Re-informed: A Letter to the Pilgrims

This powerful video is directly aimed at the passengers of the Mayflower.

It is called 'Letter to the Pilgrims’ and is a message from the Wampanoag tribe of today. It is meant to represent the words the Native American tribe would have said to the colonists before they arrived on their shores, if they had the chance.

The reading is performed by contemporary Wampanoag woman, Talia Landry, on behalf of the Wampanoag tribespeople. It is produced by Native American agency SmokeSygnals, commissioned by the Mayflower 400 team in Southampton.

This commission was inspired by a letter, addressed to the Mayflower passengers from their pastor, John Robinson, who was still in Leiden, which was read to them before their departure from Southampton, in 1620.

Some of the language in the letter is very similar to a compact later drawn up on the ship about how the Saints and Strangers would live in the new colony.

The letter discusses how to live well together, in a way that is understanding and accepting of difference. John Robinson warns his congregation of the danger of taking or giving offence, instead encouraging wisdom and charity.  

He also discusses the nature of good governance, telling the Puritans that they should work for the common good, elect a good leader who can do that, and that they should pick a man for his honourable actions, not because he looks flashy, or talks a good talk.

Why don’t you write a letter to the Mayflower passengers? What would you want to say about their voyage? About living well as a community? About understanding and living with people who might be different from us?

The Mayflower 400 team in Southampton are collecting your letters and videos and will post a range of the most interesting on our social media channels.

Find out more about the project, including videos of the letter written by the Mayor of Southampton and a version of the original letter here:

'Letter to the Pilgrims'

Dear Pilgrims,

As we understand, it is your desire to leave your homelands, to flee persecution from your leaders because of the way you pray.

We cannot imagine such a circumstance that would cause us to leave the land where the creator made us, where we were born, the land that sustains us and the land that holds the bones of our ancestors for thousands of years.

We are, in many ways, this land - and the land, us. You must have the same feelings about the land you come from - the trees, the rivers, the highest mountains to the smallest stones are familiar to you, as are the winged, the four-legged and the finned that swim in your waters.

To venture and to leave such a place, to become a refugee among strangers in a strange land, is a sign of great desperation.

Here, there is a land enough to share - lush forests, plentiful wildlife and abundant gardens that sustain us. We only ask three things.

First, that you leave behind the sickness that came on the ships before you. It was unlike anything we had ever known, making even the strongest of us weak, turning our skin to rot and taking our breath away.

None of our traditional medicine could treat or cure it and it quickly spread, causing tens and thousands of our people to suffer miserably and die. Whole villages are wiped out, and we still must bury the dead.

Also, please return the kidnapped men, stolen from Pawtuxet, Nauset and other regions of our land. Taken without cause, as we are not at war with any of yours, they are sons, husbands and fathers who are greatly missed by their loved ones.

And lastly, that you come as guests in our territory and respect the egalitarian life we live - respect for our human rights and our spiritual traditions.

You will not find the tyranny of which you flee. Do not bring it with you.

We hope your journey across the sea meets with only clear horizons.

More 'Letters to the Mayflower'

Letter to the Mayflower delivered by The Right Worshipful The Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Sue Blatchford

John Robinson’s Letter (edited), performed by Fr David Deboys

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