On this day in 1621, Plymouth Colony signed a peace treaty with Massasoit, the leader of the Wampanoag people. It was thanks to this tribe that the Pilgrims managed to not die their first year in the new world. And that’s according to the Pilgrims themselves. But you know the old saying, “What have you done for me lately?” Within a couple of years, tensions increased. But Massasoit maintained his alliance with the colony for the four decades that remained of his life.
Massasoit was under siege from all sides. The Mi’kmaq were encroaching on the Wampanoag’s land from the north. The Pequot were encroaching from the west. And increasingly, the colonist were coming from the east. I think that Mel Brooks had it wrong: it sucks to be king. People are horrible. Eventually, Massasoit just sold land to the colonists rather than have them take it.
This all reminds me of one of my most visited articles, Ayn Rand and Indians. It involves Rand’s authoritarian and racist comments that it was right for western settlers to take the native tribes’ land because they had no concept of property rights. I actually don’t know of any example of people who didn’t have the concept of property rights. But the experience of the Wampanoag people should be clear enough. That’s the problem with basing a philosophy on ignorance and racism.
Ultimately, Massasoit led his people admirably. Things kind of fell apart after his death, however. But it is sort of a miracle that he was able to keep it together that long. It’s hard for me to imagine any of our leaders today guiding us through such difficult times.
Happy birthday Wampanoag-Pilgrim treat signing!