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Wampanoag I ScFr - History

Wampanoag I ScFr - History



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Wampanoag I

(ScFr: dp. 4,215; 1. 355'; b. 45'2"; dr. 19'; s. 18 k.; a. 10 8" sb., 2 100-pdrs., 2 24-pdr. how., 2 12-pdr. how., 1 60-par. r. pivt.; cl. Wampanoag)

Wampanoag—a screw frigate—was laid down on 3 August 1863 by the New York Navy Yard, N.Y.; launched on 15 December 1864, sponsored by Miss Case, daughter of Capt. Augustus Ludlow Case, secondin command of the navy yard; and commissioned on 17 September 1867, Capt. J. W. A. Nicholson in command.

Commerce raiding by CSS Alabama and CSS Florida both built in English yards, reached a point in 1863 where continued peaceful relations between the United States and Great Britain were seriously jeopardized. As a result, Congress responded by authorizing construction of a new class of screw frigates as part of the naval procurement bill of that year. These vessels, designed to be the fastest in the world, were intended for use in hit-and-run operations against British ports and commerce in the event of war. Wampanoag was the lead ship of this class.

Wampanoag contained numerous design features unprecedented in American naval construction. Her hull —designed by clipper ship architect B. F. Delano— was unusually long and tapered relative to the vessel's beam. Her machinery, developed by controversial Naval Engineer B. Isherwood, was unique for its geared steam engine in which slow-moving machinery coupled to fast-moving propulsion gear. Tremendous debate caused by this design delayed construction, preventing Wampanoag from being completed in time to serve in the Civil War.

The screw frigate finally left New York for sea trials on 7 February 1868. On 11 February, she commenced speed tests, running flat-out in rough weather from Barnegat Light, N.J., to Tybee Island, Ga. She covered the distance of 728 statute miles in 38 hours for an average sustained speed of 16.6 knots, at one point making 17.75 knots. Another naval vessel, American cruiser Charleston, did not equal this record for 21 years.

From 22 February 1868 to 8 April, Wampanoag was deployed as flagship of the North Atlantic Fleet. On 6 May 1868, she decommissioned at the New York Navy Yard. Wampanoag was renamed Florida on 15 May 1869.

The controversy generated by the frigate's unconventional design reached a peak in 1869 when a naval commission examined and condemned the vessel. Rear Admiral R. M. Goldsborough, Commodore Charles S. Boggs, and Engineers E. D. Robie, John W. Moore, and Isaac Newton judged the ship unacceptable for active duty in the Navy. They complained of her unusually large machinery spaces, heavy coal consumption, and found particular fault with her narrow breadth relative to her length. The commission said this caused inordinate rolling and straining of the vessel. As a result, Florida remained in ordinary at New York for five years before departing on 6 March 1874, bound for New London, Conn., to become a receiving and store ship at the naval station there

Florida remained at New London, rotting, until February 1886. She was sold, at New York, on 27 February 1886 to Edwin LeBars.


SCFR Units Respond to Late Structure Fire

Just before 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19th, units with Stafford County Fire and Rescue (SCFR) were dispatched for a reported structure fire in the 00 block of Red Bud Circle near Embrey Mill Road. First arriving units marked on scene less than five minutes later and reported heavy smoke showing from the attached garage of a single-family home. Smoke conditions were also reported throughout the residence.

There were eight occupants in the residence at the time, six of whom lived there. All were able to self-evacuate prior to the arrival of units and none reported injuries. The first was marked under control in less than 15 minutes. Smoke alarms were present and working at the time of the fire.

The Stafford County Fire Marshal&rsquos Office determined the fire originated in the garage and was accidental. The residence is temporarily uninhabitable and the residents denied assistance from the American Red Cross.

SCFR units were assisted on scene by Quantico Fire and Emergency Services


400 Years After the ‘First Thanksgiving,’ the Tribe That Fed the Pilgrims Continues to Fight for Its Land Amid Another Epidemic

W hen Paula Peters was in second grade in Philadelphia in the mid-1960s, listening to a teacher talk about Plymouth colony and the Mayflower, a student asked what happened to the Native Americans who helped the Pilgrims settle, the Wampanoag. The teacher said they were all dead.

“When she mentioned we’re all dead, that was devastating,” Peters, 61, recalled to TIME. “I raised my hand, and I said no that’s not true, I’m a Wampanoag, and I’m still here. I didn’t know enough then as a second grader that I could challenge her, but I think that I’ve challenged that second-grade teacher ever since. Part of my everyday being is telling people that we’re still here.”

Since then, Peters, a Mashpee Wampanoag tribe member, has promoted education about the real history behind the Thanksgiving holiday. She and her son have helped to incorporate the Wampanoag perspective into events around the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing in Cape Cod this month. Five weeks after docking the Mayflower in 1620, the Pilgrims sailed away to find land better-suited to grow the crops they wanted, and ended up in Patuxet, the Wampanoag name for the area where they established Plymouth Colony. That contact with Europeans “brought plague and disease and pretty much almost wiped us out, so it’s not as much a cause for celebration,” says Kitty Hendricks-Miller, 62, Indian Education Coordinator at the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. For many Wampanoag, Thanksgiving has always been considered a day of mourning because of that epidemic and the centuries of American Indian removal policies that followed.

Many Wampanoag hoped that the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing would be a galvanizing event to remind people that the Wampanoag still exist, but many of the commemorative events have been cancelled, postponed or moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wampanoag to whom TIME talked all expressed a feeling of “eerie” déjà vu, marveling at how much hasn’t changed in 400 years in some respects. The tribe is in the midst of a fight for survival on two fronts: fighting to survive during a global pandemic and fighting to maintain control of their land.

Four hundred years ago, the Wampanoag were reeling from an epidemic that nearly wiped out the village of Patuxet. In 1616, before the Pilgrims’ arrival, a still-mysterious disease caused an epidemic that decimated an estimated 75% to 90% of the 69 villages that made up the Wampanoag Nation back then. Without modern knowledge of how diseases spread, Wampanoags attributed it to the supernatural spirits and gunpowder.

“The epidemic that decimated Wampanoag people just before arrival of Mayflower swept away a majority of their population,” says David J. Silverman, historian and author of This Land is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving. Initially, “a lot of native people associated firearms with epidemic disease because what they know is when Europeans show up, and fire their guns, shortly thereafter, people start dying of epidemic disease.”

Such disease outbreaks would be common in Wampanoag areas for the next 30 years or so. The Europeans viewed the decimation of the native population as akin to “God is sweeping away the pagans,” Silverman says.

