Historical accuracy

The first movie is called “A Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of The Mayflower”. It tells sthe story of Pilgrims who decide to emigrate to the young America in the 17th century because of the persecution they suffer by the English crown. It is told throught the writings of a man who lived it, William Bradford. The story begins 13 years before the initial voyage in Scrooby, England. In the first scene, William Bradford is taking part of a secret meeting held at Scrooby Manor, where John Robinson and William Brewster are speaking to their congregation about their upcoming plans of immigration. The meeting is interrupted by a knock on the door, and all the members flee to hide. It is said in the movie that their secret meetings were against the law, but in the movie we didn’t see the imprisonment of many members of the congregation. Brewster was also found guilty of being “disobedient in matters of religion” and was fined. Many of the members were under constant watch by those loyal to the archbishop of York, who also wasn’t mentioned in the movie. By 1617, they had  emigrated to Netherlands and a second meeting was held in Leiden, where William Bradford brought out the idea of sailing to America. They knew America wasn’t unpeopled and had stereotypical thoughts about the Natives, thinking they were cannibalistic savages who need to hear the word of God. Despite the terrifying expectations, they managed to set sail to Plymouth on July 23, 1620. When arriving in England, they saw the enormous ship that would take them to America, the Mayflower. After the departure, the two ships ‘’Speedwell’’ and ‘’Mayflower’’ spent around 7 days sailing around the southern coast of England. Not soon after, Speedwell started leaking in water, which resulted in the turning back of the ships not once, but two times. In the film, we saw about 20 passengers getting off the ship accompanied by the ships master for a fear of death in America. After that, Speedwell was sold which wasn’t mentioned. Because of the delay caused by the leaky Speedwell, the Mayflower had to cross the Atlantic at the height of storm season and lots of people from the Speedwell boarded the Mayflower, which led to overcrowding. The movie lacked descripitions of some of the famous seamen that were also taking part of the voyage, like John Allerton, Thomas English and William Trevore. What I found weird about the movie was the sudden change of environment from approaching the land of North America to scenes of the already established settlement in New Plymouth. The movie completely skipped the long and harsh winter, during which the passengers remained on board the Mayflower and suffered from an outbreak of diseases such as scruvy, pneumonia and tubercolosis. When it ended, only half of the passengers remained. Stepping a foot on the shore, the movie showed a Native American named Squanto help the Pilgrims to plant corn and catch fish. The movie dodged the building of the first settlement and the struggles that came along with gaining trust of the Native Americans and a spread of disease. After making peace with the Indians, they began gathering food for a harvest that was seen as a sign of accomplishment by God. A feast was held as a celebration and the food on the table was quite accurate to what was available at that time. Bradford continued to hold great relations with the Massasoit tribe and they signed a treaty of alliance on March 22,1621. The movie didn’t emphasise the importance of the Massasuit tribe to the Plyomuth Colony, as they helped with the starvation that the Pilgrims faced during the earliest years of the colony’s establishment.

Visual Portrayal

The picture represents the horrible and cruel passage of the mayflower on the stormy waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Throughout the journey, huge waves were constantly crashing against the ship’s topside deck. One stormy night, one of the bigger waves broke the main support beam which was the key component that kept the ship structured together. Luckily, it was repaired with the use of a metal jackscrew, which had been loaded on board to help in the construction of settler homes. Overall, the ship was strongly constructed and heavily armed. It was 100 feet long, 25 feet wide and a cargo capacity of 180 tons. It also carried seven cannons and three smaller guns for protection against the Native Americans and other invaders.

Notions

Origin of Native Americans

There are many theories as to who are the ancestors of Native Americans. The first theory depicts that the first humans migrated from Asia to the Americas, crossing over a land bridge during the last ice age.

More than 15 000 years ago, paleolithic hunter-gatherers entered North-America from the North Asian Mammoth steppe via the Beringia land bridge, which had formed due to the lowering of the sea level.

With the availability of the land bridge, the newly indigenous people expanded rapidly throughout North and South America. The earliest populations to settle in the Americas are known as Paleo-Indians.

The second theory called the “Coastal Migration Theory” contends that the first Americans migrated from Northwest Asia along the northern Pacific coastline of North America in either rafts or some kind of boats. According to this theory, these coastal migrants eventually moved inland as the glacial ice sheet melted and opened up access routes to the continental interior of North America.

This map depicts the possible coastal route to the Americas during the late glacial period

Different tribes and their way of life

By the time Europeans arrived in the Americas, there were perhaps 4-6 million people already living there.At around 5000 BCE, the domestication of corn allowed different societies to develop across the Americas. Around 150 different American Indian tribes were formed and in order to keep track of those diverse groups, historians have divided them into “culture areas” or groupings of people who shared similar habitats and characteristics. There are 10 different culture areas where societies have developed around their natural environments, using the resources that were available to them. In the Southwest, Plains and Great Basin, the climate was quite dry and tribes were usually nomadic, following herds of animals in easy-to-build teepees. People in the Southwest, like the Puebloans, dealt with the dry climate by creating complex irrigation systems to water corn crops and lived in large cave complexes to grow their population. In the Northwest, fishing was a major component of their daily activities. While fishing in the Pacific Ocean gave Indians plenty of food, farming was also necessary to develop large settlements like Cahokia, which held around 25 000-40 000 residents. The East Coast natives relied mostly on three-sister farming, in which people planted corn, beans and squash together, which provided a nutritious diet for the locals.

