We had lunch at a church in Plymouth, Massachusetts today. We walked through a torrential downpour and winds that approached 30 mph. When we arrived we walked down near the water to the spot where the pilgrims landed in 1620. The legend is that when they got off their boat they prayed at a huge rock that today has a big-pillared shrine around it. During the lunch one man, a former Navy submarine captain and now a member of Veterans for Peace, told us that the “rock is a crock”. For those of you not familiar with that expression – crock means a pile of shit. The story was made up to build themystique about the pilgrims.
By the time we got to the church in Plymouth my waterproof shoes were full of water and my socks were dripping wet. My waterproof pants were wet inside and my long underwear were wet. I changed and stuffed my shoes with paper to help dry them out. After lunch we walked about five more miles in the rain to a church in Duxbury and by the time we got here I had even more water in my shoes and my leather gloves were full of water. Some cars would slow down as they approached us along the road knowing that the huge water puddles alongside the road would splash us if they drove fast. But some cars and trucks plowed right into the puddles sending a stream of water onto our already wet bodies as we walked down the road. I spent alotof time trying to work out in my mind how people could be so cruel. Anyone who has been driving for more than one week knows what happens when you zoom thru standing water on a street.Last night we slept on the floor in the home of a woman named Mother Bear who is a Wampanoag leader on Cape Cod. We first met her at the Old Indian Meeting House in Mashpee which has recently been renovated. This simple church is a living testimony of the native people’s effort to keep their culture intact through all the years of adversity. Mother Bear served us one of the best clam chowders I’ve ever eaten.
Her home is like an Indian museum. When you walk in the door weaved baskets hang from the ceiling and photos of Wampanoagpeople in traditional dress are all over the walls in virtually every room. A bear skin rug, with the head attached, was sitting on a chair and a large animal hide hung over the fireplace with Mother Bear’s family tree etched into the smooth side.
On the wall in the dining room was a large map (1877) of the town ofMashpee and if you looked carefully you could see the town divided into 60 acre plots with the names of natives in each of the plots. Mother Bear told us that the land was given to each member of the tribe so they could have a community where their culture could be preserved. But then the state of Massachusetts mandated that they form an official town charter which required them to begin collecting property taxes. Most of the Indians could not pay the taxes and over time they lost their lands as white people bought up the tracts. At one time the Wampanoag controlled all the elected offices in Mashpee but now that is all gone as the dominant white population has taken over the town and built condos and shopping centers.
These same kinds of things happened on Indian reservations throughout the country as the whites always found a way to take lands set aside for the native people.
I did not know the story about Plymouth rock being a phony until today but it did not surprise to me at all. So much of our history in this country is illusion and public relations. This is just one more important example.