Chapter 7

Mystical Massacre


Military enterprises are the most effective means of keeping a people occupied, for nothing arouses their interest so much as an important war….Everyone who is able is ready to play his part either in council or in action, and all discontent is vented on the common enemy. The rest of the people either follow the camp to bring supplies, and to perform other necessary services, or remain at home to offer prayers and vows to God for ultimate victory; or, at least are so stirred by expectation and by news of the progress of the war that there is no place for thoughts of revolt in their minds. In thought or in deed, everyone is preoccupied by the war.

—Botero, “Discourse Upon the Means of Well-Governing” (1577/1608), in Hale 21

Not one person for a stone in Jerusalem.

—An Israeli grandmother during a televised political protest


The traditions of The Pequot War are laced with departures from histories, and the histories are laced with departures from the realities demanded in military histories. If they scarcely describe what happened, they cannot guide anyone to victory. They seem to be instead a sacred tantrum of frustrated wishes for imperial domination: sacred because crucial to the colonizers’ fantasies of themselves, and because they are not to be questioned, so convenient are they to self-gratification at the expense of other peoples.

This did not prevent the captains’ chronicles and writings after them from becoming important blueprint for United States colonial expansion westward, a new integument of “progress” confined within a human history now called Before and After Jesus. This war’s paradigms—ignorance of the land, childish “savages,” innocent and all-conquering white men with guns, The Bible to hold it together and bless each windfall of others’ wealth—appeared to “work” wherever the violence of total war could make them seem to. The short-term rewards of murder outlive the men who commit it, but their children inherit wealth that blinds conscience to the facts (the only hope of healing) and makes them sick with its injustice.

None of it proves the heroes’ methods, however convenient and compelling. It condemns their children to keep running away from “daemons” (mistakes with consequences) unrecognized, until now and then, the speaking world and the presence of “others” demand they face facts. Conditioned (socialized, educated and rewarded) for looking anywhere but within themselves for causes, the builders of empire follow our captains at Mystic. Inevitably faced with the “empty” truth, they burn and kill their way out and swear that, by God, they’re in control. God, of course, never shows up with confirmation; but wealth and silence will serve until He does.

There is no honorable point in history kept separate from how the living live. This tradition stems from a root before Mystic: a fantasy of Plimoth Plantation’s Captain Myles Standish as American frontier-expert, qualified to train new generations of colonizers to conquer another fantasy: “empty land.” The short- tempered “little chimney’s” results and his “trainband’s” more-oblivious ones prove him an intercultural hazard. Standish got the job and glory because his mercenary methods matched the real desires of Puritan and later colonizers. The Pequots, paradigms too, traded space for time against their invaders’ needless savagery and, as we see in Connecticut today, their alliances with the larger “real world” have brought them through to new thresholds of hope. They literally danced in the flames of oppression, and were not forgotten by other peoples outside the books who later confronted holy progress and holocaust.

The colony, born of a Puritan social form called the corporation, goes about its business of globalization with its wishes and methods the same from Mystic to Wounded Knee and contemporary times. Very little seems likely to change such profitable convenience except a catastrophe so severe that denial is no longer an option. As Mather intended with his Biblical warning on Mason’s first page, “This shall be written for the generations to come, and the people. ..shall praise The Lord.” This indeed means Us. “These issues are not merely about people who died long ago or about things disconnected from the present. Rather, they are about past-present relations” (Rubertone xv).

The traditions not vindicated in Cave’s The Pequot War alert us to other value in his work: a chance to wake up and break out. Cave shows us afresh the Puritans’ literal belief in The Bible as an American political guide, a fit precedent and a practical plan for intercultural behavior. Thanks to educational traditions born of the same theology, Old Testament instructions on how to profitably subdue the “unbelieving outsiders” of cosmopolitan Canaan scarcely changed as Puritan colonies became the “exceptionalist” United States:

