pilgrims and indians

race point
Recently, I read Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick which dispels the many myths about the Pilgrims, Indians and Thanksgiving with which we've been brought up.

The book details the Pilgrims' journey from England to Holland and eventually to America in search of a place where they could live and worship as they saw fit.

The passage was long and brutal. They arrived, not on Plymouth Rock, but along the outer arm of the Cape, eventually landing in the Provincetown area before making their way to Plymouth Harbor. I've often looked out from Race Point, over the dunes and out to sea, and thought how beautiful and desolate and barren it looks, and what it must have been like to be among the "first" to see this shore.

Without a doubt, the Pilgrims needed food, and fast. One of their first acts of procuring food was to, unfortunately, steal corn that had been stored away for the winter months from the local inhabitants. Not a great way to begin a mutually beneficial relationship in a foreign land. But the Indians befriended them and there was likely a celebration of thans the following fall which was unlike the Thanksgiving we have come to know and love.

And, amazingly, a peace, uneasy at times, was established between the Pilgrims and the tribes along the coast and lasted for about 50 years. Over time, the cultural bridges that had been built failed. The balance of power began to shift from the Indians to the increasing numbers of English who arrived on this shore looking to establish their own thing. And they needed lots of land for cows, and houses, and crops, and commerce. And the next generation needed still more.

The story gets a little complex, as stories do, with arms deals, land "bought" at ridiculously unfair prices, friends becoming enemies, enemies becoming allies, and tribes setting against tribes. The end result: a lot of bloodshed on both sides. Dead Pilgrims and far more dead Indians—as well as enslaved Indians who were sold to pay for the war te new Americans waged.

The past cannot be undone, but there's a lesson or three in it, as there always is. While I'm passing the turkey and stuffing, and fighting over the wings, and giving thanks for waht I have, I'll be reflecting a lot more on the mythology of the day.

I imagine that, with the exception of the occasional plane, boat, and hiker, this view in 2005 might have looked pretty much the same to a Pilgrim or the Nausets in 1620. This double exposure above was taken with a Holga Camera from the balcony of the Visitor’s Center at Race Point. The Holga costs $24.00 and is a whole lot of fun.