March 15, 1621: Samoset meets the Pilgrims.
Samoset was the first Indian to make contact with the Pilgrims. He was an Abnaki, an Algonquin-speaking people that resided in south-east Maine. He was a sagamore of his tribe, and was visiting Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag--having been there for about eight months. He had learned some broken English from the English fisherman that came to fish off the coast of southeast Maine. The Pilgrims described Samoset: "He was a man free in speech, so far as he could express his mind, and of a seemly carriage . . . He was a tall straight man, the hair of his head black, long behind, only short before, none on his face at all." Samoset returned shortly thereafter to his homeland in Maine.
Beginning on Friday 16/26 of February 1621, the Plymouth colonists became increasingly aware of Indians in their proximity. On that day an unidentified Pilgrim had gone out fouling and, near a creek about a mile and a half from the plantation, twelve Indians passed near the place he was hiding. He rushed back to Plymouth and raised the alarm. Myles Standish and Francis Cooke, who had been working in the woods when the alarm went out, rushed back to the little community, leaving their tools behind them.
The colonists armed themselves and went back to the place where the Indians had been seen, but found none. In the evening, the men built a great fire near the place where the Indians had been seen.
The next day a meeting was called to establish military orders under the command of Myles Standish. While they were in consultation, two Indians appeared on a hill about half a mile from the colony. The colonists armed themselves and sent Myles Standish and Stephen Hopkins to meet them, but the Indians rushed away and the men heard the noise of a great many more behind the hill.
Alarmed by the presence of Indians and not knowing their intent, Master Jones came ashore with a number of his mariners, bringing one of their great guns (called a minion) and pulled it up the hill to the gun platform. They also took up another gun which had been resting on the shore and several smaller pieces of ordnance. Feeling a little more secure, the colonist went about the business of providing food and planting some of their garden seed.
On Friday, March 16/26, 1621, while the men were meeting to conclude the military orders, they were interrupted by the sudden appearance of Samoset in the village, which caused an alarm. Winslow reports "...he came all alone and along the houses straight to the Randevous, where we intercepted him, not suffering him to goe in, as undoubtedly he would, out of his boldnesse, he saluted us in English, and bad us well come, for he had learned some broken English amongst the English men that came to fish at Monchiggon, and he knew by name the most of the Captaines, Commanders, & Masters, that usually come, he was a man free in speech, so farre as he could expresse his mind, and of a seemely carriage. . .He said he was not of these parts, but of Moratiggon, and one of the Sagamores, or Lords thereof, and had been 8 moneths in these parts, it lying hence a dayes sayle with a great wind, and five dayes by land."
Samoset was an Abknaki who had come to Cape Cod from his tribal area in what is now southeastern Maine. The Abnaki were an Algonquin-speaking people as were all of the New England tribes. Therefore he was easily understood by the Nauset and Wampanoag people.
Samoset told the Pilgrims the Nausets were 100 strong, which was later confirmed by Winslow when a group of men went to Nauset territory in search of the lost John Billington.
These were the natives which the Pilgrims had encountered on one of their explorations of Cape Cod. Samoset reported: "They were much incensed against the English, and about eight moneths agoe slew three Englishmen and two more hardly escaped by flight to Monhiggon; they were Sir Ferdinando Gorge his men." The Nausets were "ill-affected towards English, by reason of one Hunt, a master of a ship, who deceived the people, and got them under colour of trucking with them, twentie out of this place where we inhabit [Plymouth], and seaven men from Nausites, and carried them away, and sold them for slaves, like a wretched man (for 20 pound a man) that cares not what he does for his profit."
Samoset was the first to tell the Pilgrims that their settlement of Plymouth was on the spot that the Indians once called Patuxet. He told them that a few years before, this tribe--along with several others--was swept away by a great plague "until in the whole Pokanoket country there were but five hundred Indians remaining alive."
After much questioning of Samoset Winslow continued: ". . .the wind beginning to rise a little, we cast a horseman's coat about him, for he was starke naked, onely a leather about his wast, with a fringe about a span long, or little more; he had a bow & 2 arrowes, the one headed, and the other unheaded; he was a tall straight man, the haire of his head blacke, long behind, onely short before, none on his face at all."
It was not until Samoset's third visit on 22 March 1621 that he brought along a friend--the last surviving native of Pautuxet--and introduced Squanto to the Pilgrim colonists.
Following these early entries, Samoset disappears from the records and nothing more has been learned about him.