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 Native American Nations | Massasoit of the Wampanoags                    

Foreword

     In the summer of 1910, while serving as Great Sachem of the Improved Order of Red Men of Massachusetts, I had occasion to accompany my Deputy Great Sachem for the Plymouth District and a party of Great Chiefs and members of the order with their families and friends, on a visitation to the tribe located in that old historic town. Our official duties performed, we visited the many places of particular interest, the spots especially consecrated to Freedom by the restless energy of the men of three centuries ago.
     We saw the beautiful memorial erected to the Pilgrims, and the memorable rock which their feet first pressed on December 21, 1620; we climbed the hill to view the spot where so many of them were laid at rest during their fast winter of hardship and suffering, and where later the ashes of many more were mingled with the dust; we stood on the summit of Cole's Hill from which we looked out upon the harbor where the Mayflower once lay at anchor; we saw the relics of bygone days, exhibited in the Memorial Hall, and traversed the same old streets laid out by the fathers.
     Many of us had seen it all before, while for others it was the first visit; but, whether for the first time, or to view again and again the old historic spots, the real landmarks of the birthplace of free government, as exemplified by nearly three hundred years of colonial and national life, the patriotic interest and enthusiasm of all alike was thoroughly aroused.
     A bronze tablet on a house on Leyden Street, marking the spot where, on March 22, 1621, Massasoit and Governor Carver entered into a treaty of peace, friendship and mutual aid and protection, attracted our attention. I had seen it many times before, but it seemed fraught with a new significance on that occasion. Whether the mental association of the name of our order with the aborigines, or that of my official designation with that of the great chief of the Wampanoago contributed to the thought, I cannot say; but for some reason the suggestion came to my mind that in 1920 the people of Massachusetts undoubtedly would celebrate in fitting manner the third centenary of the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers. In my report at the conclusion of my term in the Great Chieftaincy, I brought this matter to the attention of the Great Council with a recommendation that steps be taken towards erecting, in connection with the celebration of this Centennial, a monument or other memorial to Massasoit, Great Sachem of the Wampanoago, who for forty years religiously observed both the spirit and the letter of the treaty he had made with the colonists, and urged his sons to maintain the same friendly relations. The recommendation was not fruitful of immediate results, but eventually it took root, and, following it, some of the members of the order formed a corporation under the name of the Massasoit Memorial Association, for the purpose of carrying out the project.
     Primarily the Improved Order of Red Men is a patriotic society, tracing its descent from the Sons of Liberty, and limiting its membership to American citizens; and, while teaching patriotism, it has endeavored to preserve some of the customs of the aborigines, and to pay due tribute to their many manly virtues, which we, as the dominant race, have been too strongly inclined to overlook or to ignore. In pursuit of this general purpose, and in aid of the project which we have undertaken, this work has been prepared for presentation to those who may desire to contribute to the success of the enterprise. It is our plan to make this a popular movement, that this statue when erected, may be the New World's tribute to the noble Red Man who stood guard over the cradle in which its liberties were nurtured; and the principal object of the writer in preparing this compilation of historical facts has been to array these facts so that they will present a living, moving panorama of the long ago, an examination of which will disclose a complete justification of the enterprise in aid of which the book is written.

The Memorial

     Fortunately, we have not been left in the dark concerning Massasoit's personal appearance. Edward Winslow, who was one of the hostages for his safe return when he entered the settlement at Plymouth to confer with Governor Carver, and who saw him on that occasion and often thereafter for many years, who was his friend, and one whom Massasoit loved, has left us such a complete and perfect description of him as is to be found of but few men of those remote times; and fortunately, we have succeeded in enlisting the services of Cyrus E. Dallin of Arlington, Massachusetts, eminent sculptor and portrayer of Indian character, to translate Winslow's description into bronze. Massasoit was forty-one years old when he first appeared to the Pilgrims, and Mr. Dallin has created a model of the proud warrior in the prime of life, bearing the peace pipe to the strangers from across the great waters. From this model it is proposed to erect a statue of heroic size to be appropriately mounted on Cole's Hill, immediately overlooking the famous rock against which the Mayflower's shallop rested and upon which its occupants landed on December 21, 16,0. The Pilgrim Society of Plymouth has offered the site, and has volunteered to assume perpetual care of the statue when erected. And so we present our case to the people of the United States in an appeal to them to participate in an enterprise, the purpose of which is to pay deserved but belated tribute to this great Chief, that he may forever stand guard over the gateway through which the pilgrim bearers of the torch of Liberty first entered New England, even as he kept a watchful eye over her early struggles for existence.

A. G. W.

Fall River, Mass
May 10, 1919


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Massasoit of the Wampanoags

Massasoit of the Wampanoags

 

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