On March 16, 1621, Samoset, a sagamore of the Wawenock, cemented his place in history. He was the first Indigenous person to make contact with the colonists at Plymouth Plantation, startling them when he emerged from the forest and welcomed them in English. The extraordinary thing about Samoset’s story is that he was not from Plymouth. He was not even Wampanoag, or Patuxet, who lived in the area. Samoset’s home was more than 200 miles away on the coast of present-day Maine. Why was he there? And why was he chosen to make contact with the English settlers?
In addition to that first meeting in Plymouth, Samoset’s life coincided with several important events during the period of early contact with Europeans, and his home village of Pemaquid lay at the center of Indigenous-European interactions at the beginning of the 17th century. As a result he and his people, the Wawenock, were active participants in this history. But it came at great cost, and the way of living that had sustained them for centuries changed dramatically over the course of his lifetime as they endured war, epidemics, and a clash of cultures. This is their story.
Jody Bachelder grew up on the Pemaquid Peninsula in Maine where Samoset and the Wawenock lived, and like many people of European descent, she knew little about the Indigenous people who called the area home for thousands of years. With a background in library work, she began her research with the question “What was Samoset doing in Plymouth?” The journey to find the answer was both enlightening and surprising. She lives in midcoast Maine with her husband. This is her first book.