The ancient inhabitants of your holy land you [Yahweh] hated for their loathsome practices, their deeds of sorcery and unholy rites.... You determined to destroy them at our fathers’ hands, so that this land might receive a colony of God’s children worthy of it. Even so, since these were men, you treated them destroy them bit by bit...although you knew very well they were inherently evil...and fixed in their cast of mind; for they were a race accursed from the beginning. (The Book of Wisdom 12: 3-11)

This was the faith of Myles Standish’s Pilgrim leaders, and it suited his own war-centered worldview. It gave Mason and Underhill “sufficient light” to “declare, with Scripture,” that “sometimes” whole populations of the “other” side (never their own) “must perish” (U81). “Sometimes the case alters,” he adds on his own exiled way out of town. “We will not dispute it now”; and we have rarely done so to the root. “Business” goes on—“savages” with targeted wealth, pulpit, temper, blank check, guns and all.

How? As we study American history and letters we see that, as in Mason’s day, there simply was nobody with sufficient reason or means to defy the colonial party line as crystallized at “Mystic.” On the Native side, we see Mohegan writer Samson Occom (c.1768) depart from his people’s ancient rhythms on the land for an evangelical mission that will in time exploit and abandon him:

I was born a Heathen and brought up in Heathenism, till I was between 16 & 17 years of age, at a place called Mohegan, in New London.... My parents lived a wandering life, for did all the Indians at Mohegan[:] they chiefly depended on hunting, fishing and fowling for their living and had no connection with the English, excepting to traffic with them in their small trifles; and they strictly maintained and followed their Heathenish ways, customs and religion, though there was some preaching amongst them….

Occam knows that his Mohegans are “wandering” only in the Biblical sense (they come to Christian meetings for blankets, not redemption). But they and the Pequots have become an impoverished and virtually-separate world, with no say whatsoever on what colony-populations learn as fact. Nor does William Apess, a Pequot writer of the 1830s, seem to doubt the traditions of Mystic Massacre as he incorporates them into his A Son of the Forest (1829) and other works. What could he or Occom gain by sharing, if they knew, Uncas’ secrets of survival? [95]

Occom’s “A Short Narrative of My Life” (c.1768) is reprinted in Arnold Krupat, ed., Native American Autobiography: An Anthology (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press 1994, 105-113). See also Barry O’Connell, ed., On Our Own Ground: The Complete Writings of William Apess, A Pequot (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press 1992).

“Mystic” prospered most through the exclusive manufacture of history by generations of writers who knew better than to consult the land. No Occom could match the resources of a Timothy Dwight, grandson of fiery Jonathan Edwards and “a walking repository of the status quo” (Connecticut Wits qtd. in Drinnon 65). Dwight, after service as chaplain to Revolutionary Army units and at West Point till 1779, eventually became president of Yale College; and by then his laurels included The Conquest of Canaan (1785) and Greenfield Hill (1794), two would-be epics of an America “Queen of the world/and child of the skies.”

Both these works brooded, briefly, on the horrific “waste of man” in colonial treatment of Native peoples. “Yet savages are men,” Dwight granted. But if his forefathers had, as he argued, always tried to show “mercy,” it seemed wiser to invent fantastical “base Canadian fiends” as an outside-agitant source of tragedy—anything rather than go into the Mystical details:

And think what nations filled the western plain. Where are they now?...
But cease, foul Calumny! with sooty tongue
No more the glory of our sires belie.
They felt, and they redress’d, each nation’s wrong;
Even Pequod foes they view’d with generous eye.... (Greenfield Hill, Part 4)

The Christian “errand into the wilderness” faded and the “frontier romance” began; but from the works of John Neal to those of Child, Sedgwick, and the 32 novels of Cooper through the 1840s, Native “voice” and characters remained mostly-serviceable foils of Indian Removal as “Elizabethan stage villains” (Fiedler 197). The histories of Trumbull (1836, qtd. below), of DeForest (1851) and others gave way to those of Moses Coit Tyler, George Bancroft (1892) and Francis Parkman; and this inheritance issued in 1912’s magisterial, myopic 2-volume edition of Bradford’s History edited by Adams, Ford, Deane and others.

