Massaouit and his two SonsIn the early evening, during his boyhood days, Philip delighted to sit near the camp fire where the members of his tribe were wont to gather. There he eagerly listened to the stories of adventure told by his elders, and wished that he was old enough to enter into the sports that they so interestingly described.

Although children were not expected to talk in the presence of their elders, Philip frequently showed his interest in their stories by asking many questions in regard to the places visited by the older Indians.

 

In those days news traveled slowly from one little village to another, for there were neither telegraphs nor telephones; no, not even railroads. In fact, there were no roads, and even the paths through the woods were so little used that it was difficult to find one’s way from one place to another. The Indians kept no animals of any kind, and always traveled from place to place on foot.

 

One pleasant evening in June, in the year 1620, little Philip noticed that there was less general story-telling than usual, and that the Indians seemed greatly interested in a long story which one of their number was telling. He could not understand the story, but he frequently caught the words, “Squanto” and “English.” These were new words to him.

 

The next evening, as Philip and his brother were sitting by the fire, they asked their father what had caused the Indians to be so serious in their talk, and what the long story was about.

“Squanto has come home,” his father replied.

 

“And who is Squanto?” asked Philip.

 

Then his father told him a story, which was too long to be repeated here. But in brief it was as follows:

Several years before—long, in fact, before Philip was born—a ship had come from across the sea. It was larger than any other vessel the Indians had ever seen.

 

The only boats that Philip knew anything about were quite small, and were called canoes. They were made either of birch bark fastened over a light wooden frame, or of logs that had been hollowed by burning and charring.

 

But the boat from across the sea was many times larger than any of theirs—so Massasoit explained to the boys—and had accommodations for a great many men. Instead of being pushed along by paddles, it was driven by the wind by means of large pieces of cloth stretched across long, strong sticks of wood.

 

The Indians did not go down to the shore, but watched this boat from the highlands some distance inland. Finally the vessel stopped and some of the men came ashore. The Indians looked at the strangers in astonishment. Their skin was of a pale, whitish color, very different from that of the Indians, which was of a copper or reddish clay color.

 

King Philip Paddling his canoeThe white men, or the pale-faced men, as Massasoit called them, made signs of friendship to the Indians, and after a few minutes persuaded them to go down to the shore. There the two peoples traded with each other. The Indians gave furs and skins, and received in return beads and trinkets of various kinds.

 

When the vessel sailed away it carried off five Indians who had been lured on board and had not been allowed to return to shore. These Indians had not been heard from since, and that was fifteen years before.

 

Little Philip’s eyes increased in size, and instinctively he clenched his fists at the thought of the wrong that had been done his people by the palefaces.

 

His father went on with the story, and told him how the Indians then vowed vengeance on the white man; for it was a custom of the Indians to punish any person who committed a wrong act towards one of their number.

 

From time to time, other vessels visited their shores, but no Indian could ever be induced to go on board any of them.

 

Nine years later, another outrage was committed. The palefaces while trading with the Indians suddenly seized upon twenty-seven of the latter, took them to their vessel, and sailed away with them before they could be rescued. Is it any wonder that Philip felt that the whites were his natural enemies?

 

After that time, Massasoit said, the Indians had refused to have any dealings with the whites. Whenever a white man’s vessel came in sight, the Indians prepared to shoot anyone that came ashore. And now another white man’s vessel had arrived on the coast, and several of its crew had landed in spite of all that could be done to prevent them.

 

To the great surprise of Massasoit’s men, there was an Indian with these palefaces. And that Indian proved to be Squanto, one of the five who had been taken away fifteen years before.

 

This is but a bare outline of what Massasoit told his sons. It seemed to the lads like a fairy tale, and for days they talked of nothing but this strange story.

——-

From a soon to be published volume – “Legends and Stories from Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Rhode Island”.

Advertisements