New England Colonies Relationship with Natives

New England Colonies Relationship with Natives

New England Colonies Relationship with Natives – The narrative of Thanksgiving, according to which the Pilgrims from England who had relocated to the new Plymouth Colony sat down with the local Wampanoag Indians to celebrate the first prosperous harvest in 1621, is one of America’s oldest and most lasting urban legends. The idea of several cultures coexisting and sharing the wealth of the area that would one day become America is fascinating. The actual history of relations between colonists and the native Americans in the area, however, is a much more complicated tale of trade, cooperation, and bitter conflict as the two communities melded into America.

Finding Common Ground

About 60,000 Native Americans lived in the area that would later be known as the New England colonies (Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Haven, and Rhode Island) in the 1600s, when the first English settlers began to arrive in New England. There were initial disputes and worries concerning the threat colonists posed to the Native Americans’ long-established territory in the first English colonies in the Northeast (as well as in Virginia). However, with the assistance of the natives, colonists were able to establish prosperous colonies.

One of the earliest links between the local Native American communities and the New England colonists was trade. Building the infrastructure and ties they would need to remain and prosper in the New World was important to the colonists. Building possible relationships was a common goal for the Native Americans. Due to the foundation and local economy the Plymouth Colony had established alongside the indigenous people of Massachusetts, after just five years it was no longer financially dependent on England.

The colonists and native peoples both benefited from the commerce and trading system they built. The settlers exchanged beads and other forms of money (also known as “wampum”) for the skins, hides, food, knowledge, and other essential materials and supplies that the Native Americans provided.

Along with physical things, ideas were traded, and wampum occasionally had religious connotations. It has been suggested that the conversations between the colonists and the Native Americans were not just political or practical in nature, but also spiritual. The first Bible printed in the New World was actually a translation into the language of the Native American people of the Algonquin tribe.

The strict Puritan Christianity that ships like the Mayflower brought to the Massachusetts Bay colony was the main religion of the New England colonies, but as the colonies expanded and developed, some of the colonists started to depart from that foundation. Views on the Native Americans who shared their territory also changed. Roger Williams is a well-known illustration of this. Roger Williams’ uprising against the religious establishment inspired him to found the colony of Rhode Island. Williams had the unconventional belief that colonists had to buy the land they were occupying from the Native American populations there.

But over time, ties between the locals and the now-established colonists grew sour. Smallpox and other diseases that the English settlers mistakenly brought over on their ships were some of the issues that the colonists unintentionally introduced. Despite early illnesses of their own, the colonists were mainly immune to the microorganisms they brought with them to the New World. But there was no such protection among the nearby Native American communities to ailments like smallpox, TB, measles, cholera, and the bubonic plague.

Increase Mather, a Puritan minister, was one of the colonial leaders who held this view. He stated, “[A]bout this time [1631] the Indians began to be quarrelsome touching the Bounds of the Land which they had sold to the English, but God ended the Controversy by sending the Smallpox amongst the Indians.” Some colonial governments turned the natives into “praying Indians” and relocated them to “praying towns,” or reservations, in an effort to convert them to Christianity.

First Indian War

Over the course of the 17th century, relations between colonists and Native Americans deteriorated, leading to the First Indian War, also known as King Philip’s War, which was a brutal struggle. Three Wampanoag persons were put to death by the Plymouth Colony’s authority in 1675 in Massachusetts. In retaliation, Philip, also known as Metacom, the Wampanoag chief, led his people as well as a number of other tribes, including the Nipmuc, Pocumtuc, and Narragansett. Along with the English colonists, other peoples—such as the Mohegans and Mohawks—fought the insurrection.

The conflict lasted 14 months, coming to an end in late 1676 after the colonial militias and their Native American allies had mostly eliminated the Native American opposition. In the end, a settlement that put an end to the war was reached in April 1678.

This war is regarded as one of the worst in American history because to the significant number of losses on both sides. Both sides suffered terrible casualties, with the Native American community losing thousands of members due to conflict, disease, slavery, or emigration. Throughout the fight, more than 600 colonists perished and dozens of towns were destroyed.

Years later, the history of the New England colonies exemplifies the dichotomy that characterizes much of American history: the idea that native and immigrant cultures have coexisted to form the current United States, along with the terrible wars and abuses that occurred along the way.

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