Hidden Victims

Hidden Victims

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Hidden Victims

I pass that hill everyday. I drive along its large base, turning near its northern slope. The marker sits low on the hill, barely noticeable except when the rays of sun hit it that certain way and a long dark shadow is cast across the grass. The small brass plate sits firmly planted atop the cold granite boulder. The blood has long since dried. The cries and screams are silent. The small pine booth sits at the base of the hill, full of information packets and maps concerning the events that took place there long ago. February of 1675 remains flat and echoless upon the pages of our town’s record books. Textbooks may touch on it briefly, if at all;

The war lasted only about fourteen months; and yet the towns of Brookfield, Lancaster, Marlborough, Medfield, Sudbury, Groton, Deerfield, Hatfield, Hadley, Northfield, Springfield, Weymouth, Chelmsford, Andover, Scituate, Bridgewater, and several other places were wholly or partially destroyed, and many of the inhabitants were massacred or carried into captivity. (Hudson)

Some historians have called it the “deadliest war in our history." Whose history is it though? Who caused it and how? All these questions have all their answers hidden away in dusty books on old wooden shelves. Undiscovered secrets; stories not told. The preserved colonist view is all that enters our textbooks, the view that we were the sole victims, we are the victors over the heathen savages. Victims are hidden.

Relations were peaceful. Massasoit, the noble leader of the Wampanoag Indians, was curious and friendly to these new visitors. Thanksgiving was shared mutually with these new inhabitants. The two cultures existed peacefully, and some assimilation occurred. No anger existed between the two worlds. He did his best to keep his mind and the minds of his people open, ensuring that the visitors would be safe from harm. A descendant of the Wampanoag tribe described Massaoit’s generosity and genuine curiosity.

When the first English came, Phillip’s father was a great man, and the English as a little child; he prevent other Indians from wronging them, gave them corn and showed them how to plant it…(Hubbard 275).

The proud leader even allowed his two sons to have English names in addition to their Indian ones. Existence seemed promising for each world, exchanging knowledge and goods.

The parade marches by, men and women dressed in colonial costume. Men walk by with painted faces and leather moccasins.

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Children play tag on the hill, the town hall explodes with decorative banners and fliers every August 10th. Candy is thrown into the tiny streets of Lancaster atop pavement covering the grounds that once belonged to the Wampanoag tribe. Music dances through the Town Hall courtyard. The festivities flourish. My little neighbor held my hand loosely as we walked through the courtyard. Dressed in buckle shoes and a Puritan hat, Robbie looks up at one of the banners and asks me, “Who’s King Phillip?” Before I could answer, a town representative started throwing candy necklaces. His question was lost as he raced to get one. No one knows; no one knows why we’re here.

Massasoit’s eldest son, Wamsutta was renamed Alexander, and his other son Metacomet became Philip. Married to Queen Weetamoo of Pocasset, Alexander became grand sachem of the Wampanoag upon the death of his father. The English did not approve of his independent “savage” spirit (Drake 45). Hearing that Alexander was designing a rebellion against the English with the help of the Narragansets, the English summoned Alexander to attend the next Court meeting in Plymouth. The English believed that Alexander was “contriving mischief against the English, and that the necessary actions must be taken to rid [themselves] of the pest" (Drake105). While in Plymouth, Alexander fell violently ill (some say at the hands of the English) and died within a few days of returning to his home.

Hundreds of generations later, descendents of the tribe still speak of the string of injustices that afflicted their people.

They said if twenty of their honest Indians proved that an Englishman had wronged them it was nothing. While if one of their worst [Christian] Indians testified against any of their King’s men, it was suficient. Their Kings had done wrong to sell so much land. That the English made the Indians drunk and then cheated them. Now their Kings were forewarned not to part with their lands, for nothing was of so much value. They would not own the King and Queen of the English, but would disinherit them, and make a King themselves, who would give or sell them back their lands. Now they had no hopes to keep any land. We were wronged. (Hudson)

Philip was a quiet leader, one who did not appear to be a man of hate. The responsibility of an entire culture was dependent upon him during a crucial time in their history. He observed quietly as the English took more and more land, unsure of the decision he must make. Historian James Drake says, “The change in leaders, the economy, and religious convictions were all coming together to form a powder keg. All that was needed was a flint spark. Although peace and stability seemed to exist on the surface, the fires that would soon erupt were lurking beneath" (Drake 178). After the death of his father, and the strange death of his brother, his personal convictions along with the tribe's growing anger forced Philip to take action.

