Why the Wampanoag Signed a Peace Treaty with the Pilgrims

In March 1621, representatives of the Wampanoag Confederationthe indigenous peoples of the area that is now Southeastern Massachusettsnegotiated a treaty with a group of English settlers who had arrived on the Mayflower several months earlier and struggling to build a life in the Plymouth Colony.

The peace accord, which would be honored on both sides for the next half century, was the first formal treaty between English settlers and Native Americans, and a rare example of cooperation between the two groups. On the orders of their leader, Ousamequin (known to settlers as Massasoit), the Wampanoags taught English men and women how to plant crops, where to fish and hunt, and other skills that would prove essential to the survival of the new colony. To celebrate the first harvest in Plymouth, Governor William Bradford and the other settlers invited the Wampanoags for a celebratory feast in November 1621, now considered the first Thanksgiving.

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