The longhouse was warm and smoky and the blizzard howled outside. A spitted loin of venison dripped grease into the hissing fire as Massasoit squatted and smoked his new pipe, a gift from the Williams who now sat across from him, draped in a bearskin and shivering uncontrollably.
The Williams was one of the few Europeans that Massasoit trusted. He liked his candor in council, especially how he stood up to the others about their rude behavior and greed.
“So tell me, friend,” said Massasoit, “what you did that enraged them enough to finally cast you out.”
“I called them priest bitches,” said the Williams. “They got up to be mad liars, trying to tie me down.”
The Williams was learning Wampanoag, though his word choices could be both shocking and hilarious. Massasoit suppressed a smile. “Yes, they are liars. We have seen this. But you are not a liar.”
What Pegman Saw: Rhode Island
Roger Williams was a puritan minister who sailed with his wife for the Massachusetts colony in 1631. Upon arrival, he immediately clashed with the colony’s religious leaders, decrying the hypocrisy in the way they dealt with the native peoples. Williams himself treated the Wampanoag fairly, trading English goods for furs and meat. He learned their language and respected them as fellow human beings, equal in stature to Europeans as God’s creatures. He became special friends with Wampanoag Sachem Massasoit. Williams wrote:
Boast not proud English of thy birth & blood
Thy brother Indian is by birth as Good.
Of one blood God made Him, and Thee & All,
As wise, as faire, as strong, as personall.
By natures wrath’s his portion, thine no more
Till grace his soule and thine in Christ restore
Make sure thy second birth, else thou shalt see,
Heaven ope to Indian, but shut to thee.
In 1635, the Salem Colonial council grew tired of his arguing and convicted Williams of sedition. They passed a sentence of deportation to be executed as soon as a ship was available.
Williams fled. In the depths of one of the coldest winters in recent memory, this city boy from London, made his escape on foot from Salem. The English settlements at Plymouth and Boston were closed to him, but a Wampanoag hunting party found him and gave him shelter before bringing him safely to Massasoit’s home near present-day Bristol.
Williams founded his own colony soon after, embodying many of the principles that became the guiding forces of the US Constitution.