Horrors of History Part Six The Pequot’s Big Mistake
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Horrors of History Part Six The Pequot’s Big Mistake

Don’t Turn Evil, Part Eleven – How to Make More Room

Copyright 2010 M.A. Golding

The Eastern Indian agriculture was in some ways less advanced than European farming. Many tribes left their villages for whole seasons to hunt and gather wild food where is was abundant and returned to their villages at harvest time. So they could not tend to the needs of their crops during much of the growing season, and had smaller crops than if they had tended their fields all the time.

Many villages found their soil became depleted of nutrients after a few years and produced poor crops. So they moved their villages to new locations, cleared new fields and farmed them for a few years. Then, when a village’s new fields began to yield poor crops they were move to a third location, and then a fourth, and so on. Eventually the village would move back to its first site when the fertility of the fields had been replenished and resume farming there, in a vast cycle. So each Indian village needed several times as much farmland as was actually farmed at any one time.

But Europeans had been using field rotation for centuries or millennia. They divided each farm or common land into several fields and farmed each field only some years, in a system of field rotation, so that the fallow fields were naturally replenished and the soil fertility would not be depleted. Thus European villages could have permanent locations.

So when a European colony became firmly established the leaders should have thought of ways to make future land acquisition from the Indians less stressful and less likely to cause bloody warfare. They should have thought of ways to improve Indian farming methods and thus reduce the amount of land Indian communities needed to support themselves. Thus the Indians would have fewer practical reasons to resist selling (or “selling”) their land, though sentimental reasons would remain.

So colonial leaders could have started programs to teach Indians about modern European farming methods like field rotation in the hope that the Indians would need less and less land to support themselves. Of course the settlers’ great land hunger suggests that few of them were experts on the best methods of getting the most crops per acre.

And they could have started programs to hire Indians to help raise horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, geese, ducks, and other domestic animals, and teach them how to manage their livestock and pay them in part with livestock to take home to their villages. Thus if the Indians learned how to manage their livestock well, they would soon have enough domestic animals to provide most of their meat and so reduce the size of the hunting grounds they needed.

But no colonial leaders were imaginative or foresighted enough to propose such programs out of a desire to reduce future conflicts with Indians over land or simply to help the Indians.

[Center]Don’t Turn Evil, Part Twelve – The Pequot’s Big Mistake [/center]

[Center] Copyright 2010 M.A. Golding [/center]

The Pequot War of 1636 to 1638 began because the Puritan leaders wanted to acquire the lands in Connecticut, which were owned by many tribes under Pequot rule. And it began because the Dutch and the Puritans wanted to control trade with the Connecticut Indians, which the Pequot wanted to control to keep the tribes dependent on them.

And the English began using their metal tools to produce large amounts of wampum for trade, which the Pequot had had a near monopoly on, having conquered the tribe on Long Island which made the best wampum and made them produce it as tribute.

And the English who settled in Connecticut wanted to escape from the tyranny of the Puritan oligarchs in Massachusetts and form their own tyranny in Connecticut, and Massachusetts leaders wanted to prevent that or at least keep strong ties with the Connecticut colony.

The Mohegan and Pequot tribes split apart about this time. Some accounts claim that the rivalry between Sassacus and Uncas to become Grand Sachem of the Pequot and most of Connecticut caused Uncas and his followers to form the Mohegan tribe in the 1630s.

The smallpox epidemic of 1633-1634 reduced the Pequot to about 3,000 persons.

An alleged cause of the war was the killing of a Captain Stone in 1634 by Indians subject to the Pequot, and the refusal of Grand Sachem Sassacus to hand over the killers to the New England leaders (some stories say Sassacus himself mistook Stone for a Dutchman and killed him in revenge for the murder of Sassacus’s father by the Dutch). Stone was a wanted man in New England and was trying to kidnap women and children to sell into slavery in Virginia when he was killed.

Niantic Indians allied to the Pequot’s Narragansett foes murdered trader John Oldham on Block Island on July 20, 1636. They hope to scare the English from trading with the Pequot. But the Puritan preachers began denouncing the Pequot, which was illogical unless they had a hidden agenda for doing it. In August 1636 Governor Henry Vane of Massachusetts sent a force under John Endicott to attack a Niantic village on Block Island and burn the crops and then attack a Pequot village and burn it.

The Puritans believed that all Indians, and the Pequot in particular were waiting for orders from the Devil to treacherously attack the Puritans. The evidence indicates that the Pequot had no suspicion that the minor tensions with the English would lead to war until Endicott’s raid.

The angered Pequot began attacking the English in Connecticut. They could have chosen not to go to war. They could have requested or demanded an apology and reparations for Endicott’s attack and tried to help the English capture the ones who had murdered Oldham. But they chose to obey their anger and start a war instead. And Sassacus joined the long, long list of Indian chiefs who lead their people to disaster.

Even then the Pequot could have chosen to capture as many English as possible and hold them as hostages until the English negotiated.

By the spring of 1637, thirty English had been killed, some brutally murdered, and the Puritans had to something – within reasonable limits, of course – to stop the Pequot raids.


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Posted 10/18/10
I'm not going to read this but lets just assume it should be in extended discussion.
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Posted 10/18/10
Uhm, copy pasting articles without further evaluating the content without even offering access to the source is..out of line, a bit. I guess. I mean, I'm not sure what you want to address, or discuss, though it surely was an interesting read.
killar 
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Posted 10/18/10

nanuq wrote:

Uhm, copy pasting articles without further evaluating the content without even offering access to the source is..out of line, a bit. I guess. I mean, I'm not sure what you want to address, or discuss, though it surely was an interesting read.


I agree.

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