Mayflower 400 Southampton

Southampton remembers the original inhabitants of Patuxet in Native American Heritage Month

9 Nov 2020

In August, on the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower, The Right Worshipful Mayor of Southampton pledged that from now on, Southampton would always include the Wampanoag people in the telling of the Mayflower story. As part of that commitment, today we announce a new plaque on the Mayflower Memorial remembering the original inhabitants of Patuxet, which became Plymouth Colony under the settlement of the ship’s passengers.  The plaque is announced as part of a programme of events aligned to Native American Heritage Month. 

Also known as the Pilgrim Fathers’ Memorial, it was built in 1913 to commemorate the departure of ‘the little company of Pilgrim Fathers who were destined to be the founders of the New England States of America’. Their transatlantic voyage began on 15 August 1620, near the site of the Memorial in two ships, the Mayflower and the Speedwell. Only the Mayflower made the journey, arriving nearly three months later off the coast of Massachusetts on 9 November.  Built of Portland stone, the memorial has eight plaques dedicated to the memory of pilgrims, passengers and crew. They include plaques for the Hopkins family and Edward Doty, who were from Hampshire, and John Alden, who joined the crew at Southampton. These have recently been refurbished, with funding from Southampton City Council, in an extensive renovation of the Memorial. 

This year we have worked closely with the First Nations Wampanoag tribe, they have been a key factor in our approach to the Mayflower 400 and their contribution has enabled us to widen the lens of local history. The ‘unveiling’ is accompanied by a filmed prayer from a representative of the Wampanoag people, Steven Peters, which is available from today on the Southampton Mayflower 400 website.  

The new plaque reads:

Wampanoag “People of the Dawn”

In memory of the Wampanoag of Patuxet who perished in “the Great Dying” plague of 1616 to 1619 introduced by European and English invaders. The decimated village of Patuxet – a graveyard – was settled by the pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620. They renamed the village Plymouth Colony.

Steven Peters says: “So often that part of history, what happened to our ancestors in the village of Patuxet, has been silent. That’s a really sad moment for us. It’s a hard part of the story to tell, but as we think about that, there’s respect that needs to paid to these people.”

We believe Southampton will be the first UK city to mark Native American Heritage Month; the annual event which recognises and celebrates the accomplishments of the peoples who were the original inhabitants, explorers and settlers of the United States. Not only does the city have a strong connection to the Wampanoag people through the Mayflower story, but there are many other Native American links such the visit of Buffalo Bill, the likely arrival in England of Pocahontas, Thomas Mayhew from Pear Tree Church being one of the first missionaries in the New World, through to trade visits from Iroquois chiefs in the18th century. 

Throughout the month we will be sharing a wide range of content created with and by our Wampanoag partners and supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. This includes a range of online videos telling their stories and their culture. Some insights from children in the tribe will be released on 20 November to mark World Children’s Day. A Wampanoag film, The Mashpee Nine will be shown as part of City Eye’s annual film festival. Dr Cheryl Butler will be highlighting some of the city’s wider First Nations’ links. The programme will end on 26 November with a new film from the Wampanoag people explaining how ‘giving thanks’ is intrinsic to their culture, but why they do not join in on Thanksgiving Day. 

Alongside these, also supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Key Stage 2 – 4 school education resources are now available. With a dual focus, the resources tell the Mayflower story from both the perspective of the European settlers and the indigenous Native Americans. This is the first time Wampanoag people have co-curated education materials for UK school students. The resources are free to access and can be downloaded here.

Paula Peters, Wampanoag scholar and co-creator of the resources, said: It has been such a pleasure to work with the Southampton City Council team knowing how genuinely they seek to know and teach the whole story of colonisation. The Wampanoag story has been marginalised for centuries, yet the story of the Mayflower is one that cannot be completely understood without the inclusion of the Wampanoag perspective. These are the stories that inform our humanity. If we are ever to advance in a worldly way we have to take a critical look at the past and map our futures so that we do not make the same mistakes.”

The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Sue Blatchford made the following pledge: “We have learnt much from working with representatives of the Wampanoag tribe and are enriched by the experience. We commit to ensuring all our school children learn their story. From now on, the story of the Mayflower will be told in this city not just from the perspective of those waving the ship off, but also from those witnessing its arrival from (what is now) the Massachusetts shore.”

Share This:

To sign up for updates about Mayflower 400 in Southampton, sign up for the email bulletin below.