shoulder behind you the warnings of the nephews and nieces should they chide you for any error or wrong you may do, but return to the way of the Great Law which is just and right. Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the past and present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation."

Oren Lyons, Chief of the Onondaga Nation, writes: "We are looking ahead, as is one of the first mandates given us as chiefs, to make sure and to make every decision that we make relate to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come. ... What about the seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have?"

Religious Ceremonies Protected

(Iroquois Consitution)

The rites and festivals of each nation shall remain 
undisturbed and shall continue as before because they were 
given by the people of old times as useful and necessary 
for the good of men.

The recognized festivals of Thanksgiving shall be the 
Midwinter Thanksgiving, the Maple or Sugar-making Thanksgiving, 
the Raspberry Thanksgiving, the Strawberry Thanksgiving, the 
Cornplanting Thanksgiving, the Corn Hoeing Thanksgiving, the 
Little Festival of Green Corn, the Great Festival of Ripe Corn 
and the complete Thanksgiving for the Harvest.

Each nation's festivals shall be held in their Long 


“In 2016 I attended the Massachusett 400 organizational meeting and represented our Scoiety to other groups planning activities here during the 2020-2030 commemorations. CG Filson and I have met individually and together with members of the Wampanoag community.  A real high point of that relationship-building was a dinner at the Mayflower House that included Chief Lopez and other leaders of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.”

Report of Assistant Governor General George P. Garmany, Jr. MD [41st Mayflower General Congress],  as presented in the Mayflower Quarterly magazine, Spring 2018.

The stone in the shoe is, “Relationship-building? What does that mean for us today?”

See David Sipress, cartoonist for The New Yorker, has a clear idea of American Indian unmitigated feelings:

"The fact is we are totally opposed to globalization."


Footnote:  In preparing the above essay the author has attempted to be balanced and accurate but has not attempted to ferret out sources in as explicit detail as a more rigorous academic effort would require.  Readers are encouraged to follow the leads provided and do their own research to verify their own questions.