“This is part of what created the vulnerability that allowed Mayflower passengers to have a place to be in Massachusetts,” says Hartman Deetz, 45, a Mashpee Wampanoag artist, educator and activist. In the early 17th century, some estimates say there were more than 40,000 Wampanoag people in New England. Now there are estimated to be 4,000-5,000. Today they make up two federally recognized tribes, Mashpee and Aquinnah&mdashthe two largest communities of Wampanoag&mdashas well as several other tribes recognized by Massachusetts.

“It’s somewhat ironic that on the 400th anniversary of acknowledging this point in history, we are forced to stay home and stay separate and feel that fear and uncertainty and some of the things that my ancestors were dealing with in a much more severe fashion,” adds Aquinnah Wampanoag Councilman Jonathan James-Perry, 44, who is featured in an online exhibit Listening to Wampanoag Voices: Beyond 1620 hosted by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University.

The stories of disease ravaging the Wampanoag population, which so closely mirror that of the modern pandemic, are just one of many aspects that get left out of America’s Thanksgiving history.

In fact, all we know about the meal known as “the First Thanksgiving” in 1621 comes from a couple of paragraphs written respectively by prominent figures in Plymouth Colony, Edward Winslow and Governor William Bradford, suggesting to experts that it wasn’t a big deal at the time. Much of the meal’s meaning was added in the 19th century, when the nation was divided over slavery and the Civil War, as an opportunity to encourage Americans to come together under a federal holiday. A lot of the significance behind the meal has been created over the years, spawning many myths and misconceptions that Wampanoags and Native Americans in general have been debunking ever since.

“Being a Wampanoag person in this time of year, it’s always striking that we tell this story of the Pilgrims and the Indians, and yet the Wampanoag people are often times left out of this telling of this story. We are not given the decency of even having the name of us as a people mentioned,” says Deetz.

Linda Coombs, 71, an Aquinnah Wampanoag museum educator who also participated in Listening to Wampanoag Voices: Beyond 1620 and briefs teachers on Native American perspectives of U.S. history, believes the violence after that mythical Thanksgiving meal has to be faced head on. “When the colonists came over in the 17th century, they had to get rid of us in one form or fashion or another whether it as converting us, moving us, annihilating us, or shipping us out of the country into slavery, and I just wish people knew that because this history is not yet well known, but that’s what it took for America to be what it is today and for people to sit down to have their Thanksgiving dinner.”

In late March, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that there was not a basis for the tribe&rsquos 321 acres of tribal land in Mashpee and Taunton, Mass., to have reservation status because the tribe supposedly didn’t meet the definition of Indian. In June, a federal judge called Interior Department&rsquos decision &ldquoarbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law,” and said the agency would have to re-analyze the question of whether the tribe is entitled to reservation land, while correcting all the errors that led to its original decision. But the matter is not resolved, and while the tribe awaits Interior&rsquos new decision, it is hoping for permanent protection through an act of Congress. It also has an ally in President-elect Joe Biden, whose tribal nations platform indicates he’s on the side of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe&mdashand Biden is reportedly vetting a Native American to be Interior Dept. secretary, which could help as well.

The Mashpee tribe has also had its own challenges internally, as its chairman was arrested on Nov. 13 and charged with accepting bribes in connection with plans to build a casino.

“We are once again 400 years later, in the midst of a pandemic and in the midst of a land grab and argument over jurisdiction and the ability of colonial law to recognize the rights of the people being colonized,” says Deetz.

The Wampanoag also have a family meal on the federal holiday, but it’s one of several Thanksgivings they celebrate throughout the year, to honor different harvests. Peters usually holds a “prayer fire” in her yard, gathering around a fire pit, offering tobacco (putting it in the fire) where prayers are said to remember ancestors and express gratitude generally. This year, because of COVID-19, her family’s gathering will be smaller than usual.

The 51st annual National Day of Mourning will still take place at Plymouth Rock. It usually draws more than 1,000 attendees on Thanksgiving Day, but this year organizers are encouraging people who don’t live nearby to watch the livestream to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the feeling of loss as participants remember fellow Native Americans who have died of the coronavirus, especially in the Navajo Nation.

Mahtowin Munro, 61, Lakota co-leader of United American Indians of New England, will begin fasting sundown the day before. She hopes that, just as the Black Lives Matter movement raised awareness of white supremacy, racism and attention to Black perspectives, the event is a reminder to listen to indigenous people. “When we’re there together, there is a really profound sense of solidarity and hope for the future that all of us being together and listening to one another that that can lead to a better future to everyone.”

These events are opportunities to talk about the ways people are “thriving,” not just surviving. Hendricks-Miller doesn’t like to use the word survival as much. “We’re still here,” she prefers to say, “considering all that we’ve been through. It’s kind of like a resounding mantra, we’re still here.”


“Our”Story Wampanoag History Exhibit Unveils New Chapter: The Return of Tisquantum

“Our” Story: 400 Years of Wampanoag History, an educational and cultural exhibit about the history and traditions of the Wampanoag tribe, unveiled a new chapter “Tisquantum Returns” last month. The new chapter was officially unveiled at the Tantaquidgeon Museum in Uncasville, Connecticut. The new section features three panels and a 7-minute video depicting Tisquantum’s (known as Squanto) return to the Patuxet village shortly after the Great Dying of 1616-1619.

The exhibit is open to the public at the Tantaquidgeon Museum through December 20th. You may also view the video online at www.mittark.com.

“Our”Story is an interactive traveling exhibit, told in the Native voice, which shines a light on historic events that had a significant impact on the Wampanoag tribe, their relationship with the Mayflower Pilgrims, and the founding of Plymouth Colony, cornerstone events that shaped America’s earliest beginnings. Plymouth 400 worked closely with its Wampanoag Advisory Committee, with representation from both the Aquinnah Wampanoag and Mashpee Wampanoag tribes, in the creation of the exhibit.

Each year, a new theme is added to the exhibit the first installation debuted in 2014 with “Captured 1614, a critical back story to colonization and the roots of the American holiday, Thanksgiving. “The Messenger Runner” added new context regarding the Wampanoag tribe’s communication traditions. The “The Great Dying,” depicts the catastrophic effects of a plague that devastated the Wampanoag nation between 1616 and 1619. “Powwow” was introduced in November 2017. It explores the traditions around gathering and giving thanks with a mix of interactive video, contemporary native art, and photos collected by the Mashpee and Aquinnah powwows, held annually in July and September respectively. In November of 2018 the “Governance” chapter was added with a focus on the unique style of governance practiced by the Wampanoag and other Algonquin nations. This style was so appealing to the founding fathers of the United States that many elements are reflected in the Constitution. And now, Chapter 6 “Squanto Returns” is now on display at Tantaquidgeon Museum in Uncasville, Connecticut. Kidnapped in 1614, learn how Squanto finally found his way home and what he had to return to.

