Mystic Voices: The Story of the Pequot War
Mystic Voices: The Story of the Pequot War
Mon, 11/01/2010 - 7:00pm
The Pequot War has long been an obscure event in the historical perspective of the general public.
Mystic Voices: The Story of the Pequot War is intended to increase public understanding of the significance of this event, not only for northeastern Native Peoples and descendants of the English and Dutch colonists who settled the region, but also for Native Peoples across America and for all Americans today. The documentary examines the underlying human motivations, and cultural and religious differences that led to war, and explores how the legacy of the War still affects the lives of Native American and Puritan descendants in the region today.
Mystic Voices: The Story of the Pequot War airs Monday, November 1 at 7 p.m. on WXXI World (cable 524/DT21.2).
CULTURAL VALUE SYSTEMS AND RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVE.
Native Americans and the English Puritans saw the world around them in entirely different ways, especially with respect to land ownership and warfare. Natives believed land could be occupied and used, but they had no real concept of land ownership. The English believed they had divine rights, through patents from the King, purchase, occupation of unused land, or rights of conquest, to possess the land.
Compared to European warfare, Native warfare was conducted on a small scale. Although capture, torture, and other foul deeds were routinely exercised on individuals, large numbers of people were not killed in conflicts. The Natives were not prepared for the kind of unlimited warfare practiced against them by Europeans.
Natives saw themselves as being in communion with other peoples, animals, and indeed all of nature as part of a world embraced by Manitou, the living Spirit in all things. The Puritans saw themselves as the chosen people of God establishing a "New Jerusalem" in the wilderness of America, surrounded by people they saw as savages. The Puritans feared that their very survival in that wilderness was at stake. Ultimately, they believed that their ability to survive and overcome threats from heathen savages was a measure of their own righteousness before God.
MISCONCEPTIONS AND MISCOMMUNICATIONS
Neither the Natives nor the Puritans completely understood what their actions meant to the other culture. Language differences and lack of understanding about how each culture practiced politics and negotiation contributed to the problem.
The Puritan English clearly feared for their survival. The Puritans were acutely aware of the 1622 Powhatan uprising in Virginia, in which Indians had killed hundreds of English settlers. The stories the New England settlers heard from most of the other tribes in the region, many of which had been subjugated by the Pequots, in their mind clearly showed that the Pequots were powerful, hostile, and devious. Most of these tribes ultimately fought with the English against the Pequots, somewhat dispelling the notion that the War was exclusively a "conflict of cultures."
THE LEGACY OF THE WAR
The battle was the first time northeastern tribes experienced the total warfare of European military methods. From a historical perspective, the War was an important early test of the "Indian Policy" of European settlers in America. Some Native Americans believe the legacy of the War is still with us, reflected by the greed, bigotry, racism, and intolerance they see around them.
"Even today, the Pequot War stimulates a lot of debate among the scholars and sometimes passionate discussion among descendants of the people who fought the War," said Co-producer Guy Perrotta. Co-producer Charles Clemmons adds, "For some descendants, some of the underlying causes of the War are still with us. In many respects, for them the Pequot War is not over."
FACES AND VOICES
Narrated by two-time Academy Award® nominee Roy Scheider, Mystic Voices: The Story of the Pequot War features scenes shot on location on New Shoreham (Block Island), Middletown and Bristol, Rhode Island. The music of Grammy-nominated Joanne Shenandoah, an Oneida Six Nations Iroquois singer-songwriter, and Emmy Award-winning composer Charles David Denler, provide a haunting score to what has been described as the “first declared war in America.”
One of the central figures of Mystic Voices: The Story of the Pequot War is Rhode Island Colony founder, Roger Williams. Using excerpts from his journals, the film illustrates this early American hero’s call for Puritans to live peaceably with Native Americans. Many of his fellow colonists disagreed with that view, and the subsequent Pequot massacre set the stage for the ultimate domination of Native tribes by European colonists.
Mystic Voices: The Story of the Pequot War is a collaboration of two Connecticut-based independent filmmakers, Guy Perrotta of Sasco Creek Productions in Norwalk and Charles Clemmons of Wiltonwood Productions in Wilton. Presented by Rhode Island PBS and distributed nationally by American Public Television, the documentary derives its title from a pivotal battle in which 400-700 Pequot men, women, and children were burned to death in a fortified village in a place called Missituck (now Mystic, Connecticut).