6 Myths About The Pilgrims Debunked

jjron, GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html>, via Wikimedia Commons

1. The Pilgrims were the first to arrive in Southern New England.

False. The story that most of us have been told is that when the pilgrims arrived in 1690 on the shores of Massachusetts on the Mayflower, they were the first Europeans to step foot there. That is false. Due to historic records, we know that the Europeans have been coming and going to New England since the 1400s. There is even proof that an Italian explorer made contact with the natives in 1524 and traded with them.

Moreover, by 1620 when the pilgrims arrived in New England, the slave trade was going strong and a number of Native Americans already spoke English, most likely due to escaping from slavery or being returned to the area. Thinking of it, there was no other way the pilgrims could have communicated with the natives, so they hopefully considered themselves lucky.

 2. The Mayflower Ship always wanted to debark at Plymouth Rock.

False. What would end up being called the Plymouth Colony was never meant to settle at Plymouth in the first place. Their arrival at Plymouth Rock is actually their second landing as they first dropped anchor in the now Provincetown. They quickly ran away from the local indigenous tribe, who, scared of what they knew the Europeans could do, chased them away.

They set sail again and ended up in Cape Cod at Plymouth and discovered an almost abandoned Wampanoag village. The natives moved camp away from the coast due to the harsh December winter, something that the pilgrims were not prepared for. They mostly lived on the ship until the houses were built in 1621. Which was not part of their initial plan, but due to complications and a dangerous voyage they settled for this part of New England.

3. The indigenous people with whom the pilgrims first came in contact are extinct.

False. The indigenous group is called Mashpee Wampanoag and they are part of the initial 69 tribes that once formed the Wampanoag nations. They still live in Massachusetts and part of Rhode Island and have about 2,600 citizens. Fortunately, they’re one of the three that survived. They endured centuries of disease, persecutions, starvation, and war, but they survived and are a federally recognized tribe.

If you live in the Mashpee, MA area and you want to know more, consider paying a visit to the Mashpee Wampanoag Museum.

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