Plymouth 400 commissioned a Native design team to create “Our” Story to ensure that the exhibit was thoroughly representative of the history of New England’s indigenous peoples. The Indian Spiritual and Cultural Training Council Inc. and SmokeSygnals Marketing and Communications conceptualized, researched, and produced “Our” Story, and members of the Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag tribes portrayed historical figures for the exhibit. The creation of this exhibit aligns with Plymouth 400’s mission to create a commemoration that is historically accurate and culturally inclusive, as indigenous peoples have declined participation or faced misrepresentation and even omission from previous anniversary events.

“Perceptions from Plymouth’s earliest period became etched into the American story when President Lincoln used the iconic symbol of the Wampanoag people and English colonists feasting together in 1621 as a representation of cooperation as he proclaimed our national holiday, Thanksgiving,” said Michele Pecoraro, Executive Director of Plymouth 400. “Plymouth 400 is committed to creating a commemoration that is historically accurate, which means addressing the realities of the story that don’t reflect the simplified and often inaccurate depictions of the First Thanksgiving. This exhibit is intended to create conversations around these crucial realities in our history in an informative and authentic way, honoring the contributions of both cultures and recognizing the complexities of their relationship.”


Wampanoag I ScFr - History

The Chappaquiddick Wampanoag Tribe is a historical Massachusetts tribe. Its ancestral homelands are Chappaquiddick Island, Cape Poge, and Muskeget. The Chappaquiddick Wampanoag were a tribe at the time of first contact, when the United States became a country in 1776, and when Massachusetts became part of the Federal Union in 1789. The tribe had two reservation areas on Chappaquiddick until the late 1800s. Today, Chappaquiddicks live in Martha’s Vineyard, the larger island next to Chappaquiddick, on the mainland in Massachusetts and Rhode Island (ancestral homelands of the Wampanoag Nation), and throughout the United States. The tribe filed several petitions to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the State of Massachusetts over a period of years prior to 1869. Tribal citizens visit and use the traditional lands at Chappaquiddick Island, and many of them are or were parties to petitions to register land by non-Indians within the last 20 years.

Our tribe had two reservations on Chappaquiddick until the Massachusetts Indian Enfranchisement Act of 1869 was passed. At that time, our lands were allotted to Chappaquiddick Wampanoag individuals and Chappaquiddick Island was absorbed by the town of Edgartown. Our reservations are documented as the Cleared Lands Reservation on North Neck and the Woodlands Reservation south of Chappaquiddick Road over 800 acres.

We have an extensive legislative history. Our Tribe filed petitions, acts and resolves to address Chappaquiddick grievances, issues and concerns with the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the State of Massachusetts from 1692 to 1870. Though our ancestral homeland is Chappaquiddick Island, our people routinely interacted with the Aquinnah, Mashpee and others on the mainland. All our enrolled tribal members descend from individuals on the Briggs Report of 1849 or the Earle Report of 1859.

Selected Dates:

Pakeponesso was born circa 1595 Sachem of Chappaquiddick, Cape Poge and Muskeget

1611 - Epenow Kidnapped - Epenow was kidnapped from Cape Poge and taken to England. In 1614 Epenow convinced the English there was GOLD back in his country and upon their arrival he escaped back onto the island.

1621 – Epenow signed Treaty with Pilgrims – Epenow, representing Capawock, was one of the Sachems that signed the treaty at Plymouth with Massasoit.

1642 - Thomas Mayhew, Sr. purchased overlapping claims to the land that is now Dukes County from two people in 1641, appointed himself governor of Martha’s Vineyard in 1642, and started purchasing land from various Indian individuals. At that time Pakeponessoo was sachem of Chappaquiddick. Pakeponessoo and his successor Seeknout wouldn’t sell land to the colonists. They balanced the needs of both the natives and colonist through arrangements that allowed the roughly 140 Wampanoag of Chappaquiddick and the 200 or so colonists of Edgartown to exist together.

Sachem Pakeponesso – berated Hiacoomes for associating with Christians

1651 – Christian assembly at Chappaquiddick run by Hiacoomes 1651, church established for ‘meeting members’.

1663 – Pakeponesso grants land to Thomas Mayhew – Natick

Circa 1681 – Seeknout, the younger son of Pakeponesso becomes sachem after his father’s death

1691 – Joshua Seeknout – grandson of Pakepanesso is sachem from 1692 until his death in 1716 he sells Muskeget Island to Mayhew in 1692.

1726 to 1788 petitions were submitted by our people to the Governor and General Council citing trespass of land, illegal land sales, and improper behavior on the part of the guardians.

1772/1773 Chappaquiddick Wampanoag Petition to England – A petition was hand delivered by Simon Porrage (a Wampanoag representative) to King George III of Great Britain. He ordered grievances be addressed but Boston would not listen.

1788 Land Division - In 1788, the portion of the Island that had not been sold prior to that date was divided by the colony between the settlers and the Chappaquiddicks. They got the “bleak sandy soil” and retained only 1/5 of the island. They had two reservations, the Cleared lands Reservation on North Neck and the Wood Lands reservation.

1828 Set Off – In 1828, the tribal lands were divided again by the guardians (under the tribal reservation system in MA) between our families. This division follows a request by Chappaquiddicks that the lands be divided according to family units. The common lands

remained and certain locations, like the cranberry bogs remained for the use of the tribe.

Life during 1800s - Throughout the 1800s, Chappaquiddicks endured hardships under the guardian system. The Earle report paints a picture of a people struggling to survive. They find it difficult to live on the land alone, and are divided over whether they wanted the right to become a part of the larger society and no longer be ‘wards of the state’.

LEGISLATIVE Activity for several years – Massachusetts Acts and Resolves from 1692 to 1859

1849 Briggs Report – Chappaquiddick Wampanoag are listed

1859 John Milton Earle Report - Chappaquiddick Wampanoag are listed

Massachusetts Act to Enfranchise Indians of 1869 – When the lands were allotted per the 1869 Massachusetts Act, the Chappaquiddick lands became part of Edgartown instead of becoming a separate town. The Mashpee and Aquinnah lands became separate towns. The Mashpee and Aquinnah people held leadership positions within the newly established towns.

Early 1900s – annual Gatherings on North Neck in Chappaquiddick at the location of the sliver lots. For several years during the 1900s, members of tribal families that live on the mainland spend extended periods in the summer months with the Handy, Healis and Rockers that live in Oak Bluffs.

