Indian settlements in eastern North America:

Indians and Puritans

A. Background

 1. Indians of New England included the Abenaki, Pawtucket, Massachuset, Narragansett. Pequot, and Wampanoag tribes

 2. In 1616 an epidemic wiped out 3/4 of the New England Indian population, so that Puritans landed in an area where Indians' ability to resist was greatly weakened

 3. In 1633-34 another smallpox epidemic hit coast,

 a. Puritans saw disease as God's way of giving the lands of the heathen to them

 b. probably used same logic for stealing everything they found, including robbing Indian graves

 4.  Still, the Puritans didn't believe that Indians were inherently inferior--racism--

Rather, saw sin as cause of Indians' heathen inferiority--they thought that the devil had led them to America to keep them from the Gospel

 5. Puritans gave lip service to conversion of Indians: the Great Seal of MA Bay colony depicts an Indian saying "come over & help us"

 a. also, the charter of colony stated :"The principall ende of this plantacion is to wynn and incite the natives of the country to the knowledge & obedience of the onlie true God & Savior of mankinde, and the Christian fayth."

 b. yet: all men were to be trained in firearms for defense, no Indians were allowed in Puritan towns, and anyone selling arms to Indians was to be deported

 6. There was no missionary work for 13 years--until John Elliot established the Praying Towns in 1646, which were settlements where Indians relocated in order to convert and learn English culture

a. these settlements were attractive to tribes who were suffering from warfare and disease and needed protection, such as the Naticks

b. while Indians were required to convert in these towns, there is ample evidence that they also kept their religion traditions alive under the "radar" of Puritan rule

 7. As in VA, initial relations were good--Indians traded and helped the Puritans learn to plant corn--remember the tales of Squanto from junior high? 
B. Also as in VA, there was conflict which eventually resulted in the 1637 Pequot War, set off by Puritan  settlement in Connecticut River Valley

 1.In  1636--disagreements between the Pequots and the English boiled over: the English attacked the Pequots and the Pequots retaliated

2. then in 1637, English and their Narragansett allies struck the Pequots at Ft. Mystic

3. But the Pequot warriors were not at Ft Mystic, rather, women, kids, and old men were there

4. The Puritans burned their wigwams, then killed fleeing Indians as they ran from their burning homes --estimates range from 300 to 700 massacred :

a. Governor William Bradford described it this way: "It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fyer, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stinck and sente ther of; but the victory seemed a sweete sacrific and they (the Purts) gave the prauers therof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to inclose their enemise in their hands and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enime."

b. all but 7 Pequots perished  in the blaze; those who were not at the fort were hunted down and killed or sold into slavery, and the British forbad even the mention of the word "Pequot"

 5. The victory established English sovereignty in Conn.

 6. Historians have explained the brutality of this massacre by saying it was a result of difficulties Puritans were having at the time:

a. The war came on heels of Williams & Hutchinson challenges to Puritan authority

 b. this led to over-reaction of Puritans--this was cathartic for them and, because of their self-doubt, they needed to show God they were doing His work by killing the devil's "minions"  (meaning Indians)

 C. 1675: Metacom's War--also called King Phillips War: Wampanoag leader Metacom led uprising against English 

 1. by 1670s the white population of New England was 55,000, while the Indians numbered a mere 12,000

 2. Indian leader Metacom feared growing number of English, so he began making alliances with other tribes for a unified uprising

 3. John Sassamon--a Christian, Harvard- educated Indian--was his assistant, but he betrayed him--he told colonial leaders about the uprising

a.  he was then found dead in 1765

 b and 3 Wampanoags were hanged for his murder

4. this led young warriors to retaliate, pushing the Puritans to counterattack

 5. many tribes joined in, and the entire Connecticut River Valley was hit hard by hit-&-run raids: the Puritans were  pushed off their western  frontier all the way to the coast 

 a. over 800 Puritans were killed and 2 dozen towns destroyed

 b. by March of 1676, the Indians had pushed to within 20 miles of Boston and Providence, RI 

6. but the Indian offensive faltered in the spring of 1676--not because of a matching colonial offensive, but due to supply problems for Indians and outbreaks of disease

7. as their number weakened, groups of Indians began to retreat west or surrender, and Metacom died in battle in 1676--this ended  the uprising

8. Results: whites lost 5% of adult male population, but Indians lost 25%; white settlement was pushed back for 40 years (till regained western territory)  but Indian villages were also devastated 

STILL: war proved that the stronger tribes were willing to risk extinction rather than submit to being overrun

9. some Puritans saw the war as God's punishment--and the Mass. General Court agreed--they had a long list of signs that the colony was going to hell on a sled:

a. young men wore their hair too long (gasp!)

 b. men and women went on unsupervised horse rides (double gasp!)

c. people dressed above their station in life--broke the sumptuary laws that dictated exactly what they were supposed to wear (more on this later)

d. Quakers blasphemed, simply by existing and speaking their heresies--the Puritans tended to hang Quakers but had let a few slip by lately  

they renewed their persecution of the Quakers--hang them!!!

 10 Finally, the uprising showed the imperial government in London that colonies were letting things get out of hand:

this occurs about the time of Bacon's Rebellion; perhaps those colonists need more supervision?

  SUMMARY: All of this conflict with Indians meant that the British crown had to come up with some way to handle Indians more systematically. Attempts to deal with Indians will lead to tensions between colonists and the mother country.