This work appeared as part of a wave of American effort to save and establish its literatures. It guided generations of well-meaning teachers in bringing “tradition” into our schools (tradition, as Charvat details, already as Christian-evangelical as can be), and its editors list these “grave disadvantages” born of The Pequot War. “Sudden plunder” and the profits of slavery inspiring new greed and theological license; “Indian cruelties” born of colonists’ “wholesale killing”; “mistrust” near and far as solemn promises proved worthless beside convenience. Unless education helps citizens truly learn from so much, they arrive at new nightmares born of that supreme fiction “necessity.” As those editors put it, “only time was needed to make another war of extermination inevitable” (FBH 2: 259n3).

But if the Puritans taught transatlantic early America to change, we also can teach ourselves. If this book gave you worthwhile pleasure through a sharper idea of its subjects, it is only one of many such works “out there” dismissed by schools, publishers and media with other serviceable preoccupations. “Progress” will be a murderous myth until the goal for measuring it can bear to be stated in plain language.

Wars end, nations and churches perish (Native tribes too) when people walk out on leaders and visions that do not truly sustain the sustainable. Would-be Power confines people until they somehow regain more accurate existential bearings. The world’s manifold realities—what some Native people call the “Multiverse”—penetrate a bubble of “belief” in artificial, arbitrary limits that confine people from the world, that distort it to a monster “for” them. Walls confine rather than protect. Some people cling hungrily to the fort, conditioned to fear a world without scripted certainties: others cannot resist its potentials and legitimate common feast. They tame the monster by talking with it, against the rules, and leave behind that life in the fort with its “means of well-governing” us. Preventing that escape is the “cultural work” of the traditional Pequot War.

Let us confront the patterns and “training” detailed here and which this war left as instructions for living in the hard-wire of American ways.

Vain and stubborn monologic in the face of others clearly our human equals; ineptitude masked with arrogance; morality as a pardon-tale for greed, convenient conformity to both; violent narcissism despite invitations to a more realistic (many-sided) world; the choice of war and massacre rather than negotiation offered by others; the oddly-proud negligence of history, and the use of it in education to fog and foil fact, intercultural justice, and peace. These are the patterns in this book’s specifics—born of dumping European social problems into “empty wilderness” and then, by way of new “nonconformist” colonies on each frontier, stumbling onto short-term plunders of wealth. The “victors” read each disastrous debauch as a reward for virtue, but each soaks the nervous system in hunger for more at any price.

For example, Plimoth’s Edward Winslow stands poor and culturally doomed beneath his colony’s bloodsoaked flag, demanding more of what got him there (Chapter 4, end). He owes his life and “home” to other (Native) peoples who in fact owe him and his specious evangelism nothing: he finds himself in a hole and keeps digging. But that way leads only down. The colonies hurt other peoples for “advantage” (the root-word of “profit”), rather than cooperate as mere equals; and when the fathers hear from the peoples hurt, they want to hurt them again, for by God, they are not going to adapt. “This works—at least insofar as all Others fall silent, one way or another.” A mighty fortress is this deity, a “rock” to cling to in a sea of relativity he denies and refuses to learn.

What we do have, then, is history rich with cultural and spiritual growth—“How The Martialists Doomed Themselves.” What we get from education is “How To Keep Trying to Believe Yourselves God’s Only Children.” It didn’t work centuries ago, and it certainly won’t in the graveyard of empires. Time to worry; for “Mystic-ism” is only a formula for fiasco.

We and the world do not have to reach the limits of suffering to learn: that’s only the way we are headed half-awake now. Is there a way out of this addiction, “living” by wresting self-destructive “advantage” from all that is? “There is something appalling in the consciousness of utter isolation,” hinted Adams (Three Episodes 75). Colonists who flattered themselves as “isolated” and taught their children to do so could not fail “to exaggerate rather than diminish the danger” around them. Thus they acted in appalling ways that made their problems worse. No way out; except getting to know other peoples and their views.

