Two to three thousand years ago, Algonkin tribes settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony area. Before the colonists arrived in the early 1600's, they lived there peacefully and settled near streams and rivers. Although they were still considered to be Algonkin, several distinct tribes emerged in different areas.
All tribes had common Algonkin characteristics such as language and customs, but each was individual and sometimes hostile towards the other. There was the Nipmuc Tribe who lived in the central uplands and were noted in particular for their basketmaking, weaving, and leatherwork. The Wampanoags lived along the south coastal plain and farmed, fished, and hunted. Along Cape Cod, there lived the Nausets, who fished. All of the tribes grew corn, squash, and beans along with other vegetables, and their diet consisted of meat, nuts, berries, and fish. Over the centuries, tribes rose and fell along with the extent of their lands.
When the Pilgrims left England in the early 1600's to escape religious persecution, they settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The first expedition to Massachusetts in 1617 was led by William Bradford. The colonists faced very harsh conditions. By 1642, about 12,000 pilgrims had settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They had struggled through a terrible winter in 1620-1621 at Plymouth. Nearly half of them died. They feared and mistrusted the Indians until around 1621. In the Spring of 1621, they ran out of food and were too weak to begin planting. As they were getting really desperate, and Indian named Samoset arrived. He spoke English and introduced them to Squanto. Squanto was an Indian who had been enslaved in Spain and had spent two years in England. Squanto helped the colonists to fish, hunt, and plant native crops. The Wampanoag and pilgrims had a relatively peaceful relationship that lasted for years.
Not all interactions between the Indians and colonists were friendly and peaceful.