That the English cattle and horses had so increased, that when they removed thirty miles, they could not keep their corn from being spoiled, because they never being used to make fences. And when the English bought any land of them, they claimed the cattle that were on it. (Hudson)

The limits of his father’s former territory had been greatly reduced before he came to power. The English had purchased and otherwise absorbed a large proportion of their lands.

Philip was a noble man, quiet, reserved and peaceful. He wanted to avoid conflict at all costs. He wanted the peace to remain. Philip kept on selling and surrendering, till at last, as early as 1670 he began to feel the pressure of the destructive European civilization upon their hunting and fishing grounds as well as their cornfields. In addition, in January of 1675, the body of John Sassamon, a Christian Indian informer, was discovered in the ice of Assowampset Pond. Three Wampanoag warriors were arrested, tried for murder, and hanged. Philip was forced to take action to protect his people and their land (Hudson). After this provocation, Philip could no longer restrain his warriors. While rumors swirled that the English were going to capture Philip, his warriors took action and began the war on their own (Lincoln 223). What was he supposed to do? Shouldn’t he aid his people in defending not only their land, but their honor? Philip had no choice but to support the will of his people. The colonists tell a different tale.

When Mary was nineteen years old, she was married to Joseph Rowlandson. She was the wife of the minister, a man of honor and respect. A small plain woman, Mary resided respectively in Lancaster and carried herself well (Drake 110). The Indians took her into captivity for eleven months along with her children. She describes the horror of the attack and the blood-shed caused by the Indians. Philip was the evil leader who sent his warriors to mercilessly kill the poor colonists. Their blood soaked the ground.
"On the tenth of February 1675, came the Indians with great numbers upon Lancaster: Their first coming was bout sun-rising: hearing the noises of guns, we looked out; several houses were burning, and the smoke ascending to Heaven. There were five persons taken in one house, the father, and the mother and a sucking child, they knockt on the head;… Thus these murtherous wretches went on, burning, and destroying before them…The Indians laid hold of us, pulling me one way, and my children another, and said, come go

Karey 5 along with us; I told them they would kill me: they answered, if I were willing to go along with them, they would not hurt me…I chose rather to go along with those ravenous beasts, then that moment to end my dayes." (qtd. in Lincoln 113)

The parade is over. Banners fall and balloons lay limp on their string. The town hall is deserted. Robbie sits quietly next to me in the passenger seat playing with the radio. My small grey car drives onto Pocumtuc Way and sways gently to the left as we round George Hill. Out of the corner of my eye, the rock stands squat as the sun hits behind it. I ask Robbie, “What did you learn today, anything?” Being only seven, he turns to me and says, “We beat the Indians, we killed um’ all."

Most textbooks, if the war is even mentioned, describes only the savagery, brutal attacks and the English lives lost. Edward Randolph writes in 1685:
The losses to the English in the several colonies, in their habitations and stock, is reckoned to amount to £150,000 there having been about 1200 houses burned, 8000 head of cattle, great and small, killed, and many thousand bushels of wheat, peas and other grain burned…The Massachusets colony hath not been damnifyed one third part, and upward of 3000 Indians men women and children destroyed, who if well managed would have been very serviceable to the English. (Hudson)

But, the blood ran much deeper. With Philip and most of their leaders dead, the Wampanoag were nearly exterminated. Only 400 survived the war. The other tribes suffered similar losses. By the end of the war, the English had 600 killed and more than half of ninety settlements attacked thirteen destroyed. An agent to the crown, Edward Randolph’s estimate of 3,000 Indians killed was a very conservative one. From a prewar native population in southern New England of 15,000, only 4,000 were left (Drake 178). In addition to their loss, they were faced with harsh peace terms that placed them in total subjugation.

Is the history we read really American history, or is it the history that we have twisted and formed to fit the mold of the courageous American spirit? Our rose-colored glasses are firmly placed before our eyes. It seems that in the course of recording our history, we are selective in what we include. The stories of those who were truly Americans to begin with often slip between the cracks and become lost. They become the savages and heathens that killed and destroyed our people wearing animal skins and feathers. Their words are not like our own and their stories often have not been recorded, but that does not mean they should be disregarded. They were not the savage beasts that came to destroy the English. Like us, they were defending what they called their home. Our blood and theirs is the same. It spills red across the soil of the earth.

Works Cited

Drake, James D. King Philip’s War. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999.

Hubbard, William., Rev. The History of the Indian Wars in New England. New York: Burnt Franklin, 1865.

Hudson, Charles ed. Colonial Families. 11 Oct. 1998. Interactive Connections. <http://www.mayflowerfamilies.com/enquirer/native.htm>
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