On this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, I find myself about an hour’s drive from Plymouth Rock. I don’t know much of the history, but from what I can find, this land was looked after for thousands of years by the Massachuset peoples, whose language was part of the Algonquin language family. There were about 3000 of them in 1614 when John Smith visited. By 1620 when the Pilgrims arrived, their numbers were already down by at least 3/4 due to a combination of illness brought from overseas (leptospirosis and small pox) combined with war from northeastern tribes. By the time the Puritans settled in Boston in 1629 there were only 500 Massachuset left. No organized tribes of Massachuset are known to have survived past 1800. In 1869 the state of Massachusetts unconstitutionally terminated the status of the Massachuset as a sovereign nation (by then it appears to me that these people were a mixture of many tribes who were amalgamated and moved around as part of John Eliot’s missionary work). Today there remains only one tribe that is recognized federally in Massachusetts, they are the Wampanoag peoples who live in the areas now known as Gay Head and Martha’s Vineyard. However I can find dozens of names of Tribes who once lived here.
What I perhaps find most tragic in all of this is that I have asked a few very lovely people around here why I haven’t seen any indigenous people in the Boston area. The answer I get, is “I don’t really know”.
So as the winds from the edges of Hurricane Matthew howl tonight and the rain pours down upon us, my prayer is that human beings everywhere find the courage in their hearts to listen a little more carefully, make decisions a little more humbly, accept our shortcomings a little more gracefully, and to tread a little more lightly. May all beings know love. May all beings know safety. May all beings know peace.