1940s – Several sites on Chappaquiddick Island, including South Beach and Cape Pogue, used extensively for dive bomb training and other munitions operations during World War II by military planes out of the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Quonset, R.I. See and read more here.

1950s though 1980s – Chappaquiddick individuals received checks for Chappaquiddick Indian land lots. Individuals occupying certain lots were clearing titles using the Massachusetts land court procedures.

Selected Land Claims:

1977 – Epps Case - See the case here.

1981 – “A coalition of six Wampanoag Tribes file suit against the Federal Government - in an effort to regain land . the Chappaquiddicks, Christiantowners, Herring Ponders, Mashpees, Troys and Gay Headers. Robert C. Hahn, a lawyer for the Indians, said the suit maintained that sovereignty over Indian land was passed from the state to the Federal Government after 1789, meaning that the tribal property could not be surrendered or taken without Federal consent.” New York Times, December 19, 1981.

1995 – Chappaquiddick Tribe of the Wampanoag Indian Nation Corp is set up by tribal leaders a nonprofit community corporation that sits under the Chappaquiddick Tribe of Wampanoag Nation.

2015 – Chappaquiddick Indian Burial Ground Plaque - dedicated at annual Chappaquiddick Wampanoag Gathering the plaque was erected by the Edgartown Cemetery Commission.

1995 through Present – annual July Gatherings on Chappaquiddick Island.


The Pokanoket Encampment


We are writing on behalf of Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) at Brown, an interdisciplinary initiative of faculty and students interested in teaching and research that seeks to learn more about, and increase the understanding of, the cultural traditions and political experiences of Indigenous Peoples (especially in the Western Hemisphere) through historical and contemporary lenses.

We’re sure by now many of you have heard that a group of Native people has occupied a portion of Brown’s land in Bristol. There have been several news stories, and we know the social media posts have been flowing as well. The University has issued a statement (continually updated). We respect and appreciate the larger issues of dispossession and tribal sovereignty that are at stake here, and we are committed to continuing to communicate and act in ways that are respectful and meaningful to all parties involved. This is a much more complicated situation than the articles have let on, and it is clear that most folks sharing them are not aware of the nuance, so we wanted to provide you with a bit more context.

In the state of Massachusetts, there are two federally recognized Wampanoag Nations—The Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. Here in Rhode Island, the Narragansett Indian Tribe in South County is the only federally recognized tribe. While there is a long history of erasure and forced assimilation of Native peoples in the Northeast, meaning many tribal communities have been written out of history, the Pokanoket Tribe is not recognized by the federal government or the state, and more importantly is not recognized by the other federally recognized Wampanoag communities.

The Pokanoket are a group that claims descent from the line of King Philip (Metacom) after King Philip’s War, and many members of the group may very well have Native ancestry. However, according to historical records used by Mashpee for their language revitalization, the Pokanoket families were taken in by Mashpee after the war, and became a part of their community. There is a delicate yet important technical difference between holding Native ancestry and holding nation status, and that is at the heart of the issue here.

Like all universities in the United States, Brown University is on indigenous land, and part the goal of the NAIS Initiative is to help Brown to productively recognize that relationship and the responsibilities it carries. In the last few decades, Brown has made incremental progress on that front, and is poised to do much more in the coming years with our Native studies initiatives and other work in progress.

Currently, Brown recognizes the cultural significance of the Bristol grounds to Wampanoag peoples and offers access to any local Native person (including the Pokanoket) who wish to use the land for spiritual or community needs. The Pokanoket also work with the adjacent Mt. Hope Farm each summer to run a culturally based summer camp on the land in question, and they additionally host an annual community harvest festival on the land.

Local activist organizations such as the FANG Collective (primarily an anti-fracking group) have jumped into supporting and orchestrating the cause without reaching out to Aquinnah, Mashpee, Assonet, Herring Pond Wampanoag, or Narragansett, which is a problem. Because the Pokanoket are unrecognized, they would not have access to any of the federal or state protections around tribal land holdings, and would not be able to put the land into trust, the cornerstone of tribal sovereignty. Improving cultural stewardship and use of this land needs to involve all of the tribes that have ancestral and spiritual ties to the land.

We have worked for many years to encourage Brown to recognize its relationship and responsibilities to the local Native communities, and those relationships are very important to us as we move forward with our NAIS initiative. High-level Brown administration members have reached out to and are working with Aquinnah and Mashpee on this issue, and they have also met with the Pokanoket currently on the land. The hope is that they can come to a peaceful conclusion.

We respectfully ask that you don’t share out any FANG sponsored petitions, fundraising drives, or materials, and that you ask us any questions you may have before sharing out information. We are happy to provide more resources on any of the topics mentioned briefly in this email, and recognize that the nuances of this may not be completely clear for those outside of Native communities.


Today there are about four to five thousand Wampanoag. Most live in Massachusetts where there are two federally acknowledged tribes, the Aquinnah Wampanoag and the Mashpee Wampanoag, as well as several smaller bands in areas like Herring Pond, Assonet, and Manomet. In the Caribbean islands there are also descendants of Wampanoag People who were sent into slavery after a war with the English in 1670s.

No, the Wampanoag have never lived in that type of housing. A tepee (or tipi) is a style of house constructed in the Great Plains region. They have been depicted in film, art and in books for over a hundred years, so it's no surprise that most people are very familiar with tepees, and not so familair with wetus - the type of houses Native People in the Northeast built.

The traditional Wampanoag wetus (houses) - also called wigwams throughout the Northeast - are dome-shaped and covered with bark or cattail reeds. These houses are well-suited for the climate and life here in the Northeast.


Wampanoag Indians

The Wampanoag Indians lived in what is now known as Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the early part of the 17th century. The name means &ldquoeasterners&rdquo and at one point, their population was 12,000. Among the more famous Wampanoag chiefs were Squanto, Samoset, Metacomet, and Massasoit.

They were known to eat what is called the Three Sisters &ndash maize, beans and squash. They also were hunters-gatherers who also went fishing and ate fruits to round out their diet. They did not live in teepees or longhouses, but wetus. The wetus were doomed shaped huts made of sticks and grass. The Wampanoag spoke a language sometimes called Massachusett or Natick. Although this language has been extinct since the 1800&rsquos, there has been a movement recently to revive it based on existing texts.

Right before the Pilgrams landed in 1620, the Wampanoag Indians saw their population greatly reduced due to disease. One interesting fact that you may not know is that the tradition of Thanksgiving was adopted from the Wampanoag Indians interaction with the Pilgrims. However, Chief Metacomet, sometimes known as King Philip, declared war on the pilgrims. The growing number of English were displacing the Wampanoag Indians and converting them to their faith. Overall, King Philip felt the English were having negative affects on the ways of his tribe. The war only lasted a year, but it was the bloodiest of the Indian Wars, with most of the Wampanoag Indians and their allies, the Narraganset, being killed. Those that were not killed in war fled to other tribes and those captured were either relocated or sold into slavery. Another thing the war did was end the peaceful cohabitation of the New World and white settlers began to dominate the Native Americans.