Which, then, do we want: a rigorously accurate, sophisticated past that really can take everybody toward more freedom? Or narcissistic fables of master and victim that limit, weaken and do harm? We can build what Aime Cesaire called a humanity big as the world, or build forts. [96]

Cesaire, sometimes called “the father of Negritude” and a leader of postcolonial analysis, taxed colleagues who, “while claiming to be dedicated to rigorous logic, sacrifice so willingly to prejudice and wallow so voluptuously in cliches.” He found this “significant” of “thousands of Europeans or…of the Western petty bourgeoisie”; who “have never been further from being able to live a true humanism—a humanism made to the measure of the world” (56-7).
     Staying inside the fort weakens you in every way. Untangle this sickly logic from Increase Mather’s 1676 Brief History: “It is evident that we may truly say of [Wampanoag] Philip, and the Indians who have fought to dispossess us of the land which The Lord our God hath given to us...’I have not sinned against thee, but thou dost me wrong to war against me’....Yea, they kept [Philip’s] land not from him, but for him; who otherwise would have sold himself out of all. And The Gospel was freely offered to him and to his subjects, but they despised it. And now behold how they reward us! Will not our God judge them? Yea, he hath and will do so” (Slotkin ed. 152).
     This is a widely-influential mind using symbols (language) to “detach” and hide itself from “reality” by any definition. Consider that the alternative is the refusal of violence; is negotiated coexistence leading to inevitable intermarriages of peoples and cultures; and hence, to “decay” of each side’s elite’s symbolic fantasy-world of racial/cultural “purity.” How can coexistence be such a terrifying prospect except as the end of a one-sided ego?
     “The sociopath sees other people as objects to be manipulated and used, much as the rest of us would use a screwdriver or a kleenex. The sociopath feels no empathy for others, although he can fake empathy, and he feels no shame or remorse about abusing people. In his universe, he is the center, and everyone else exists only to serve him” (Post by one “Glenn Campbell” at, Sept. 16, 2003).
      Take it a step further, for the colonies did to make “our” world: Narcissism that forces itself by “preemptive war” on other peoples is psychosis.

You need a fort—or do you?—when you expect revenge for your own actions; when “others” can enter your truly-secret places. A fort is a choice for self-confinement against vulnerability and loss of control. To uncover what “Mystic” and The Pequot War teach us of how to respond to the world, compare David Wagner’s ethnologically-precise images of Native Americans in this book against those by an unknown artist in DeForest. The “Indian Family” comes from a time when more, not less, Native-cultural information was available. Yet these figures are not “Indians,” but serviceable objects; figments of imperial desire.

The pensive, stoic father-and-warrior is a sketch-class Apollo, sad because of his “doom,” and yet threatening from the quiver of his arrows to his muscles and scarcely-adequate loincloth. His son is a Dionysian fawn who looks down, a promising trait, on the daughter; but his bow reveals that he is not to be trusted as he grows. A mother, of course, cannot share the shameless garb, nor trifle to show us her face as she watches her husband’s back.

She is half-angel, by virtue of wings that are actually a papoose; and half- seductress, with her tasteful cleavage, trade-bangle and wild hair. They are all creatures of a romantic, twilight world connected by the great moon-crescent of their boat: “threateningly beautiful,” the two semi-gendered youths most “savage” and sexy. This is as sensual as it gets within Connecticut statutes of 1852.

It’s alright though, this semi-nude tableau: after all, they’re not white people, but “specimens.” It’s educational. In private with this you can stretch your confines with curiosity, or even illicit desire; but this is nobody you’d prudently marry. Anyway, they’re gone (or at least, they’re fading from the 1850s Western Hemisphere, now that they seem invisible back East). It’s very sad, God’s progress. Hence the loving detail of this tribute to the “vanished.”

In case you don’t understand that as intended, this other image from DeForest (“Battle at Fairfield”) shows what “happens” to creatures like that and to any traitor mixing with them.


We find the “savages” in a wilderness-nowhere, and they outnumber us. At top left, note yon fading, ineffective archer in his sylvan glade (complete with authentic New England Great Plains headdress), facing the entry of white men with guns, at far right. The archer’s arrows are child’s play.

