With all the events in the media cycle, an especially important anniversary has gone virtually unnoticed. After a long, equally dangerous, and miraculous voyage from England, the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock on December 18, 1620. This year is the four hundredth anniversary of this history-changing event. It is an event that is crucial for us to remember. Any more, it seems like this seminal event is being trivialized or torn down. There is no future if there is no history to build it on. Re-writing of the history of the Pilgrims, the Wampanoag, and the settling of Plymouth is a disservice to all involved in this providential tale. One of the many miraculous elements of the story is that of Tisquantum.
Tisquantum is better known by the anglicized name of Squanto. He was kidnapped with several other natives by an English captain and taken to Málaga, Spain, to be sold as slaves. A group of Franciscan Monks found out what was happening and bought the hostages, teaching them their language and religion. Squanto found his way to England, where he learned English and eventually made his way back to New England in 1619. He discovered his people, the Pawtuxet tribe, had fallen victim to disease and were all dead. Squanto found a place with the people of Chief Massasoit.
Meanwhile, a group of Pilgrims, compelled by a vision that they were to establish a covenant community in the "New World," made their way across the Atlantic. Due to a severe storm, they were blown off course from their original destination. Because they had no permission to establish a colony where they landed, the Pilgrims developed the Mayflower Compact to seal their covenant to each other and God. According to author Tim Ballard, "Instead of present-day New York City, they would land at Plymouth, perhaps the only place in America where the foreign separatists could have possibly survived their winter landing. It was likely the only place in America where the Native population would offer friendship instead of a fight."
On December 18, 1620, a few of the ravaged pilgrims landed in Plymouth. They struggled to establish a foothold in the new land. While they struggled, the Wampanoag held a counsel with other Algonquin people about what to do about the land's white people. Most felt that the invaders should be driven away. However, Squanto spoke to Chief Massasoit about his experiences, convincing him to make friends with the new settlers. In March of 1621, Squanto and Samoset, who coincidentally learned English in Maine and just so happened to be visiting the Wampanoag, visited the Pilgrims to established relations. Squanto taught the settlers how to hunt, fish, plant, and farm the land. Without his assistance, they would have perished. What are the chances that two English speaking native Americans happened to be in this small area at this crucial time?
The Wampanoag and the Pilgrims established a pattern of co-existence and respect, which lasted for decades. The miracles or happy accidents, if you prefer, were too numerous to count, and the Pilgrims attributed them to Divine Providence as they saw God's hand in their efforts to establish a covenant land in the new world. Four hundred years ago, this December, the historical unity of 2 different people, vastly different but united in their humanity, set a standard for how we should treat each other. It would be sad if we let this lesson in unity be twisted or forgotten.