Today, about 3,000 Wampanoag Indians still live in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. There is a reservation for the Wampanoag Indians on Martha&rsquos Vineyard that was set up by the United States government.


Wampanoag Story

A view from those who met the Pilgrims, the Wampanoag.

“In 1600 the Wampanoag probably were as many as 12,000 with 40 villages divided roughly between 8,000 on the mainland and another 4,000 on the off-shore islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The three epidemics which swept across New England and the Canadian Maritimes between 1614 and 1620 were especially devastating to the Wampanoag and neighboring Massachuset with mortality in many mainland villages (i.e. Patuxet) reaching 100%. When the Pilgrims landed in 1620, fewer than 2,000 mainland Wampanoag had survived. The island Wampanoag were protected somewhat by their relative isolation and still had 3,000. At least 10 mainland villages had been abandoned after the epidemics, because there was no one left. After English settlement of Massachusetts, epidemics continued to reduce the mainland Wampanoag until there were only 1,000 by 1675. Only 400 survived King Philip’s War.

Still concentrated in Barnstable, Plymouth, and Bristol counties of southeastern Massachusetts, the Wampanoag have endured and grown slowly to their current membership of 3,000. The island communities of Wampanoag on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket maintained a population near 700 until a fever in 1763 killed two-thirds of the Nantucket. It never recovered, and the last Nantucket died in 1855. The community Martha’s Vineyard has sustained itself by adding native peoples from the mainland and intermarriage, but by 1807 only 40 were full-bloods. Massachusetts divided the tribal lands in 1842 and ended tribal status in 1870, but the Wampanoag reorganized as the Wampanoag Nation in 1928. There are currently five organized bands: Assonet, Gay Head, Herring Pond, Mashpee, and Namasket. All have petitioned for federal and state recognition, but only Gay Head (600 members but without a reservation) has been successful (1987). The Mashpee (2,200 members) were turned down by the federal courts in 1978.

Like other Algonquin in southern New England, the Wampanoag were a horticultural people who supplemented their agriculture with hunting and fishing. Villages were concentrated near the coast during the summer to take advantage of the fishing and seafood, but after the harvest, the Wampanoag moved inland and separated into winter hunting camps of extended families. Since New England was heavily populated before 1600, these hunting territories were usually defined to avoid conflict. Ownership passed from father to son, but it was fairly easy to obtain permission to hunt in someone else’s lands. The Wampanoag were organized as a confederacy with lesser sachems and sagamores under the authority of a Grand Sachem. Although the English often referred to Wampanoag sachems as “kings,” there was nothing royal about the position beyond respect and a very limited authority. Rank had few privileges, and Wampanoag sachems worked for a living like everyone else. It should also be noted that, in the absence of a suitable male heir, it was not uncommon among the Wampanoag for a woman to become the sachem (queen or squaw-sachem)

The earliest contacts between the Wampanoag and Europeans occurred during the 1500s as fishing and trading vessels roamed the New England coast. Judging from the Wampanoag’s later attitude towards the Pilgrims, most of these encounters were friendly. Some, however, were not. European captains were known to increase profits by capturing natives to sell as slaves. Such was the case when Thomas Hunt kidnapped several Wampanoag in 1614 and later sold them in Spain. One of his victims – a Patuxet named Tisquantum (Squanto) – was purchased by Spanish monks who attempted to “civilize” him. Eventually gaining his freedom, Squanto was able to work his way to England (apparently undeterred by his recent experience with Captain Hunt) and signed on as an interpreter for a British expedition to Newfoundland. From there Squanto went back to Massachusetts, only to discover that, in his absence, epidemics had killed everyone in his village. As the last Patuxet, he remained with the other Wampanoag as a kind of ghost.

To Squanto’s tragic story must be added a second series of unlikely events. Living in Holland at the time was a small group of English religious dissenters who, because of persecution, had been forced to leave England. Concerned their children were becoming too Dutch and the possibility of a war between Holland and Spain, but still unwelcome in England, these gentle people decided to immigrate to the New World. The Virginia Company agreed to transport them to the mouth of the Hudson River, took their money, and loaded them on two ships (Speedwell and Mayflower) with other English immigrants not of their faith. The little fleet set sail in July only to have the Speedwell spring a leak 300 miles out to sea. Accompanied by the Mayflower, it barely made it back to Plymouth without sinking. Repairs failed to fix the problem, so in September everyone was crammed aboard the Mayflower, and the whole mess sent merrily on its seasick way to the New World.

Landfall occurred near Cape Cod after 65 days and a very rough passage, but strangely enough, the Mayflower’s captain, who had managed to cross the Atlantic during hurricane season, suddenly was unable to sail around some shoals and take them farther south. This forced the Pilgrims to find a place to settle in Massachusetts and try to survive a New England winter with few supplies. For the Virginia Company, there was no problem, since in 1620, Great Britain claimed the boundary of Virginia reached as far north as the present border between Maine and New Brunswick. So the Pilgrims were still in Virginia (although perhaps a little farther north than originally promised), but remembering Britain’s concern at the time about French settlement in Nova Scotia, the misplacement of the Pilgrims to New England may not have been entirely an accident.

Skipping past the signing of the Mayflower Compact, the first concerns of the new arrivals were finding something to eat and a place to settle. After anchoring off Cape Cod on November 11, 1620, a small party was sent ashore to explore. Pilgrims in every sense of the word, they promptly stumbled into a Nauset graveyard where they found baskets of corn which had been left as gifts for the deceased. The gathering of this unexpected bounty was interrupted by the angry Nauset warriors, and the hapless Pilgrims beat a hasty retreat back to their boat with little to show for their efforts. Shaken but undaunted by their welcome to the New World, the Pilgrims continued across Cape Cod Bay and decided to settle, of all places, at the site of the now-deserted Wampanoag village of Patuxet. There they sat for the next few months in crude shelters – cold, sick and slowly starving to death. Half did not survive that terrible first winter. The Wampanoag were aware of the English but chose to avoid contact them for the time being.