The hero at center needs no armor, or even boots: his armor is the upper-class status in his clothes. Of course his Old World “inferiors” (like the sword-swinging soldier with armor and helmet) are more than a match for the “Indian” swooning backward; but the new American hero disdains The Middle Ages. His wonderful natural courage (it’s that bracing American air) puts him at even more heroic risk, as another brave calls for help behind his back. Treachery is the only thing that ever brings him down.

But too late! For at left arrives proper planter-soldiery, the “minute men” with almighty guns, to turn the tide—if our hero needs help at all. One “savage” lies already at his feet, in the sexy spread-eagle of noble doom, dismanned of his club in fair fight. His Indian clone-brother (they all look alike) begs the hero’s mercy; but it’s well-deserved justice in the neck for them and all “savages” who disturb the peaceful war.

From here, our hero dashes off to fetch back Snow Bosom (his ice-queen), the colonies’ blonde/blue­-eyed mascot. In America’s more-private collection of books for “adults” (bottom shelf, behind the Cooper), he finds her tied to a tree for savage imaginings. Ain’t it awful! It’s a scene from Nowhere: Utopia. [97]

These images represent wishes—psychological remakes of complex realities into pseudo-gratifications not being obtained in real life. There is no lack of first- rate scholarship showing the programmatic diligence of American education in passing on these necessarily sadomasochistic, short-term-serviceable substitutes for multicultural history, literature and social policy. The increasingly commer­cialized erotic valence of “captivity narratives,” featuring titillating frontier temptations of body and culture, was the core of “redemption literature” from Mary Rowlandson’s (massive editions from 1682) through the 1790s’ “Panther Captivity” (a “bestseller”) and on through Cooper.
     Such were the texts by which colonial Americans bonded themselves (around their fears) into a nation-state. The most remarkable equally-read exception was The Life of Mary Jemison (1824), whose teller loved her Native life and paid dearly for it (“I did not tell…half of what it was,” qtd. in Walsh 49). See Anderson, Armstrong/Tennenhouse, Barrett, Boose, Davidson, Drinnon, Elson, Fiedler, Kaplan/Pease, Kolodny, Pearce, Reynolds, Rogin, Slotkin, Spengemann, and Strong.

Inside the fort we learn to turn to mystical massacre when, really, it’s just not working. Such books and images relieve the stresses of desire and of empty victory against it. It gets worse— grows more bloody and more “popular”—all the way to high-tech Hollywood as we keep indulging this circle of desire and rage. We become wired for one of many possible responses, because it makes us feel even briefly in control of a relative universe we’re too afraid and impatient to know. Evangelism has un-taught us how to learn from it. If we want to survive we had better start remembering.

“Mystic-ism” prevents having to stop, observe, face what we’re doing wrong, and change. The cruel irony is what we forfeit in our sleepy obedience: a solid basis for more freedom, wonder, and joy in creative self-evolution. For a delusion that is neither control nor worth trying to live.

The Pequots win their war because they face the need for changed tactics. Their victory is not so much because there was American space in which to scatter, for really they never left their home. More important was their Ice Age sense of time, in which they framed their plan for surviving a self-involved Progress. We too have choices that correspond to our vision and courage, from Mason’s Dr. Pell to those who refused Vietnam. You cannot give away your power—only believe that you have none.

From the earliest days at Wessagusset [scene of the “Weymouth Massacre”] and in The Pequot War, down to the very last election held in North Carolina [including lynchings of Afro-Americans]—from 1623 to 1898— the knife and the shotgun have been far more potent and active instruments in our dealings with inferior races than the code of liberty or the output of The Bible Society.

These, in the words of Charles Francis Adams, Jr., were the hard facts that America needed to confront 267 years after “Mystic” (delivered in a patriotic address at Lexington, Mass.; qtd. in Drinnon 309). Yes, Adams continued, colonists’ dealings with “inferior races” had been “a process of extermination”; “but for that very reason,” genocide had been “the salvation of [the white] race. It has saved the Anglo-Saxon stock from being a nation of half­breeds—miscegenates, to coin a word expressive of an idea.”

