Samoset was the first Native American to make contact with the Pilgrims in Plymouth. As subordinate chief of the Abenaki tribe, Samoset was conducting diplomatic relations with the Wampanoag chief Massasoit during the time of the settler’s arrival, and he greeted the colonists in English, having learned their language from Europeans living in Maine. Although surprised by his boldness, the Pilgrims questioned him about many aspects of American life and grew to enjoy his company. Samoset told them that the land they had chosen for their home was called Patuxet, and he described the neighboring Wampanoag and Nauset tribes. Before departing, he was given a knife, a bracelet, and a ring for his assistance.

The next day, Samoset returned with five other Native Americans, who brought with them several furs as well as tools that they had previously stolen from the colonists. The two parties behaved amicably, and after the Indians’ departure, Samoset remained with the Englishmen for several more days. After spending his last night with the settlers, Samoset left them, later returning with another Indian, Squanto, who could translate much more easily. Later that day, the chief Massasoit also made an appearance, exchanging gifts and entertainment after some initial hesitation on both sides. The meeting was the start of a long, somewhat tumultuous but primarily peaceful relationship between the two peoples.

Recognizing the need for Indians and Europeans to live in harmony, Samoset continued to serve as a diplomat throughout his life. In 1624, he made a pact with the English trader Christopher Levett, assuring him that only Englishmen would be allowed to purchase the fur his tribe provided. This agreement angered competing fur traders, even leading to an attack on Samoset and later resulting in the bloody wars that would encompass much of the late 17th century. Regardless, Samoset continued to live peacefully with the white settlers, and in 1625 he conducted the first property sale between an eastern coastal Native American and the colonists, selling 1200 acres to John Brown. He signed another land deed in 1653, but afterward little is known about him, and he presumably passed away that same year.

Key events during the life of Samoset:

Strolled into the Plymouth settlement and greeted the Pilgrims in English.
Agreed to trade fur only with Englishmen, angering competing fur traders.
Became the first Native American to sell land to the Pilgrims.
Sold another land deed to the European settlers.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
New England Indians  in  Indian History for Young Folks  by  Francis S. Drake
Indian Troubles  in  American History Stories, Volume I  by  Mara L. Pratt
Samoset  in  Stories of the Pilgrims  by  Margaret B. Pumphrey

Image Links

Samoset, the Indian Visitor
 in King Philip

The women and the children were all afraid of him
 in Stories of the Pilgrims

Short Biography
Squanto New England Indian who helped the pilgrims their first year in Plymouth Colony.
William Bradford Governor of the Plymouth Colony of Pilgrims. Wrote the Mayflower Compact.
Miles Standish Military advisor to the Plymouth colony. Arrived on the Mayflower.