In keeping with the strange sequence of unlikely events, Samoset, a Pemaquid (Abenaki) sachem from Maine hunting in Massachusetts, came across the growing disaster at Plymouth. Having acquired some English from contact with English fishermen and the short-lived colony at the mouth of the Kennebec River in 1607, he walked into Plymouth in March and startled the Pilgrims with “Hello Englishmen.” Samoset stayed the night surveying the situation and left the next morning. He soon returned with Squanto. Until he succumbed to sickness and joined his people in 1622, Squanto devoted himself to helping the Pilgrims who were now living at the site of his old village. Whatever his motivations, with great kindness and patience, he taught the English the skills they needed to survive, and in so doing, assured the destruction of his own people.

Although Samoset appears to have been more important in establishing the initial relations, Squanto also served as an intermediary between the Pilgrims and Massasoit, the Grand sachem of the Wampanoag (actual name Woosamaquin or “Yellow Feather”). For the Wampanoag, the ten years previous to the arrival of the Pilgrims had been the worst of times beyond all imagination. Micmac war parties had swept down from the north after they had defeated the Penobscot during the Tarrateen War (1607-15), while at the same time the Pequot had invaded southern New England from the northwest and occupied eastern Connecticut. By far the worst event had been the three epidemics which killed 75% of the Wampanoag. In the aftermath of this disaster, the Narragansett, who had suffered relatively little because of their isolated villages on the islands of Narragansett Bay, had emerged as the most powerful tribe in the area and forced the weakened Wampanoag to pay them tribute.

Massasoit, therefore, had good reason to hope the English could benefit his people and help them end Narragansett domination. In March (1621) Massasoit, accompanied by Samoset, visited Plymouth and signed a treaty of friendship with the English giving them permission of occupy the approximately 12,000 acres of what was to become the Plymouth plantation.However, it is very doubtful Massasoit fully understood the distinction between the European concept of owning land versus the native idea of sharing it. For the moment, this was unimportant since so many of his people had died during the epidemics that New England was half-deserted. Besides, it must have been difficult for the Wampanoag to imagine how any people so inept could ever be a danger to them. The friendship and cooperation continued, and the Pilgrims were grateful enough that fall to invite Massasoit to celebrate their first harvest with them (The First Thanksgiving). Massasoit and 90 of his men brought five deer, and the feasting lasted for three days. The celebration was a little premature. During the winter of 1622, a second ship arrived unexpectedly from England, and with 40 new mouths to feed, the Pilgrims were once again starving. Forgiving the unfortunate incident in the graveyard the previous year, the Nauset sachem Aspinet brought food to Plymouth.

To the Narragansett all of this friendship between the Wampanoag and English had the appearance of a military alliance directed against them, and in 1621 they sent a challenge of arrows wrapped in a snakeskin to Plymouth. Although they could barely feed themselves and were too few for any war, the English replaced the arrows with gunpowder and returned it. While the Narragansett pondered the meaning of this strange response, they were attacked by the Pequot, and Plymouth narrowly avoided another disaster. The war with the Pequot no sooner ended than the Narragansett were fighting the Mohawk. By the time this ended, Plymouth was firmly established. Meanwhile, the relationship between the Wampanoag and English grew stronger. When Massasoit became dangerously ill during the winter of 1623, he was nursed back to health by the English. By 1632 the Narragansett were finally free to reassert their authority over the Wampanoag. Massasoit’s village at Montaup (Sowam) was attacked, but when the colonists supported the Wampanoag, the Narragansett finally were forced to abandon the effort.

After 1630 the original 102 English colonists who founded Plymouth (less than half were actually Pilgrims) were absorbed by the massive migration of the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony near Boston. Barely tolerant of other Christians, the militant Puritans were soldiers and merchants whose basic attitude towards Native Americans was not one of friendship and cooperation. Under this new leadership, the English expanded west into the Connecticut River Valley and during 1637 destroyed the powerful Pequot confederacy which opposed them. Afterwards they entered into an alliance with the Mohegan upsetting the balance of power. By 1643 the Mohegan had defeated the Narragansett in a war, and with the full support of Massachusetts, emerged as the dominant tribe in southern New England. With the French in Canada focused to the west on the fur trade from the Great Lakes, only the alliance of the Dutch and Mohawk in New York stood in their way.

Boston traders had tried unsuccessfully to lure the Mohawk away from the Dutch in 1640 by selling firearms, but the Dutch had countered with their own weapons and in the process dramatically escalated the level of violence in the Beaver Wars which were raging along the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes. The barrier fell when the English captured New York from the Dutch in 1664 and signed their own treaty with the Mohawk. Between 1640 to 1675 new waves of settlers arrived in New England and pushed west into native lands. While the Pilgrims usually had paid or asked permission, the Puritans were inclined to take. There was an especially large amount of immigration after 1660 when the Restoration ended the military dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell, and Puritans were in extreme disfavor with the new English monarchy of Charles II. At the same time there had been a fundamental change in New England’s economy. After the Mohawk treaty, many of the Boston fur traders left New England and moved west to Albany near the Iroquois. No longer restrained by the possibility of war with the English, the Iroquois fell on the Algonquin in western New England and began driving them east at the same time English settlement was rapidly swallowing lands in the east.

By 1665 Native Americans in southern New England were simply in the way. The English no longer needed their wilderness skills to survive, and fishing and other commerce had largely replaced the fur and wampum trade which had been the mainstays of the colonial economy during the early years. While there was nothing to equal the devastation of 1614-20, the native population had continued to decline from continuing epidemics: 1633, 1635, 1654, 1661 and 1667. The Puritans’ “humane” solution to this after 1640 was the missionary work of John Eliot and others to convert the native population. How “humane” these efforts actually were is a matter of opinion. Converts were settled in small communities of “Praying Indians” at Natick, Nonantum, Punkapog, and other locations. Natives even partially resistant to the Puritan version of Christianity were unwelcome. Attendance at church was mandatory, clothing and hair changed to proper colonial styles, and even a hint of traditional ceremony and religion was grounds for expulsion. Tribal culture and authority disintegrated in the process.

Even Massasoit fell in with the adoption of English customs and before his death in 1661, petitioned the General Court at Plymouth to give English names to his two sons. The eldest Wamsutta was renamed Alexander, and his younger brother Metacomet became Philip. Married to Queen Weetamoo of Pocasset, Alexander became grand sachem of the Wampanoag upon the death of his father. The English were not pleased with his independent attitude, and invited him to Plymouth for “talks.” After eating a meal in Duxbury, Alexander became violently ill and died. The Wampanoag were told he died of a fever, but the records from the Plymouth Council at the time make note of an expense for poison “to rid ourselves of a pest.” The following year Metacomet (Wewesawanit) succeeded his murdered brother as grand sachem of the Wampanoag eventually becoming known to the English as King Philip.