Violence, always “in defense”—defense of an “innocent” narcissism that “just happens” to steal others’ lives and wealth. “Defense” against knowing there are other options: a fort against feelings that may lead beyond its own scripted preoccupations. Desire. Wall out or annihilate those who draw us beyond ourselves (the meaning of ecstacy), because if we don’t, we marry them. Marry them and we lose our identity as beings chosen by (our) God from all Nature, for a mystic purpose nobody wants to articulate. We’d be merely human, only equal.

As it is, imperial culture turns for comfort to ideas and, soon, actions in which vulnerable, mortal flesh becomes soothing omnipotent word.

The report of the horrid and unprovoked cruelties of the Pequots, practiced upon the defenseless inhabitants of Connecticut colony, roused the other colonies to harmonious and spirited exertions against them... [by] which means the whole fort [at Mystic] was very soon enwrapt in flames!

The enemy were now in a deplorable situation. Death inevitable was their portion. Sallying forth from their burning cells, they were shot or cut to pieces by the English. Many of them, perceiving it impossible to escape the vigilance of the troops, threw themselves voluntarily into the flames!

The violence of the flames, the reflection of the light, the clashing and roar of arms…exhibited a grand and awful scene! In less than two hours from the commencement of the bloody action...eighty wigwams were burnt, and upwards of eight hundred Indians destroyed! Parents and children, the sannup and squaw, the aged and the young, perished in promiscuous ruin! The loss of...English was comparatively trifling, not exceeding 25....

Few enterprises were ever perhaps achieved with more personal bravery…. Even the great armaments and battles of Europe are comparatively of little importance.... The most warlike and terrible tribe of Indians in New England [was] completely exterminated. (Henry Trumbull, History 1836: 29, 33-35)

Feel better? Trumbull built this wishful fiction from Mason’s, Underhill’s, Bradford’s and others’, and DeForest (Ch. 4) based his upon them and Trumbull. It tells much about the writers, nothing about the subjects. What “culture” produces people who write this for truth, for pleasure? Is it the work of a childish savage? A savage child? [98]

Editor Orr prepares you to read Mason and company (xviii), citing John “Manifest Destiny” Fiske’s Beginnings of New England on “the overthrow of the Pequots.”
     “As a matter of practical policy, the annihilation of the Pequots can be condemned only by those who read history so incorrectly as to suppose that savages, whose business it is to torture and slay, can always be dealt with according to the methods in use between civilized peoples. A mighty nation like The United States is in honor bound to treat the red man with scrupulous justice and refrain from cruelty in punishing his delinquencies.
     But if the founders of Connecticut, in confronting a danger which threatened their very existence, struck with savage fierceness, we cannot blame them. The world is so made that it is only in that way that the higher races have been able to preserve themselves and carry on their progressive work.”
     With this education, how would you han­dle “next time”?
    “There is a remnant of the Pequots still existing,” Orr adds, via sub-editor Williams (118). “They live in the town of Groton [on] eleven acres of poor land….They are more mixed than the Mohegans with negro and white blood….A short time since, I [saw] most of the tribe together. They are more vicious, and not so decent or so goodlooking a people as the Mohegans. This however may be owing to their being more mixed with other blood.”

What different human lives and educational possibilities permeate the same original pages! Meet again Wincumbone, wife of Mystic’s Sachem Mamoho. Lion Gardener tells of her in his early attempts to establish trade near Saybrook (G125). At a Pequot river-camp, Wincumbone sees anger building and “makes signs” that a man of Gardener’s should “be gone.” It saves the man’s life, and Gardener does not forget. He testifies for Wincumbone’s and her children’s “better” treatment in Mr. Governor’s hands.

More, because of bonds like that across official lines, Gardener has a basis for true bravery, true justice. Years later, he is among Long Island Shinnecocks, who are in trouble and fear a massacre (G144-5). Their Sachem is accused of a woman’s murder, but Gardener knows him innocent. “Then I said…I will stay here [as a hostage] till you all know it is well with your Sachem. If they bind him [at the English court of law], bind me; and if they kill him, kill me.” The Shinnecocks answer “with a great cry,” and in short order, help bring the real murderers to what they all consider justice.