The Legend Of Pocahontas

Pocahontas was a Powhatan Native American woman known for her involvement with English colonial settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. She was the favourite daughter of Chief Powhatan and saved the life of Englishman John Smith, by placing her head upon his own at the moment of his execution. After that incident, she was seen as a sign of peace to the English and held great relations with them. In 1613, Captain Samuel Argall kidnapped Pocahontas and held her captive for the return of stolen weapons and English prisoners held by her father. After the capture, she was brought to England, where she married a colonist named John Rolfe, converted to christianity and changed her name to Rebecca. Pocahontas died of an unexpected illness while visiting England in 1617. She was buried at St. George’s Church on March 21, 1617. The incident showed, that native Americans could be civilized and converted to Christianity.

Portrait of Pocahontas.

Northwest Ordinance of 1787 

The Northwest Ordinance was a declaration adopted by the Confederation Congress in July 13. It created the Northwest Territory, which was the first organized territory in the US. It chartered a government for the Northwest Territory, provided a method for admitting new states to the Union and listed a bill of rights guaranteed in the territory. It followed the principles outlined by Thomas Jefferson in the Ordinance of 1784. It also encouraged education and was the first territory to forbid slavery.

Indian Removal act of 1830

 The document was signed by President Andrew Jackson. It stated that Southern Native American tribes were removed to federal territory west of the Mississippi River in exchange for white settlement of their ancestral lands. The act discriminated against an ethnic group to the point of death of vast numbers of its population. Many Americans during this time favoured the acts passage, but there was also significant opposition. It was strongly supported in the South, especially in Georgia. President Jackson hoped that removal would resolve the Georgia crisis. Many Christian missionaries protested it, most notably missionary organizer Jeremiah Evarts, but the Removal Act passed only after bitter debate in Congress.

Trail of Tears – series of forced relocations of Native Americans in the United States from their ancestral homelands in the Southeastern United States to areas to the west that had been designated as Indian Territory. 

Map of the route of the Trail of Tears
The forced march of the tribe Cherokee to the Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma).

Reservations

Tracks of land for Native Americans to live on as white settlers took over their land. There are approximately 310 Indian reservations in the United States although there are more than 550 federally recognized tribes.

Main goals:

– To bring Native Americans under U.S. government control

– To minimize conflict between Indians and settlers

– To encourage Native Americans to take on the ways of the white man 

After being forced off their native lands, many American Indians found life to be difficult. Nomadic tribes lost their entire means of subsistence by being constricted to a defined area. Farmers found themselves with land unsuitable for agriculture.

Indian Citizenship Act 1924

– proposed by Homer P. Snyder

– granted full US citizenship to all Native Americans born within the territorial limits of the country.

– Before the Civil war, citizenship was often limited to Native Americans of one-half or less Indian blood.

– It was enacted partially in recognition of the thousands of Indians who served in the armed forces during the First World War

Trail of Broken Treaties 1972

Trail of Broken Treaties was a cross-country protest by American Indian organizations. It was designed to bring attention to American Indian issues, living standards and inadequate housing. The largest gathering ever of American Indians presenting their hopes began on the west coast and ended in Washington DC, just before the presidential election. As it traveled across the country, the caravan grew, numbering several hundred when it arrived in the capital.

Present Situation

Today,  567 federally-recognized American Indian tribes reside in the United States and fall under the umbrella of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The BIA is responsible for improving their quality of life and providing them with economic opportunities. Health care is provided through Indian Health Services. However, there are also many problem in the reservations. Housing is overcrowded and the Indians are living below standards, many people live in poverty. Many health problems like heart disease, diabetes, as well as alcohol and drug abuse are common. Despite its challenges then and now, Native Americans continue to hold on to their heritage and thrive as a community.

Jamestown colony

In 1606, King James ordered the Virginia Company to form a settlement in North America to search for gold and silver deposits and find a river route to the Pacific Ocean.

On May 14, 1607, a group of 100 colonists of the Virginia Company founded the first permanent English settlement in North America on the banks of the James River. First two years were filled with famine, disease and conflict with the locals, until a new group of settlers arrived in 1610.

This picture represents three ships anchored on the James river as early settlers carry lumber to build the walls of the fort at Jamestown, Virginia.

