Unlike what is taught in most American history classes today, the truth of the relationship between the Pilgrims and Native Americans was that it was a very good and friendly one. Between the first generation of Pilgrims that landed and made contact with the Native tribes, there were mutual feelings of friendship, good will and thoughtfulness as well as care and concern for each other. Many first hand accounts attest to this fact.
The meeting of the Native Americans and the Pilgrims was a meeting of two distinct, vibrant and very different cultures. The Pilgrims brought with them a certain way of living that included their own ways of carrying out everyday tasks such as how they gardened, planted crops, hunted, cooked and baked. Their practices didn’t always work in the wild lands of the New World. The Pilgrims found themselves in a land they knew nothing about so the Native Americans became the teachers of the Pilgrims.
The Native Americans that the Pilgrims came in contact with were the Wampanoag tribe, a loose confederation of several Native American peoples that lived in the Massachusetts Bay area. As I mentioned in this post about the different lifestyle of the Native American tribes, the Wampanoag tribe fell under the category of hunter/gatherers.
The Native Americans shared their knowledge and food traditions with the Pilgrims. They taught the Pilgrims how to grow corn fertilizing it with fish. They showed them how to cultivate the three sisters and gather the native bounty of the woods. And they taught them new ways of cooking and preserving food. One of the most famous stories from the Pilgrims is of the help of Squanto.
Squanto was a Patuxet Indian whose entire tribe had been wiped out by an epidemic. His whole story is quite amazing and as William Bradford said in his book Of Plimoth Plantation, “Squanto stayed with them and was their interpreter and was a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation…” Squanto chose to live with the Pilgrims teaching them and helping them learn to survive in their new home.