Shaking Hands With The White Man

By: Afia Oduro-Manu

Kent Place School, Summit, New Jersey


November 11, 1620

We see them step onto our land
Off of a big ship with grand, white sails
With black shoes
That leave imprints in our muddy soil
Which provides life for our plentiful crops

There are not many of them
Their faces are all as pale as snow
And their cheeks are as rosy as berry juice
Because of the chilliness nipping at their skin

The mothers look distraught
And keep hold of their children’s hands
Children wiggle free from their grasps
And run around in excitement
The journey, perhaps, did not tire them
The men look at us
Some with indifference, others with uncertainty
And all with a glimmer of hope

November 18, 1620

At a tribal meeting
Massasoit tells us to be wary of these people
For they are from the same nation
That took some of our people years ago
And made them their slaves
And even put some of them in their graves

We see these pale-faced people
Riding atop fast creatures
Which they call horses
And use black weapons, guns
To shoot down their prey
Very useful tools
We are very wary of these dangerous people
So we keep our suspicions and watch with a careful eye

November 25, 1620

Our people are dying and we do not know why
The elders suspect it is the White men
Who have brought us this disease

They tell Massasoit to lead a fight against them
But he says “No”
Because they could easily kill us
The village men are very angry
“For the gods are with us and will not be defeated!” they cry

Rashes continue to spread like wildfire on the bodies of our people
From the chubby-cheeked, little children
To the wrinkled elderly
The elders again say that it is the white man’s fault
I see my younger sister
Laying still on the ground
Her chest still
I hold my breath and turn her over
She is dead
My mother and father cry, despair etched into their faces

Something must be done
Do the gods want us to act?
Did they bring these foreigners to us for a reason?
Only time will tell

December 1620

The winter is approaching
Cold air cracks our lungs to remind us of the battle we have to fight
Against the Pequot and Narragansett
Our tribe leaders are worried
We are outnumbered and our warriors are dying
And our weapons are not effective

The morning-light people have their worries too
For they are dying
They are not used to the relentless weather
We are all at our breaking points
But we don’t know who will break first

March 1621

We shook our hands with the white man today
Squanto and Samoset went to trade with them
And make peace
We need their weapons
And they need our fur to keep warm

I hope that we are making the right choice
Some of our people are angry
They believe that the men will betray us and take our land
Others are optimistic, like my father
He believes that our tribe is doing the right thing
I hope that my father is right

September 1621

As we give thanks to the Earth
For her bountiful sources that allow us to thrive on her land
The Whites come to us
To keep peace
So Samoset and Squanto agree
To prepare a big meal for both of our people
With plenty of meats
Vegetables of all colors
And pastries from the women of the whites
My sister would have loved the sweet, tart pies
I can imagine her sitting next to me
With the berries staining the area next to her mouth
And her tongue a dark, cranberry red

Oh, I hope that the peace between us prevails
To keep our people alive for generations to come
For this has been a lesson to us all
To keep faith in the gods, and the spirits of nature
And most importantly
In the power of unity
Because everyone
White and Brown
Knows that “The Earth only works because the elements work as one”