Having arrived at Cape Cod in November 1620, the Pilgrims proceed to explore their new home, under the command of Captain Standish. On November 15th, a group of armed Pilgrims ventures inland, where they see a group of Indian “savages.” The Pilgrims try to speak to the Indians, but they run away. That night, the Pilgrims discover a river leading to an Indian community. There, they find corn and beans, which they take, intending to “give full satisfaction” to the Indians when next they meet. They thank God for providing them with food.
This is another example of how Bradford may have twisted to truth to paint the Pilgrims in a favorable light. The Pilgrims are armed and, it must be admitted, dangerous, but Bradford insists that they behaved peacefully and tried to talk to the Native Americans. They also steal food from the Native Americans, though Bradford excuses their actions by claiming pure intentions. It’s impossible to know for sure how the Pilgrims really behaved around the Native Americans, but they were probably less virtuous than Bradford claims here.
In early December, a small squad of Pilgrims sails around Cape Cod. During this mission, the Pilgrims see a group of Indians fishing, but don’t make contact with them. At night, the Pilgrims hear cries in the distance, which the sailors believe probably come from wolves. They shoot their muskets into the air, and the cries cease. The next morning, the Pilgrims prepare to return to the boat—but they are attacked by Indians. Though many of the Pilgrims are unarmed, the Indians attack them with arrows. The few Pilgrims with muskets fire back. The Pilgrims kill several Indians, and not one of the Pilgrims is hit with an arrow. The Pilgrims call the attack area “The First Encounter.”
According to Bradford, the “savage Indians” attack the Pilgrims before the Pilgrims attack the Indians. Whether or not this is true (Bradford could have lied in an effort to idealize the Pilgrims), it’s telling that the first contact between Pilgrims and Native Americans was a shootout. Clearly, the Pilgrims were more aggressive and less pacifistic than Bradford likes to claim. Clearly their brand of Christianity does not preclude violence.
The Pilgrims next proceed to sail around the coast, until they find a harbor for the ship to dock. Inland, they find cornfields and small brooks, suggesting that the area would be perfect for a colony. By Christmas, the pilgrims have built a storehouse.
The Pilgrims claim New England land for themselves—an act that could reasonably be construed as theft from the Native Americans, but is seen as a victory for the colonists. On this note, Book One ends.