Surviving the first years:  By the summer of 1607, Newport went back to England with two ships and 40 crew members to give a report to the king and to gather more supplies and colonists. The settlers left behind suffered from hunger and illnesses, as well as constant threat of attack by members of local Algonquian tribes. After the marriage of colonist John Rolfe and Pocahontas came a period of peace. The Native Americans traded corn for beads, metal tools and weapons from the English. After Smith returned to England in late 1609, the inhabitants of Jamestown suffered through a long, harsh winter, during which more than 100 of them died. By early 1610, 80-90% of the settlers had died due to starvation and disease.

The marriage of Pocahontas and John Rolfe

Population: By 1699 there were around 60 000 people in the Virginia colony, including about 6000 african slaves

Plantations: Brits learned from the Native Americans how to harvest corn, and by the fall of 1611 they had harvested a decent amount of corn themselves. In 1614 a tobacco planter John Rolfe introduced a new type of tobacco and the Brits started to grow tobacco which made Jamestown’s economy thrive.

Import of slaves: In 1619 the first African slaves arrived in Jamestown, their job was to pick tobacco. Their presence opened the door for Virginia to accept the institution of slavery. Jamestown had started a tradition of slavery that would endure in America for generations

The arrival of Africans in the Jamestown Settlement in August 1619


Mayflower and Pilgrim Fathers

Pilgrim Fathers were members of the English Separatist Church (a radical faction of Puritanism). They fled the Protestant England because of religious intolerance during the reign of James I to establish the second English colony in the New World. They wanted to practice their religion freely while maintaining their English identity. They had earlier fled to Leiden, the Netherlands, to escape persecution at home. But they wanted more religious freedom and because of that they negotiated with a London stock company to finance a pilgrimage to America. Approximately two-thirds of the passengers on the Mayflower were non-Separatists, who were hired to protect the company’s interests. They became known as the Pilgrim Fathers 2 centuries after their arrival, they were initially referred to as the Old Comers and later as the Forefathers. Mayflower was the ship that carried Pilgrims from England to Plymouth. It’s estimated that the ship weighed about 180 tons and was 27 meters long.

Mayflower Compact

The Mayflower Compact was a set of rules for self-governance established by the English settlers who travelled to the New World on the Mayflower. At first they wanted to sail to the northern Virginia, but because of storms and treacherous shoals they landed in Massachusetts, near Cape Cod, outside of Virginia’s jurisdiction instead. Because they knew that life without laws would be catastrophic, they created the Mayflower Compact to ensure that the functioning social structure would prevail.

Pilgrims signing the Mayflower Compact

Puritan Colony in Plymouth, New England

In 1620 December around 100 English settlers landed on the shores of Cape Cod. They formed the first permanent settlement of Europeans in New England. More than half the settlers died during the first winter but the survivors were able to secure peace treaties with neighboring Native American tribes. Though the Separatists were a the group, they formed its powerful center, and controlled entirely the colony’s government during its first 40 years. Thanks to the successful peace treaties, the settlers were able to build a viable settlement for themselves instead of guarding themselves against the attacks. Agriculture, fishing and trading helped to make the colony self-sufficient within 5 years.

Puritan ethics and ideology

Puritan ethic is the value attached to hard work, thrift, and efficiency in one’s worldly calling. Richard Baxter, English Puritan Church leader, said “Promise not long life to yourselves, but live as those that are always uncertain of another day.” For the Puritans was important to “redeem the time”, that meant to order one’s daily life in accordance with godly principles and for maximum effectiveness. Puritans put God first and valued everything else in relation to God. Puritan ideology: When Puritans had settled in the New England they had only one goal in mind: to regain closeness to God and start a New Eden in the Americas. This was to be accomplished by adopting a simple life and rejecting worldliness.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving dates back to November 1621, when the newly arrived Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians gathered at Plymouth for an autumn harvest celebration. The original feast in 1621 occurred sometime between September 21 and November 11 and unlike our modern holiday, it was three days long.  Thanksgiving, which occurs on the fourth Thursday in November, continues to be a day for Americans to gather for a day of feasting, football and family.

The first Thanksgiving feast

Religious issues (freedom):

By law everybody was supposed to belong to the Church of England. William Laud (the Archbishop of Canterbury) and Charles I were strongly opposed to the Puritans and wanted to suppress them.

Europeans came to America to escape religious oppression and forced beliefs by the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England. That civil unrest fueled the desire to establish the organization of a country where church and state are separate. The splintering of Christianity resulted in more than 900 denominations of that faith currently existing in the United States.

Before Europeans came to America, native people believed in the Great spirit, who could be found in animals or inanimate objects. As white colonists drew Indians into reservations, their religious beliefs increased, even when Christian missionaries affected their practices.

Quakers

The Quaker Movement or the Religious Society of Friends was founded in England in the 17th century by George Fox. He and other early Quakers, were persecuted for their beliefs, which included the idea that the presence of God exists in every person. Quakers rejected elaborate religious ceremonies, didn’t have official clergy (religious leaders) and believed in spiritual equality for men and women. Quaker missionaries first arrived in America in the mid-1650s. Quakers, who practice pacifism (the belief that war is wrong), played a key role in the Abolition (the official end of slavery in the US) and women’s rights movements.

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