The Pilgrim Legacy

We are staying in Truro, near the end of Cape Cod. I love it here because it is away from the commercial hubbub and traffic found further up cape. In Truro (located between Provincetown and Wellfleet) you will see quaint old cottages and natural areas, rather than commercial development. In fact, half the land in Truro is Cape Cod National Seashore, a national park.

As is stated in most school text books, November 21st, 1620 the Mayflower, with 132 people aboard landed in what is now known as Provincetown Harbor. On the second day, Myles Standish and William Bradford led a scouting party to explore what is now Truro. They discovered fresh water at Pilgrim Spring and spent the night on Pilgrim Pond. There is this plague at Pilgrim Pond commemorating the event:

What the plaque neglects to say is that they stole the Nauset people’s corn to use as seed corn. The corn was part of a Nauset burial ground, a sacred place, which they disturbed. Corn Hill, where the corn was found, is less than a mile from our cottage. The Pilgrims stayed for one month, then sailed across the bay to settle in Plymouth, MA. in an abandoned Wampanoag  village called Patuxet,. They were incredibly thankful to find this village with shelter and corn already planted and a stream of clean water.

 According to an article in Slate Magazine (Nov 20,2012):

“[The Pilgrims] were even more thankful when the first Native American strolled into their midst, smiling and saying in English, “Welcome!” According to Pilgrim-era writings, he told them straight away that the previous villagers “died of an extraordinary plague.” A few days later, Tisquantum arrived. Called Squanto by Pilgrims, he was born in Patuxet, abducted by Englishman Thomas Hunt in 1614, and missed out on the epidemic that killed his entire village. During his years in captivity, he’d learned English, and he was now attached to a nearby branch of the Wampanoag. The Pilgrim leader William Bradford was already aware of the death toll from “Indean fever.” His scouts had ventured inland and noted “sculs and bones were found in many places lying still above ground, where their houses and dwellings had been; a very sad spectackle to behould.” It’s estimated as many as nine out of 10 coastal Indians were killed in the epidemic between 1616 and 1619.”

Many people think that native people no longer live in Massachusetts. While the Nauset do not exist as a separate nation, their bloodline lives on as part of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, who number about 1,500 today. The Wampanoag became a federally recognized sovereign Indian nation in 2007. Four hundred years after the Mashpee Wampanoag in Plymouth, Mass. helped the Pilgrims from the Mayflower survive, they have been fighting to get their ancestral homeland back. Last week, they won a major victory in a ruling from the U.S. Department of the Interior that will give them substantial control of roughly 320 acres around Cape Cod.

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