Metacomet aka King Philip

Philip does not appear to have been a man of hate, but under his leadership, the Wampanoag attitude towards the colonists underwent a drastic change. Realizing that the English would not stop until they had taken everything, Philip was determined to prevent further expansion of English settlement, but this was impossible for the Wampanoag by themselves since they were down to only 1,000 people by this time. Travelling from his village at Mount Hope, Philip began to slowly enlist other tribes for this purpose. Even then it was a daunting task, since the colonists in New England by this time outnumbered the natives better than two to one (35,000 versus 15,000). Philip made little attempt to disguise his purpose, and through a network of spies (Praying Indians), the English knew what he was doing. Summoned to Taunton in 1671, Philip listened to accusations and signed an agreement to give up the Wampanoag’s firearms. However, he did not stay around for dinner afterwards, and the guns were never surrendered.

As English encroachment continued, Philip eventually won promises of support from the Nipmuc, Pocumtuc and Narragansett. Because the Narragansett needed time to build a supply of ammunition and guns, it appears the uprising was planned for the spring of 1676. Meanwhile, the English saw what was coming, and the tension was becoming unbearable. In January, 1675 the body of John Sassamon, a Christian Indian informer, was discovered in the ice of Assowampset Pond. Three Wampanoag warriors were arrested, tried for the murder, and hanged. After this provocation, Philip could no longer restrain his warriors, and amid rumors the English intended to arrest him, Philip held a council of war at Mount Hope. He could count on the support of most of the Wampanoag except for those on the off-shore islands. For similar reasons, the Nauset on Cape Cod would also remain neutral, but most Nipmuc and Pocumtuc were ready for war along with some of the Pennacook and Abenaki. The Narragansett, however, had not completed preparations and had been forced to sign a treaty with the English.

In late June a Wampanoag was killed near the English settlement at Swansea, and the King Philip’s War (1675-76) began. The Wampanoag attacked Swansea and ambushed an English relief column. Other raids struck near Taunton, Tiverton, and Dartmouth. Despite being forewarned and their advantage in numbers, the English were in serious trouble. Well-armed with firearms (some French, but many acquired through trade with the English themselves), the Wampanoag and their allies even had their own forges and gunsmiths. Drawing from virtually every tribe in New England, Philip commanded more than 1,000 warriors, and even the tribes who chose to remain neutral were often willing to provide food and shelter. Only the Mohegan under Oneko (Uncas’ son) remained loyal to the English. Particularly disturbing to the colonists was the defection of most of the “Praying Indians.” When Puritan missionaries attempted to gather their converts, only 500 could be found. The others had either taken to the woods or joined Philip. Their loyalty still suspect, the Praying Indians who remained were sent to the islands of Boston Harbor and other “plantations of confinement.”

The English assembled an army at Plymouth in July and marched on Philip’s village at Mount Hope (near Bristol, Rhode Island) burning every Wampanoag village enroute. They trapped the Wampanoag in a swamp on Pocasset Neck, but they managed to evacuate their women and children by canoe across the bay to the Pocasset of Queen Weetamoo (Alexander’s widow). Philip and his warriors then slipped away leaving the English besieging an empty swamp! Leaving his women and children under the care of the still-neutral Narragansett, Philip moved west into the Nipmuc country of central Massachusetts. Although English accounts usually credit Philip as being present at almost every battle in the war, this would have been physically impossible. Philip provided political leadership, while others like Anawon, Tuspaquin, Sagamore Sam (Nipmuc), and Sancumachu (Pocumtuc) led the actual attacks. From Philip’s new location in the west, the war then resumed at an even more furious pace than before. The Nipmuc raided Brookfield and Worcester and then combined with the Pocumtuc to attack settlements in the Connecticut River Valley. After a raid at Northfield, a relief force under Captain Beers was ambushed south of town and more than half killed. Three survivors were captured and burned at the stake. In September Deerfield and Hadley were attacked forcing the colonists to abandon their homes and fort-up together in Deerfield. Facing a winter without food, 80 soldiers under Captain Thomas Lothrop were dispatched with 18 teamsters to gather the abandoned crops near Hadley. All went well until the return journey, when the expedition was ambushed by the 700 Pocumtuc at Bloody Brook south of Deerfield. Another English force with 60 Mohegan warriors arrived too late and found only seven survivors.

Having dealt with the northern settlements on the Connecticut River, Philip’s warriors began to work south attacking Hatfield, Springfield, Westfield, and Northampton (three separate times). Even with the help of the Mohegan, the English in western Massachusetts were hard-pressed, and by late fall, they were on the defensive and confined to a handful of forts. By this time Philip felt confident enough to return to the Narragansett in Rhode Island and collect his women and children. Travelling west to the Connecticut River, he moved north to the vicinity of Deerfield and then west into the Berkshire Mountains where he established his winter quarters just across the border from Massachusetts at Hoosick, New York. Gaining new recruits from among the Sokoki (and even a few Mahican and Mohawk), the population of Philip’s village at Hoosick grew to more than 2,000, and the winter of 1675-76 was a long, terrible battle with hunger.

For obvious reasons, the English considered neutral tribes who helped the Wampanoag as enemies, but their efforts to stop this widened the war. At the outbreak of the fighting, the Narragansett had gathered themselves in single large fort in a swamp near Kingston, Rhode Island. Although it appeared they were on the verge of annulling their treaty with the English and entering the war on the side of Philip, the only thing they had been guilty of during the first six months of the conflict was providing shelter for Wampanoag women, children, and other non-combatants. In December of 1675, Governor Josiah Winslow of Plymouth led a 1,000 man army with 150 Mohegan scouts against the Narragansett. The English demanded the Narragansett surrender of any Wampanoag who remained and join them against Philip. When this was refused, the English attacked. Known as the Great Swamp Fight (December 19, 1675), the battle almost destroyed the Narragansett. In all they lost more than 600 warriors and at least 20 of their sachems, but the English also lost heavily to and was in no condition to pursue the Narragansett who escaped. Led by their sachem, Canonchet, many of the survivors joined Philip at Hoosick.

Philip in the meantime had attempted to bring the Mohawk into the war against New England. New York’s governor Edmund Andros was a royal appointee with little love for the Puritans in Massachusetts and at first kept his colony neutral. This changed when he learned of Philip’s efforts to enlist the Iroquois. From long experience, the Iroquois were not comfortable with the presence of a large group of heavily-armed Algonquin on their borders (they had been at war with them for more than a century), and after several Mohawk were killed near Hoosick under questionable circumstances, refused Philip’s request. Encouraged by Governor Andros, the Mohawk became hostile and forced Philip to leave New York. He relocated east to Squawkeag in the Connecticut Valley near the border of Massachusetts and Vermont. Philip did not wait for warmer weather to resume the war. In February he launched a new series of raids throughout New England using his most effective weapon …fire. Victims included: Lancaster, Medfield, Weymouth, Groton, Warwick (Rhode Island), Marlborough, Rehoboth, Plymouth, Chelmsford, Andover, Sudbury, Brookfield, Scituate, Bridgewater, and Namasket.

