Story Power author Kate Farrell has written an new blog post on a ghost story from one of the first North American tribes to greet the Pilgrims.
As the holiday season approaches, and we celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, enjoy a ghost story from one of the first North American tribes to greet the Pilgrims. It appears to be a terrifying tale in some ways, but it might contain a ghostly moral. What message could it have for us today, in our shared country?
One night on Cape Cod at Gay Head, a Mashpee woman and her children were alone in their wigwam. The children were sound asleep in their blankets and their mother sat knitting beside her central fire-pit. As customary, her door-flap was wide open. Suddenly she became aware of someone approaching her doorway, and went to see who it might be.
A sailor stood outside. She asked him, “What do you want?” He replied, “I’d like to come inside and warm myself by your fire, because my clothes are wet and I feel chilled to the bone.”
She invited him inside and offered a place for him to sit beside the fire to dry out and warm himself. She placed another log on her fire, then resumed her knitting. As she watched the fire, she noticed that she could see the fire right through the sailor’s legs, which were stretched out between her and the fire–as if he were a ghost!
Her fear of him increased, but since she was a brave woman, she kept on with her knitting while keeping a suspicious eye toward the visitor. Finally the sailor turned to the Indian woman and said, “Do you want any money?”
Her first thought was not to answer his question. Then he repeated, “Do you want any money?” She replied, “Yes.”
The sailor explained, “If you really want a large amount of money, all you have to do is go outdoors behind your wigwam. Beside a rock there you will find buried a kettle full of money. I thank you for your hospitality. Good night.” He went away.
The Mashpee woman did not go outdoors immediately, as she wanted to think about the sailor’s proposal. She sat and knitted and thought for a while longer. Still, she felt frightened from the evening’s experience and was reluctant to leave her wigwam. More knitting time elapsed.
Then she thought, “I might as well go out and see if the sailor spoke the truth–to see if there really is a kettle of money out there.”
She took her hoe and went outside to the back of her wigwam, and easily saw the place described by the sailor. She began to dig with her hoe. She realized that every time she struck her hoe into the ground, she heard her children cry out loudly, as if in great pain. She rushed indoors to see what was their trouble. They were soundly sleeping in their blankets.
Again and again she dug with her hoe; each time her children cried out loudly to her; each time she rushed in to comfort them, only to find them soundly asleep as she had left them.
After these episodes had occurred several times, the mother decided to give up digging for the night. She thought she would try again early next morning after bright daylight and her children were awake.
Morning came, but she wondered if she had only dreamed last night’s happenings. Her children were eating their breakfast when she went out to the digging place. There was her hoe, standing where she had left it. But she could see that someone else had been there in the meantime and had finished digging while she slept.
Before her, she saw a big round hole. She knew someone had dug up the hidden treasure. She was too late for the pot of gold promised by the ghostly sailor. But again she thought and wondered, “But was I really too late?”
Again she thought, “That sailor may have been the Evil Spirit in disguise—or even a real ghost. Perhaps he was tempting me to see whether I cared more for my children, or more for the gold?”
Nevertheless, the Mashpee woman and her children continued to live in their village for a long, long time, even without the benefit of the ghost’s kettle of gold.
Note: The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, also known as the People of the First Light, has inhabited present day Massachusetts and Eastern Rhode Island for more than 12,000 years. They are often called, the “Thanksgiving Tribe,” one that greeted the Pilgrims. After an arduous process lasting more than three decades, the Mashpee Wampanoag were re-acknowledged as a federally recognized tribe in 2007.
Source: Indigenous Peoples Literature is a non-profit educational resource and collaboration dedicated to the indigenous peoples of the world and to the enrichment it can bring to all people.
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