Thursday, March 1, 2012
Deep in the winter of 1622, the English settlers of the Plymouth colony were having a difficult time establishing friendly relations with the neighboring Native American tribes. Trade and friendship flourished between the English and Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag tribe; the two settlements enjoyed the traditional "first Thanksgiving" feast in the autumn of 1621.
However, the larger and more warlike Narragansett tribe, who lived on the islands at the mouth of what is now called Narragansett Bay, was prepared for war. In the winter of 1622, the Narragansett chief Canonicus sent a runner to deliver a message to Plymouth Governor William Bradford; the message consisted of a quiver full of arrows, wrapped in a snakeskin. It was explained to Bradford that the item was symbolic; just as a snake would issue both a warning of its attack and a threat of its deadliness by use of its rattle, so was Canonicus at once warning and threatening Bradford of a coming war with the Narragansett in the Spring. Bradford, entirely unimpressed, returned the runner to Canonicus with a message of his own: it was the same quiver and the same snakeskin, only he had replaced the arrows with gunpowder and bullets. Canonicus decided ultimately not to attack; they and the English became friends, and enjoyed a peace treaty that lasted for more than 50 years.
Links and Sources:
"The First Thanksgiving" by Jason Couch, in Martial History Magazine, June 2009.
Eminent Americans, Comprising Brief Biographies of Leading Statesmen, Patriots, Orators and Others, Men and Women, Who Have Made American History. by Benjamin J Lossing, John B. Alden publishers, 1886.
Of Plymouth Plantation: Along with the Full Text of the Pilgrims' Journals for Their First Year at Plymouth, by William Bradford, edited by Caleb Johnson, XLibris, 2006.