From History of Plymouth Plantation, examine some of the settlers' hardships in terms of relations with Native Americans and what was done to handle these challenges.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bradford details the epic struggle of the settlers into the New World. Some of these hardships were experienced on the voyage from England, itself. Hardships such as "the fast and furious ocean" and "the sea of troubles" were not examples of hyperbole.  They represented the exact nature of both voyage and settling into the new world.  Interacting with the Native Americans represented one more challenge or hardship.  It also provided a glimpse into how Bradford perceives the settlers in the way they handled or addressed this challenge.

Bradford initially presents the interactions with Native Americans as a fundamental challenge that magnified the hardships that the settlers faced. His initial description of the Native American community is one that shows the settlers under a state of constant siege from "the other:"

All this while the Indians came skulking about them, and would sometimes show themselves aloof off, but when any approached near them, they would run away; and once they stole away their tools where they had been at work and were gone to dinner.

Theft, covert operations against the settlers, and the idea of "skulking about them" shows the challenges that the settlers had to face in addressing life with the Native Americans.  

Bradford suggests that the cooperative spirit of the settlers is what enables them to handle the challenges that Native Americans posed.  It is consistent with the theme that Bradford had demonstrated throughout the text.  The spirit of cooperation and collaboration, driven by a perceived Christian tendency towards charity, is what enables the settlers to navigate and eventually triumph over challenge and adversity. It is the defining element behind Bradford's retelling of the Mayflower Compact.  This same element is present in how the challenge of Native Americans was navigated.  Bradford speaks of the terms that the settlers forged with Squanto and his leaders in order to find peace between both sides.  This spirit of cooperation allowed a period of peace and prosperity to enable the settlers to endure challenging times and eventually triumph over them:  "After these thing he returned to his place called Sowams, some 40 miles from this place, but Squanto continued with them and was their interpreter and was a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation."  It is interesting to note that Bradford's narrative in terms of how the challenge of Native Americans was navigated refers to how other Europeans came to enslave them: "He we carried away with divers others by one Hunt, a master of a ship, who thought to sell them for slaves in Spain."  Bradford is able to paint a picture of settler reasonability in forging agreements with Native Americans, along with issues of chance and luck benefitting the settlers in their interactions with the indigenous "other."

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History of Plymouth Plantation

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