Surviving the Great Dying of 1616-1619

Why did the vibrant Indigenous community of 1616 Patuxet, now known as Plymouth, Massachusetts, seem to all but disappear by 1620, when the Mayflower set anchor in the harbor? What happened to all the people? Years prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims, it’s believed, early European traders carried a plague ashore which killed upwards of 90 percent of the Indigenous population. Click here for a 28-minute New Hampshire PBS video from November 28, 2021 that tells the story of the Great Dying.

Reporter Jim Smith was researching his family history and the Pilgrims when he came across writings about a plague and a sickness that struck the Indigenous communities right before the establishment of Plymouth Colony, and decided to tell the story.

Using interviews with Jade Luiz of the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Abenaki Nation member Brian Chenevert and other Indigenous voices, Smith tells the story not only of the tragic event, but also of the survival of Native communities in New England.

Mashpee Wampanoag historian Paula Peters relates how the memory of that event is motivating tribal people to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and helping them overcome their fears of White people that developed over years of history.