This can just ruin a classroom devoted to “Mystic-ism,” an empire bent upon hiding from itself. Perhaps America’s one “vice” that can function as a virtue is its deep wide disregard for anything but a “serviceable” past. For when it wakes to the facts of how unserviceable “tradition” has actually been, its maundering monologic can begin to change, to the good of everybody’s world.

The frontier happens in a universe of relativity. Cultures are equal because they have equally-unique origins and views of the universe. But all “beliefs” are not equally-accurate descriptions of this world in our midst. Indians, for example, are not children or savages as some people want to believe. In the last analysis, “Mystic” presents us with what writer Susan Griffin calls a crisis in delusion.

You may learn and/or want to believe one thing, but you live in a world always larger and more complicated. The crisis is the choice this presents. Discover and face the place where you are and its “other” peoples, and with them create new realities and ways that (like the early transatlantic between Natives and Europeans) smooth a humanly-imperfect coexistence. Or, blind yourself to those things and, as your masters demand, try to force the world to resemble your wishes, with crusades according to a fantasy of yesterday. But the world, naturally, resists, and it won’t be “only” others who get hurt. What, after all, has modern Israel gained for its fundamental refusal of a “mixed blood” future? Certainly not security for its “pure” culture.

Observe rough tough Captain Underhill: he almost faints like a blushing nun when two young English girls of Wethersfield come back from Pequot captivity and the older one reveals that only “God” saved her from intimate contact with a Pequot (U70-77). “The eldest of them was about sixteen.” “Demanding of her how they used her, she told us they did solicit her to uncleanness.” Oh, she prayed and prayed, Captain-sir.

The girl is not raped. She is invited, in a context where rape is possible as part of war, if not approved by Native custom (Axtell, Essays). The girl declines because she is not alone (that little sister with her), and her treatment tells her they are going home. Reverend Underhill, mortified at the girl’s narrow escape from his own fears, gushes a seven-page sermon—that you, the grumbling colonist, must also say No. That only “God,” who knows your “illicit desires,” prevents you from “suffering” as she did. The girl, like you, is already “so ungrateful” before abduction that she needs discipline against temptation. “God’s hand is upon” her, for “remissness in all...ways” (U71). This, again, means You. No talking. The Fort is “not to be questioned” (Chapter 1). [99]

The Pequot-produced film The Witness, shown at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum in Ledyard, Connecticut, also reproduces the Mason/Underhill story. The 30-minute film’s tremendous impact registers afresh the generations of belief in the reports of what happened there. Though it retains many clichés of its genre (grunting vs. talking, an Uncas who even looks “evil,” etc.), its educational effect is still radically opposite that of tradition: we never lose sight of who causes the whole catastrophe. The same is true of the new film Mystic Voices, produced by Guy Perrotta and Charles Clemmons, premiered in Spring 2003. Maybe someday the Pequot War exhibit will consist of what is also at Mashantucket now: a huge dugout boat in the Museum’s entrance-hall, full of Pequot family moving out of harm’s way.

Underhill means to prevent uncleanness, any mixture of his “pure” culture; to make her and us reproduce his values, though he can’t say what they are. He aims to prevent the undisciplined on any side from betraying the values that will live on as America in his image—if his English can just plant it right, and forget they are policing it. “God” plugs up the leaks.

Not surprisingly, the colonists grow anxious. They rightly fear retribution for the violence generic to their self-centered way in the world. Imperialism will not teach them to handle feeling and desire, only to stifle them, unless a proper matrimony that subordinates/erases the “other” can extend the fortress further. And still they find the world endlessly full of beautiful peoples. With time and repeatedly worse crises, colonists “must” inflict even harsher discipline: soon, “savage” and “girl” alike must perish. In Underhill’s mind they come together and die as one being, as in the crowning moments of progress-literature by Trumbulls and DeForests.

