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Massasoit Very Ill

 Native American Nations | Massasoit of the Wampanoags                  

Before their arrival the ship had been gotten off and so this part of their errand came to naught. Not so the other purpose, however, for on arriving at Massasoit's lodge, they found him very ill, scarcely able to speak and wholly unable to see. When he asked who had come, and was told Winslow, he exclaimed: "Ah, Window, I shall never see thee again!" By administering some simple remedies and scraping off a thick coating which had gathered in his throat and on his tongue, Window soon relieved him of his suffering; whereupon he said: "Now I see the English are my friends and love me, and whilst I live I will never forget this kindness they have showed me." The doubt existing since the episode over Squanto, fostered by some one of his wily sub-sachems, unquestionably Corbitant, who had whispered suspicions into his ears during his sickness, was resolved; and Massasoit kept his word.

His sagamores and allies who had come to visit him, some from a distance of a hundred miles, were told how his friends, the English, had restored him to health.

When they were about to return to Plymouth, Massasoit called together his most trusted counselors, of whom Hobamock was one, and, in the presence of all of them, directed Hobamock to acquaint Window with the existence of a plot against Weston's colony at Wessagusset and the settlement at Plymouth. He informed them that the Massachusetts Indians were the chief instigators of the conspiracy and implicated the natives of Nauset, Paomet, Sokone, Mattachiest, Manomet, Agawam and the Island of Capawack, most of whom were his subjects, and among which were several of those tribes whose sachems had subscribed the declaration of allegiance to King James eighteen months before.

     It is significant that all the tribes implicated were those who lived remote from Pokanoket, and, especially, that Corbitant was not openly mixed up in the affair. That he was in sympathy with the conspirators there is no doubt; and that he had endeavored to secure his Great Sachem's consent to his making common cause with them is almost as certain; and Massasoit's withholding of that consent, notwithstanding his own serious grievance, is, in itself, striking evidence of his exalted character. The information given by him at that time was of inestimable value to the colonists, as it enabled their doughty Captain Standish to take the necessary steps to put an end to the conspiracy and save the colonies.

     The man who accepts at its par value the saying "There is no good Indian but a dead Indian," will see in this conspiracy conclusive evidence of Indian treachery and faithlessness, and will say that Massasoit, knowing of it, had silently acquiesced in it up to the time of his restoration to health by Winslow, revealing it then only from gratitude for his recovery. To such critics, I would call attention to the fact that he showed his superiority to the English in his display of gratitude, for there is no evidence of any manifestation of appreciation of favors received in all their dealings with the Indians unless there was attached to it the expectation of further favor,; and I would also call attention to the fact that the colonists had themselves, only a few short months before, protected a traitor to Massasoit in plain violation of the express provisions of the treaty, the first breach; and all the natives undoubtedly knew of it. This act may well have caused the simple natives to look upon the treaty as abrogated; and to consider themselves released from all obligations assumed under that or any subsequent stipulations or agreements; and Massasoit had good cause to share in such feeling.

     But for this illness of the Great Sachem, the timely arrival of Winslow, and the efficacy of his simple remedies to alleviate the suffering man and arrest. the progress of the disease, the colonists might have perished at the hands of the conspirators, and another awful example of savage treachery been furnished to the world; and the major part of humanity would have accepted it at its face value, without looking into the first great cause. Indeed, the history of those times, as recorded by Bradford; might never have seen the light of day, and without his record, his failure to keep the faith with Massasoit might never have become known; for it is from his own narrative, providentially preserved, that as certain the story of the straining of the friendly relations between the whites and the natives.

     One incident, perhaps better than any other reextent to which the old chief was influenced by gratitude for favors received and love for his friends. In 1637 Arthur Peach, a former servant of Winslow's, with three accomplices, killed a Narragansett Indian in cold blood. We shall see more of the details in the chapter devoted to Miantonomo, and for the purpose of concluding the brief mention here we will let Roger Williams tell the story. In his letter to Winthrop, then Governor of the Plymouth colony, he says, "Ousamequin coming from Plymouth told me that the four men were all guilty. I answered but one; he replied true, one wounded him, but all lay in wait two days and assisted. Also that the principal must not die, for he was Mr. Winslow's man; and also that the Indian was by birth a Nipmuck man, so not worthy that any other man should die for him."

     Williams had been banished from Salem two years before this and on his way to the Narragansett country, "on foot and alone in the dead of winter," he had been kindly entertained by Massasoit at Sowams; and they appear to have been on very friendly terms thereafter.

     I cannot refrain, in passing, from referring to one little pleasantry of the Great Sachem at the expense of Winslow and his friends, and I will let the old chronicler tell the story. "Mr. Winslow coming in his bark from Connecticut to Narragansett, and he left it there, - and intending to return by land, he went to Osamekin (Massasoit), the sagamore, his old ally, who offered to conduct him home to Plymouth. But before they took their journey, Osamekin sent one of his men to to Plymouth to tell them that Mr. Winslow was dead; and directed him to show how and where he was killed. Whereupon there was much fear and sorrow at Plymouth. The next day when Osamekin brought him home, they asked him why he sent such a word etc. to which he answered that it was their manner to do so, that they might be more welcome when they came home."

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Massasoit of the Wampanoags

Massasoit of the Wampanoags

 

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