The Pilgrim Story Essay

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People usually seek to know how things were at the beginning. For instance, some of the common myths concerning the beginning of something are the Garden of Eden, which explain the creation story and the Big Bang, which explicate how the universe started. However, some myths on the beginnings are not usually clear because of the many versions of the same story that exists. The Pilgrim story, which most people associate with the beginning of the US is one such myth. In its basic narration, the Pilgrim story describes the Mayflower voyage. The various versions of the myth exist right from how the Pilgrims sailed in search of religious freedom, how they landed in Plymouth, how they befriended the Wampanoag, to how the US came into being. In the book, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, Nathaniel Philbrick, describes the complicated politics between the English explorers and the Native Americans as the most important aspects of the Pilgrim’s story.  

Philbrick’s work entirely focusses on the relationship between the Wampanoag people and the Pilgrims. In essence, the book details how the partnership between the two sides transformed the entire region. At first, one learns of how the Pilgrim settlers established a mutually beneficial friendship with the Wampanoag people. For instance, the Pilgrims learned how to survive in the New England environment from the Wampanoag people. In return, the Pilgrims offered the Wampanoag life lessons on how to reassert themselves as local powers. A good example of a person who benefited from this association is Massasoit. Ideally, the alliance between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag made Massasoit emerge as a prominent leader in New England politics. Massasoit became the peacemaker between the two sides. In his absence, it appears that there would not have been unity between the European Colonist and the Native Americans. 

Political tension was evident as more English settlers continued coming in New England. The tension was not only between the established Native Americans and the European communities but also among the local communities. Conflicting issues were usually solved through proper conflict resolutions such as the signing of peace treaties. At times, efforts to prevent tensions were not usually effective as notable by the breaking of wars. A good example of such a situation is the Pequot War of 1637 in New England. The war broke as a result of inter-tribal politics and the mounting pressure from the growing European population in the area. Philbrick refers to the negative effects of the war on the Pequot people as the “European-style genocide.”[1] The devastating impacts of the war resulted in the People of the New England unifying.

The land was a major contributing factor to political tension in New England. Ideally, as the European population continued to increase, the land became the center of interest. Massasoit used the tension between the locals and the Europeans for personal gains by selling the tribal land to the latter. In essence, land deals acted as a means of alleviating tension between the English settlers and the locals. Moreover, Philbrick notes that the Wampanoag sachem, Massasoit, used land as a means of enriching himself and expanding his political power. For these reasons, it is clear that Massasoit’s legacy to his people is marked by two contradicting sides. First, through his positive influence to maintain peace in New England, which makes him be considered as a "benevolent and wise leader.”[2] Second, through his self-centered interest, which makes him be labeled as a ruler whose individual wealth "depended on the systematic dismantling of their homeland.”[3]   

The easy peace maintained by Massasoit lasted for about half a century. Following Massasoit’s death, His son Metacom also known as Philip became the leader of the Wampanoag.  The new ruler blamed the English settlers for his father's death, and his motive was to turn the Native Americans against the English Settlers. In essence, this is believed to be the turning point as the English settlers turned from good people to bad ones in the eyes of the local Americans. A good example of such a perception is the tension that ensued between the two sides, which is notable through the growing focus on both material and economic gains. The focus in question resulted in what the English pilgrims considered as a decline in spiritual life, which they argued "God must one day show his displeasure.”[4] (Philbrick 198).  Metacom’s actions went to the extent of harassing the English settlers through organizing attacks. Political tension based on land and economic imbalances came to an end after the King Philip's War, which was one of the bloodiest war fought.


Philbrick’s description of the Mayflower is a reflection of the historical studies on the complicated politics between the English explorers and the Native. From the story, it is clear that the politics of the era dictates the way life in New England. Peace deals between the English settlers and the Native Americans were negotiated by the Wampanoag leaders such as Massasoit.


Philbrick, Nathaniel. A Story of Courage, Community, and War. Paw Prints, 2008.


Philbrick, Nathaniel. A Story of Courage, Community, and War (Paw Prints, 2008), 197.

[2]"Ibid., (172)

[3]"Ibid., (172)

[4]"Philbrick, Nathaniel. A Story of Courage, Community, and War (Paw Prints, 2008), 198.

November 24, 2023


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