Sunday, 1 November 2009

“So Must We Be One... Otherwise We Shall Be All Gone Shortly”

This account was written by Lion Gardiner, an English military engineer who monitored the construction of a fort in Connecticut in 1635 and settled in Long Island in 1639.

In the Pequot War of 1637, Connecticut settlers massacred the Pequot Indians and Gardiner, who had advised against engaging with the Pequots, left Connecticut in 1639 and settled in Long Island. There he lived on Gardiner's Island, which he brought from his friend Wyandanch, the chief of the Montaukett tribe. Miantonomi, the chief of the Narragasett tribe who were rival of the Montauketts, came to Long Island in the early 1640s to create an alliance with the Montauketts against the English. After contacting the leaders of Connecticut for help, Gardiner and Wyandanch succeeded in stopping the plan and Miantonomi was captured and executed.

Gardiner explains "And now I am old, I would fain die a antural death, or like a soldier in the field, with honor and not to have a sharp stake set in the ground, and thrust into my fundament, and to have my skin flayed off by piece-metal, and cut in pieces and bits, and my flesh roasted and thrust down my throat, as these people have done, and I know will be done to the chiefest in the country by hundreds, if God should deliver usinto their hands, as justly he may for our sins". Not surprisingly he negatively refers to the Indians as barbaric here yet he admits that he deserves to be brutally killed as that would be God's punishment for his "sins". This is likely to be a reference to when he and his fellow Connecticut settlers massacred the Pequot Indians. He again alludes to God when he states "if the Lord be not more merciful to us for our extreme pride and base security". By aiding the massacre of the Indians for selfish reasons, Gardiner knew he had sinned and in documenting this he was effectively asking for mercy and forgiveness from God.

Gardiner then begins to convey a sense of unity between he and the tribes: "calling them bretheren and friends, for so we are we all Indians as the English are, and say brother to one another; so must we be one as they are, otherwise we shall be all gone shortly". He is not judgemental of the Indians and respects their mild manner away from battle. His admiration for their land is apparent when he describes it in a fairer light than England's: "our fathers had plenty of deer and skins, our plains were full of deer, as also our woods, and of turkies, and our coves full of fish and fowl. But these Enlgish having gotten our land, they with scythes cut down the grass, and with axes fell the trees; their cows and horses eat the grass, and their hogs spoil our clam banks, and we shall all be starved". Ultimately, Gardiner cherished the land he settled in but is remourseful about how he achieved it.

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