January / February

Massasoit and his advisors discussed what action towards the Pilgrims would be best for their people. They considered the advice Squantum had given them. The Pilgrims were not in good condition. They were living in dirt-covered shelters, there was a shortage of food, and nearly half of them had died during the winter. The wheat the Pilgrims had brought with them to plant would not grow in the rocky soil. Because Massasoit and his people were watching the Pilgrims closely, they realized the Pilgrims were weak and had suffered deaths and losses. Massasoit knew that the weakness of the Pilgrims would be to his advantage if he were to make contact with them.

At the end of the winter, Massasoit and his people decided to send Samoset and/or Squantum to talk with the English. They both spoke English, and they were not Pokanokets. If they were killed or taken captive, the Pokanokets would suffer no loss. They would know that the Englishmen were treacherous, and they would take offensive action.

Ultimately Massasoit decided to send only Samoset to greet the Pilgrims because did not want to chance losing both of them and he did not want to risk sending Squantum, who was his best translator.


On March 16, 1621 Samoset walked up to a group of Englishmen and said "Welcome Englishman! Welcome Englishman!" "Mourt's Relation" describes Samoset's arrival as follows:

    "He very boldly came all alone and along the houses strait to the rendezvous where we intercepted him, not suffering him to go in as undoubtedly he would out of his boldness...He had a bow and two arrows; the one headed the other unheaded...He asked some beer, but we gave him strong water, and biscuit and butter and cheese and piece of a mallard; all which he liked well. He told us the place we now live in is called Patuxet, and that about 4 years ago all the inhabitants died of an extraordinary plague and there is neither man, woman nor child remaining, as indeed we have found none.1"

The bow with two arrows, one with an arrowhead and the other without, had great significance. It was a symbolic gesture, offering war or peace. It is unclear if the Pilgrims recognized the symbolic importance.

He told them that his name was Samoset. He told them of another Indian called Squantum, a native of Patuxet, who had been in England and could speak better English than himself. He was able to tell them this area was not his home, but that he had been living there for the past 8 months. He said he came from the eastern parts at Monhiggon, which was a day's sailing and five days' journey by land from where they were. English ships sailed to fish in that area, so he knew the names most of the men who were usually the captains, commanders, and masters of those ships. From them he had learned broken English. He told the Pilgrims about his home and the people who lived there, their names, number and strength, how far away they were, and who their sachems or chiefs were.

Pilgrim Man Working
Pilgrims Gave Samoset Items of Clothing

On Saturday, March 17, 1621, Samoset left the people of Plymouth, promising soon to return and to bring men from Massasoit to trade with them in skins.

Sunday, March 18, 1621, Samoset returned accompanied by five other men. The Pilgrims would not trade with the Indians that day because it was their Sabbath or Sunday. Samoset was sick or pretended to be sick and stayed with then until Wednesday. When he left they gave him a hat, a pair of stockings and shoes, a shirt and a piece of cloth to tie about his waist.

When Samoset returned to Pokanoket, he displayed the presents he got from the English. Massasoit was pleased and decided to visit the English himself. He decided that it was safe to send both Samoset and Squantum with few articles of trade, and to allow them to reveal that their great sachem, Massasoit, was near.


1.Mourt's Relation which was written mainly Edward Winslow (although William Bradford appears to have written the descriptions above) between November 1620 and November 1621. It was first published in London in 1622, presumably by George Morton (hence the title, Mourt's Relation).

March 22, 1921
Peace Treaty

On Thursday, March 22, Massasoit with his retinue of 60 men approached the English site from south of the brook. He told Samoset and Squantum to bring the English to him as he waited on a hill.

Samoset and Squantum went to meet with the Pilgrims to make arrangements for Massasoit's arrival. Squantum pleased them because he could speak English much better than Samoset. He told them that Massasoit wanted to meet their leader.

The Pilgrims were unwilling to send their governor, John Carver, to meet Massasoit, and Massasoit was unwilling to come them. Squantum went back to Massasoit, who suggested that the Pilgrims send one man to meet with him.

The Pilgrims sent Edward Winslow to bring greetings from King James and a message of peace from the governor explaining that the Pilgrims wanted only trading and peace. He brought Massasoit a pair of knives and a copper chain with a jewel in it. To his brother Quadequina he brought a knife, and a jewel to hang in his ear. Edward Winslow brought a pot of strong water, a good quantity of biscuit and some butter. Massasoit showed interest in the messenger's sword and armor and intimated that he wanted buy them; but Edward Wisnlow did not want to part with his belongings.

Edward Winslow told Massasoit that Governor Carver wanted to meet him. They agreed Massasoit would take 20 of his men without bows and arrows to the village. Winslow stayed behind to ensure Massasoit's safety. Captain Miles Standish held 7 Indians in the village as hostages to ensure Winslow's safety. Massasoit left Winslow in the custody of Quadequina his brother and crossed the brook with the 20 men who had left their bows and arrows behind.

As Massasoit proceeded towards the village, the Pilgrims met him with six soldiers, followed by the English governor with a drummer and a trumpeter. The Governor met him and bowed and kissed his hand. Massasoit's party was conducted to a new house that was partly finished, and a green rug was spread on the floor. After greetings, they all sat down. Massasoit shared a pipe of tobacco and Governor Carver drank to Massasoit with a glass of strong water (probably brandy). Massasoit also drank, perhaps unaware that the strong water could affect his understanding. Squantum was the interpreter for both sides.

From Treaty with the Indians by Botkin
found on the Pilgrims Hall Museum Web Site

They signed a treaty of peace. Massasoit signed for his people and the Pilgrims signed as emissaries of the great English sachem, or King James. The treaty agreed to the following points:

  • That neither he nor any of his should injure or do hurt to any of their people.
  • That if any of his did hurt to any of theirs, he should send the offender, that they might punish him.
  • That if anything were taken away from any of theirs, he should cause it to be restored; and they should do the like to his.
  • If any did unjustly war against him, they would aid him; if any did war against them, he should aid them.
  • He should send to his neighbors confederates to certify them of this, that they might not wrong them, but might be likewise comprised in the conditions of peace.
  • That when their men came to them, they should leave their bows and arrows behind them.2

The treaty lasted for over fifty years.

After signing the treaty, Massasoit was so pleased with the work of Samoset and Squantum that he granted them thier freedom. Samoset returned to his homeland in Maine. Squantum , who probably knew more English than any other Indian in North America at that time, decided to stay with the Pilgrims as the colony's chief interpreter and agent in their interaction with all Indians.

2. Treaty with the Indians (1621) William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation, c.1650, found on The Modern History Source Book Site.