FF25 - The Last of the Mohicans

Intro by John Roderick

Between 1616 and 1619, in the years immediately before the Mayflower brought the pilgrims to land on Plymouth Rock, a great plague decimated the native populations of what became New England. Some estimates reckon that between 75-90% of the indigenous population died, depopulating village after village leaving no one alive to bury the bodies.

The disease itself remains a mystery, but there is universal agreement it came from Europeans, probably French traders who shipwrecked on Cape Cod a few years earlier and were taken prisoner. Europeans were not vulnerable to it, whatever it was, and didn't recognize it either. It wasn't intentional, despite what you might have heard. The pilgrims didn't mind that it had decimated the Algonquin tribes and left the land depopulated, they attributed it to the benevolent hand of God, somewhat stretching the definition of benevolent

But the mass dying and the disruptive presence of a still tiny British colony upset the delicate preexisting political balance between the tribes of the region and now competitors were encroaching on Massachusetts and Rhode Island from the South and the West. The Dutch and the French were mucking about, too, and of course God was still in the game knocking people off here and there when someone beseeched him in just the right way. Trade was developing, an uneasy balance was established, but it wasn't exactly like the pictures of Thanksgiving.

The native population recognized that if you gave the English an inch, they took a mile and a half and all the corn as well. By 1636, 16 years after the Pilgrims arrived, all this came to a head in the first large scale armed conflict between English colonists and native tribes in New England: The Pequot War. The Pequots had aggressively filled the power vacuum left by the mass die-offs and were trying to corner the fur trading market at the expense of their mortal enemies, the Mohicans and their allies, the Wampanoags and the Narragansetts.

The Dutch were making alliances and setting up trading posts, as they do, and had hilariously figured out how to mass produce Wampum, which was the formerly labor intensive and deeply symbolic shell based currency of the entire indigenous economy. The Dutch essentially created runaway inflation, which further destabilize the trade economy, as they do. The Pequots sided with the Dutch, the Mohegans with the English, and there were a couple of those "We killed those guys when we thought they were Dutch but… oopsy daisy… they were English, but anyway: No Tag Backs!"

Oh, also there was a devastating hurricane in 1635 that wiped out everybody's food stores, so you get the picture. It was kind of a free for all war and the end result was victory for the pilgrims and the almost complete destruction and dispersal of the Pequot people. English colonists demonstrated that their God was cool with burning entire villages down with everyone in them, and the Mohegans were like "Wow!" So: There was peace for a while until 1675, after a full 40 years of coexistence and economic exchange New England again erupted in war between whites and natives in a devastating conflict called King Phillip's war.

This time under the leadership of Metacomet, the chief of the Wampanoags, a certain amount of unity of purpose between the tribes was established. European villages were attacked and destroyed up and down the coast. The tribes achieved many victories, almost ruining the pilgrim colonies but the fractious alliances collapsed, including an infamous betrayal of Metacomet by the Mohawks of New York and eventually the pilgrims prevailed, truly decimating the native population of the region once again. Interestingly, the colonists successful defense of their foothold in New England is widely credited with inspiring the first inklings of a truly American identity separate from that of colonial Britain.

All this to set the stage for today's film The Last Of The Mohicans, a bodies ripping 1992 adaptation of a bodies shreading 1826 historical-ish novel by James Fenimore Cooper set in 1757 during what we call the Seven Years' War or what Americans call the French and Indian wars. They started just as a set of skirmishes between British and French colonial militias in and around Pittsburgh, featuring a 22 year old George Washington in command of the British. It rapidly escalated to involve every European power, where the French, Austrians, and Russians were fighting the English and Prussians on multiple European fronts and globally.

The native tribes in the Midwest and North had pretty good relationships with French traders and were recruited to the French cause, but the British also had many tribal alliances dating back 100 years and a much larger population of colonists besides. And although the French did a better job of fighting in the beginning, in the end they were largely preoccupied fighting Prussia and England back in Europe, and they couldn't sustain the war in the Americas. The end result was that they ceded all of Canada to Britain and gave all of Louisiana territory to Spain. I know you are thinking Thomas Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory from France in 1893. Aha! Yes, but Napoleon had only just regained Louisiana territory from Spain three years prior.

Anyway that's the backdrop to today's Harlequin romance story of true love between the handsome peoples. Do we call ourselves patriots and loyal subjects to the crown? We do not call ourselves subjects to much at all. Today on Friendly Fire: The Last of the Mohicans.

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