Film Description

In March of 1621, in what is now southeastern Massachusetts, Massasoit, the leading sachem of the Wampanoag, sat down to negotiate with a ragged group of English colonists. Hungry, dirty, and sick, the pale-skinned foreigners were struggling to stay alive; they were in desperate need of Native help.

Massasoit faced problems of his own. His people had lately been decimated by unexplained sickness, leaving them vulnerable to the rival Narragansett to the west. The Wampanoag sachem calculated that a tactical alliance with the foreigners would provide a way to protect his people and hold his Native enemies at bay. He agreed to give the English the help they needed.

A half-century later, as a brutal war flared between the English colonists and a confederation of New England Indians, the wisdom of Massasoit’s diplomatic gamble seemed less clear. Five decades of English immigration, mistreatment, lethal epidemics, and widespread environmental degradation had brought the Indians and their way of life to the brink of disaster. Led by Metacom, Massasoit’s son, the Wampanoag and their Native allies fought back against the English, nearly pushing them into the sea.

Exclusive Corporate
Funding Provided by:
Liberty Mutual Insurance
Major Funding by:
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Additional Funding
Provided by:
American Experience