Newswise – Today we mostly remember the forced removal of Native Americans from their traditional lands to reservations, but what we don’t know is that they were very sharp when it came to the manipulation of 17th-century English power structures in order to combat English authority over them.
As Americans preparing for Thanksgiving remember the familiar tale of Indians? kindness toward the Pilgrims of Plymouth, history professor Jenny Pulsipher points out that friendship was not really what brought them together?a combination of political and security needs led the parties to sign a pact of mutual protection.
?Pulsipher says, “Both the Indians and the English were divided among themselves, and various tribes, colonies and groups were using their structures of authority to try to gain power over the others.”
The Pilgrims landed in an area occupied by the Wampanoag tribe. Decimated by epidemics carried by earlier European visitors and fearing their powerful neighbors to the south, the Narragansett tribe, the Wampanoags were happy to find a new ally, especially one with guns. The starving and freezing Pilgrims were likewise concerned about the Narragansetts and willing to temporarily overlook their feelings of divine entitlement to the land and enter into a treaty known as the “League of Peace.”
“The Indians didn’t have the kind of racial solidarity that we tend to project onto the past,” Pulsipher says. “The Pilgrims were another group, and the Wampanoags were happy to make an alliance with them, and it served both groups’ interests.”
The Indians, their numbers dwindling and facing technological superiority, quickly figured out the English power structure and how to work within it preserve their sovereignty and stave off English dominance. Some even went so far as to travel to England and make direct appeals to the king.
Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk
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