Who was Massasoit and of what value was he to the pilgrims?

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kcoleman2016 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Who were the Wampanoag? Massasoit was a leader for the Wampanoag community when the Pilgrims first arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620. The Wampanoag traditional land stretched from Narragansett Bay (RI) to Cape Cod (MA), including Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Islands. In 1620, there were approximately 40 villages spread across this land, with a population around 12,000 Wampanoag total. 

Who was Massasoit? Massasoit was a leader among the Wampanoag who signed a treaty with the Pilgrims. This treaty signing occurred during a traumatizing era of Wampanoag history; they had just been through ten years of war with nearby tribes, and their population had been decimated by epidemics of disease that accompanied the arrival of Europeans in North American. The treaty that he signed gave the British pilgrims permission to settle approximately 12,000 acres of land, which eventually became the Plymouth plantation. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that Massasoit understood the full implications of this treaty, as native culture did not believe in owning land but in sharing it, unlike the British. 

How did he help the pilgrims? He gave them their land with a document that they considered legal and binding. He also celebrated the first "Thanksgiving" with the Pilgrims, although this proved to be a little premature, and he then had to help the settlement not starve over the winter. 

Read the study guide:
History of Plymouth Plantation

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