English relations with the Natives were strained from the very beginning

One of the troubling revelations I found in researching my new book Quaking Dover is the depth of the English injustice and violence toward the Indigenous people of what we know as New England. It goes all the way back.

Forget the happy images of that first Thanksgiving feast where the Natives are portrayed as the special, very welcome, guests of the Pilgrims.

Squanto, after all, had been kidnapped, enslaved, and spent five years in England before the first English settlement took hold on Plymouth Bay.

Explorer Martin Pring, who established a fortified camp at Truro on Cape Cod in 1603, fled under attack by enraged Natives after he had set his mastiffs on them and fired his cannon in their direction.

The Pilgrims’ military leader, Myles Standish (not one of their faith, by the way), led the 1623 Wessagussett massacre, prompting Natives to abandon their villages for safer ground.

The Pequot war, 1637, was ultimately a land grab ending with the construction of New England’s first slave ship to trade the Native survivors into slavery in the West Indies in exchange for Africans.

And that’s before King Phillip’s war, with the mock wargame in Dover, or the waves of combat across northern New England until the treaty ending the French and Indian wars in 1763.

The outlook, of course, of “savages” and “heathens” was only part of the problem. The English insisted on addressing legal conflicts only in colonial courts. Not surprisingly, the decisions all seemed to come down against the Natives, with no independent course of appeal.

The pressure finally exploded in 1689 with the devastating raid on Cochecho Village and then Oyster River, both in Dover – hostilities that would continue another seven decades.

Are you ready for a fuller story?

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