These uncontrolled, unpredictable beings must vanish or perish, or “not understanding,” they’ll not choose the Fort. Insiders will not be able to keep from outsiders. The latter must die or the former will come to give in. “Go Native.” It’s that ungovernable, ravishing beauty. Like a real Eve in a real Garden, proffering an apple whose “threat” is supreme: “They must not become as gods.” Never awaken and learn to make their world.

Benefiting and hurting others are ways of exercising one's power upon others: that is all one desires in such cases. One hurts those whom one wants to feel one’s power, for pain is a much more efficient means to that end.... [But] certainly the state in which we hurt others is rarely as agreeable, in an unadulterated way, as that in which we benefit others. It is a sign that we are still lacking power; or it shows a sense of frustration in the face of this poverty....(Nietzsche, The Gay Science 86)

“Hurting others is a sign that one lacks power!” exclaimed Nietzsche’s editor Kaufmann. James Joyce (on reading that) said it too: “Cruelty is weakness.” Real and imagined, that is what “Mystic” is about. We can refuse this part of our inheritance, open our eyes beyond the captains, and embrace a new past; one that can end our still-colonial Western “time to worry.” We hope this journey brings you sightings of rewards for change, beyond old horizons.

Finally, a challenge: “Mystic” may also be a “massacre” near you. Here is one with all the sacred signs. Recall Captain Underhill thrown out of Massachusetts. He took his skills along. DeForest describes his career as a mercenary soldier hired on by the Dutch of New Amsterdam, for their “Indian wars” of 1643-44 (206-8). The Dutch were building Wall Street, and feared resentful “savages” outside the wall. Underhill needed “a job.” [100]

Steve Wick and Bill Bleyer, Staff Writers for a website called Long Island History. “A Man Hated and Hailed: Englishman John Underhill led the slaughter of Indians in defense of European settlers.” Undated: viewed Feb. 2002, The writers say that “by his own accounts [sic], he and his men killed more than 1,000 Pequots” at Mystic. They got the second part sort of right: “As a people, the Pequots all but disappeared from the landscape after Underhill was through with them.” “It was unfortunate,” adds descendant Gloria Baylis Tucker of The Underhill Society, “but he wasn’t the only one....He was just doing a job.”
     The job got him an Oyster Bay estate he called Killingworth. Ms. Tucker is shown here at the Underhill Monument in Mill Neck (built 1907). It “features four plaques on its base showing Underhill reading to a group of Indians, who are kneeling worshipfully at his feet. On the cover of the book are the words, ‘Love One Another.’”

Paid by Governor Kieft and his planters, Underhill set to work on numerous killings and a “small” massacre of Massapequa people at Fort Neck. Then, returning in February 1644 to the Stamford area, he “followed Mason’s example at Fort Mystic” (208), and set fire to a surrounded but “on their guard” palisaded village. “The same result followed,” DeForest reports.

Strictly in context here—We hope so! “This terrific slaughter put an end to the war.” We challenge you to prove/disprove this to the world. First clues (208): “The Dutch chroniclers expressed their gratitude for the victory in the same devout strain….They remarked it, for instance, as a particular providence that, when the attack was made on the village, ‘the Lord had collected most of their enemies there, to celebrate some peculiar festival.’”

The Lord, or the chronicles? The difference makes all the difference in the world.



We Do Not Know How


Little Owl/Ruth Duncan Ironhorse,
Duda/Elderwoman of the Quinnipiac


The Dawnlanders are spread

round about, like seed

cast to the wind!

Many of us

are dead now, but some

find salvation

in a cave or marsh.


Upon the mountain, for a time

we may stand

in prayer

but the strangers

may capture us, even there,

with some falling trap

and forever we must

work without rest.


It's because they


the riches that cannot

satisfy and so,

to gain their own liberty,

they take away ours!

Alas! We do not know how

to improve such hearts

as these of the strangers.

They will not even hear

what their own

stories teach.




Mystic Fiasco    
Chapter 6   First Rhode Island