| American History Stories, Volume I|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Stories of early exploration and founding of American colonies, conflicts over religion, and troubles with the Indians, culminating in the French and Indian War. Ages 8-12 |
 During these hundred years or more, from the founding of
the Plymouth Colony in 1620, there had been continual trouble
with the Indians.
The Indians, you remember, were kind to the white men at
first; but after the white men began to be cruel and hard
to them, they, too, grew hard and cruel, and there seemed
nothing too terrible for the Indians to do in revenge.
The newcomers thought that these Indians had very strange
ways of carrying on their battles. They never came out and
met the enemy face to face in battle array, as the white men
were then used to doing, but would skulk
 around behind trees, in swamps, or in the high grass.
When the white men first used muskets and gunpowder, the
Indians were terribly frightened; but it was not long
before they, themselves, learned to use them.
One day an old Indian chief begged some
gunpowder from a white man and ran away to
his wigwam with it.
The white man watched to see what he would do with it. When
he reached his wigwam, he called some of his friends about
him and, after a long council together, they began to plant
the powder. They thought it would grow like corn and
When an Indian killed a white man in battle, he always tried
to tear off the skin from the top of the white man's head.
These were called scalps. The more scalps he could get
 the braver he thought he was. After a battle he would show
the scalps, with great pride, to the people of his village.
These Indians were a very wandering people, never staying
in one place very long at a time. When they made up their
minds to move, the women would take down the tents, strap
their babies onto their backs and trudge on the best they
could, carrying, on their shoulders, the poles and household
wares, the mats and the furs. The men would march on ahead,
with nothing but their bows and arrows.
Sometimes the poor women would sink under their heavy
loads. Then the men would beat them and kick them until the
poor things would rise and struggle on.
When the Indians reached a place which looked pleasant for a
camping ground, the
 men would throw themselves down upon the ground, in a sunny
place, and lie there smoking and napping, while the women
set up the tents and got the camps in order.
The men treated the women like slaves. They expected them to
do all the work, such as planting the corn, building the
tents, carrying the baggage; while they did nothing but
hunt and fish and smoke and fight.
But, in reading of this life of the Indians, let us judge
them not too harshly. They were cruel to the women and girl
children, that is true; but it was because they knew no
better rather than because they meant to be cruel.
Remember they were rude, rough people, accustomed to war and
to fighting. Surrounded on all sides by enemies, they
grew to regard physical strength and skill in overcoming an
enemy as the highest virtue in the
 world; and, consequently, they had come to look upon women
as of very little account—good enough to do the cooking and
the drudgery of wigwam life; but that was all.
They had never learned that men and women, boys and girls,
were to be judged and valued by something better and higher
than mere brute force.
"Good to squaw!" exclaimed an Indian in surprise, when
one of the colonists had rebuked him for his treatment of
his wife. "She no fight—no scalp!" and I suppose no
argument could have convinced the Indian that he was
wrong; or that, since she could neither fight nor scalp, it
was worth while to make of her anything better than a
slave or a servant.
The Puritans, you will remember, landed at Plymouth one cold
December day. A few
 Indians had been seen on the top of the hill when they first
landed, but they had fled at the sight of the white men,
and were not seen again for some time.
Glad, indeed, were the white men that they did not again
appear until they got their log cabins built, in which their
wives and children might be safe from the arrows of these
strange red men.
Weeks passed by. At last, one morning in March, when the
Puritans were holding a town meeting, in stalked a solitary
Indian. The Puritans were not overjoyed to see him, you
may be sure.
They waited for him to speak. Solemnly he looked about upon
them all, and then cried, "Welcome, Englishmen! Welcome,
These were indeed welcome words; for a
 minute before the white men had stood breathless,
wondering whether this stranger was about to declare peace
or war upon them.
Samoset—for that was the name of this visitor—was a
tall, straight man, with long black hair, and was arrayed
in feathers and furs, and colored with bright paints, as was
the custom of these savages.
Samoset was so delighted with the manner in which the
white men received him, that he speedily declared his
intention of staying with them all night. The white men
did not relish that; but, not daring to displease him,
they made him comfortable for the night in one of the
cabins, and kept watch over him until morning.
At sunrise he was ready to return to his home, and the
Puritans gladly bade him farewell.
 I am afraid Samoset hadn't very many ideas of what we call
etiquette. He did not wait for the Puritans to return
his call, but appeared again the very next day, bringing
with him five other Indians.
The Puritans were annoyed with this second visit; however,
they gave them all food and drink, after
which the six Indians danced and
sang in a fashion peculiar to themselves.
At night the five Indians went away, but Samoset had made
up his mind to stay longer with his new friends.
A few days later, seeing that he had no idea of going home,
the Puritans sent him to find Massasoit, who, as Samoset
had told them, was
the chief of the Indian tribes in that neighborhood—the
Soon Massasoit, the chief, came, with sixty armed and
painted warriors; terrible to look
 at in their feathers and paint. But Massasoit did not come
to fight. He wanted peace between his tribe and the strange
people. After a little talk, he sat down with John Carver,
the Governor of this little colony, smoked the pipe of peace
with him and promised to befriend the colony as long as he
This treaty he always kept, and, as he was a very powerful
chief, the Puritans were safe from Indian attack as long as
he lived. It was after his death that their real trouble
with Indians began.
South of the Plymouth Colony there lived a tribe of Indians
who hated Massasoit's tribe. They also hated white men;
therefore, you may know that when they learned that
Massasoit was protecting these Puritans, they were doubly
angry. For a long time they annoyed
 the colonists in little ways, but there had been no real
At last, one day, there marched into the village
a huge Indian, covered with his war paint,
and carrying in his hand a long snake-skin.
This skin he presented to William Bradford,
who was now Governor of the colony, telling
him that in the snake-skin was a bundle of
"And what does that mean?" inquired Bradford.
"War, war, war!" yelled the messenger.
"Very well," said Bradford, calmly; "you
may take this back to your chief." And as he spoke, he
emptied the skin of its arrows and filled it full of shot
"This means," said Bradford, "that if your
chief comes to us with arrows, we will come
to him with gunpowder and shot."
 The messenger understood, and, snatching the skin, he ran
out of the village to his home. There was no more trouble
with that tribe of Indians.
One day word came to the Puritans that Massasoit was
dying, and that he wished to see the white men once more.
Quickly, one of the Puritans, Edward Winslow, who knew
considerable about medicine, hastened to Massasoit's home.
He found the tent, in which Massasoit lay, so full of
people that the sick man could hardly breathe. These
Indians, both men and women, were howling and dancing around
him, trying, so they said, to drive away the bad spirits
which were giving him pain.
This was a custom of theirs when an Indian was ill. If the
sick man recovered, they believed it was because their
noises had scared
 away the evil spirits; if he did not recover, it
was because they had not made a noise great
When Winslow arrived, he set to work to
do all he could to relieve the poor chief, who was suffering from high
In two or three days, Massasoit was quite
well again. The Indians looked upon the
cure as a miracle, and families came from
miles and miles around to see the wonderful
No one was more glad of Massasoit's
recov-  ery than the white man himself; for all knew that if
Massasoit died the tribes of Indians on all sides would at
once rush upon the white settlements, burn the houses, scalp
the men, and carry away the women and children as captives.
And this did happen within a very few years. After
Massasoit's death, the Indians began to grow jealous of the
increasing power of the white men. They were being gradually
driven from all their hunting grounds.
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