View Full Version : How did the Pilgrims and other early American settlers communicate with the Indians?

06-01-2002, 09:40 AM
I would have called them Native Americans but it wouldn't fit in the title.

You often read stories from those early years such as the story of the first Thanksgiving and the sale of Manhatten for some trinkets. It sounds like the English colonists and other Europeans had no trouble all learning from, bartering with the Natives, or using them as guides. How can that be when the Native Americans didn't speak English and the English colonist were obviously not fluent in any Indian language let alone several of them. I know that there would have been some cross language teaching after a while but that would have taken time and I don't even understand how that would have worked.

How did the colonists and the Native Americans communicate effectively in those early years?

Captain Amazing
06-01-2002, 10:51 AM
Well, the Pilgrims were lucky enough to run into a man named Squanto, who did speak English...He had lived in England for a while , after having been picked up by some sailors, and taken to Sir Fernando Gorges, head of the Plymoth Company, who taught him English and hired him as a guide and interpreter for his company's expeditions. He then was kidnapped by slavers, but got free and went to Newfoundland, where he was hired by the Newfoundland Company for a while, till he eventually got back to Massachussetts. So, in the Pilgrims' case, they were lucky enough to find someone who knew the local Indian languages and also spent 14 years with the English, and knew that language also.

Absent an interpreter, though, natives and the settlers, when they did communicate, mainly used gestures and symbols. Think of it as a real life game of charades and pictionary.

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