As English soldiers rushed about trying to cope, they fell victim to ambushes. In March Canonchet and the Narragansett almost wiped out one command (60 killed), and in another fight shortly afterwards killed 70 more. With these successes Philip was able to gather a large number of warriors at Squawkeag, but he was unable to feed them. Although he was able to raid the English with impunity and fend off the Mohawk, Philip desperately needed to clear English settlement from the area so his people could plant corn and feed themselves. For this reason, the Narragansett and Pocumtuc joined forces in attacks on Northfield and Deerfield during the spring of 1676. Both raids were ultimately repulsed with heavy losses. Meanwhile, Philip’s followers needed seed corn for spring planting. Canonchet volunteered in April for the dangerous task of returning to Rhode Island where the Narragansett had a secret cache. He succeeded, but on the return journey was captured and executed by the Mohegan.

Canonchet’s death seemed to dishearten Philip and marked the turning point of the war. Philip moved his headquarters to Mount Wachusett, but the English had finally begun to utilize Praying Indians as scouts and became more effective. In May Captain William Turner attacked a fishing camp at Turner’s Falls killing over 400 (including the Pocumtuc sachem Sancumachu). Before forced to retreat by superior numbers, the English also killed several gunsmiths and destroyed Philip’s forges. Turner lost 43 men on his retreat to Hatfield , but the damage had been done. Philip’s confederacy began to break up, and it was everyone for himself. Some Nipmuc and Pocumtuc accepted an offer of sanctuary by New York and settled with the Mahican at Schaghticook. Others joined forces with the Sokoki (western Abenaki) and moved north to Cowasuck, Missisquoi, and Odanak (St. Francois) in Quebec. Philip and the Wampanoag, however, chose to return to their homeland in southeast Massachusetts.

Throughout the summer the Wampanoag were hunted down by Captain Benjamin Church’s rangers and Praying Indian scouts. Philip went into hiding near Mount Hope, but Queen Awashonks of the Sakonett surrendered and switched sides. On August 1st Philip escaped during an attack on his village, but the English captured his wife and son who were sent as prisoners to Martha’s Vineyard. Five days later, the Pocasset were caught near Taunton, and Weetamoo (Alexander’s widow) drowned while trying to escape. The English cut off her head and put it on display in Taunton. Philip and Anawon remained in hiding in the swamp near Mount Hope until betrayed by an informer, John Alderman. Guided by Alderman, Benjamin Church’s rangers surrounded Philip on August 12th. Alderman shot and killed Philip (for which he was given one of Philip’s hands as a trophy). Philip’s corpse was beheaded and quartered. His head was displayed on a pole at Plymouth for 25 years. Anawon was captured on August 28th and later killed by a mob, and Tuspaquin was executed by firing squad after he surrendered. Philip’s wife and son were reportedly sold as slaves to the West Indies, but it appears they were instead exiled from Massachusetts and joined the Sokoki at Odanak.

The war should have ended with Philip’s death, but peace treaties were not signed for another two years. Meanwhile, the English continued to hunt down Philip’s allies and those who had helped them. An expedition under Captain Richard Waldon attacked the Nashua in the midst of peace negotiations during 1676 killing 200. The prisoners were sold as slaves. Samuel Mosely followed this with an unprovoked attack on the neutral Pennacook. Other expeditions against the Androscoggin and Ossipee finally drew the Kennebec and Penobscot of the eastern Abenaki into the war. In November, 1676 an English army attacked Squawkeag and destroyed the corn needed for the coming winter. The Sokoki withdrew north to the protection of the French in Canada, but the English had provoked the Abenaki and Sokoki into at least 50 years of hostility.

With Philip and most of their leaders dead, the Wampanoag were nearly exterminated. Only 400 survived the war. The Narragansett and Nipmuc had similar losses, and although small bands continued to live along the Connecticut River until the 1800s, the Pocumtuc disappeared as an organized group. For the English, the war was also costly: 600 killed and more than half of 90 settlements attacked with 13 destroyed. Edward Randolph, an agent of the crown, estimated 3,000 natives were killed, but his estimate appears to have been very conservative. From a pre-war native population in southern New England of 15,000, only 4,000 were left in 1680, and the harsh peace terms imposed by the English placed them in total subjugation. In what has been called the Great Dispersal, the Algonquins in southern New England fled either to the Sokoki and French in Canada, or west to the Delaware and Iroquois.

Except for the villages on the off-shore islands which had remained neutral, the surviving mainland Wampanoag after the war were relocated with the Sakonnet or mixed with the Nauset in Praying Villages in western Barnstable County. The Wampanoag community on Martha’s Vineyard has persisted to the present day, although the one on Nantucket was destroyed by an unknown epidemic in 1763. The mainland Wampanoag became increasingly concentrated near Mashpee, but Massachusetts withdrew recognition during the 1800s. Without benefit of a treaty with the United States, only the Wampanoag at Gay Head have been able to gain federal recognition.


National Museum of the American Indian

Michele Felice Corné (1752–1845), "The Landing of the Pilgrims" (detail), 1803. (U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Reception Rooms)

“The antidote to feel-good history is not feel-bad history, but honest and inclusive history.” —James W. Loewen, Plagues & Pilgrims: The Truth about the First Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving story you know and the one I know are most likely the same. It’s the story deeply rooted in America’s curriculum—the one that inspires arguably the most important and tradition-filled holiday in American culture. We’re taught that in 1620 the Pilgrims fled harsh religious suppression in Britain, sailed across the Atlantic, and in December stepped ashore at Plymouth Rock, in what is now Massachusetts. With little food and no shelter, the colonists struggled to survive a brutal winter until a friendly Indian, Squanto, came along and showed them how to cultivate crops. Their first harvest resulted in a feast, as the Pilgrims gave thanks to the kind Indians for helping to bring the colony back to life.

This version of Thanksgiving, while pleasant, isn’t terribly accurate. Told from a perspective that frames the Pilgrims as the main characters, the story leaves out major details, glorifying the Pilgrims’ endeavor and the holiday it birthed, forcing the Wampanoag Indians into forgotten roles. It also erases a monumentally sad history. When we pay homage to the Pilgrims and their bravery, and react to the tragic background of America's founding myth with silence, we essentially support a mindset that only some people’s history matters.

Jennie Augusta Brownscombe (1850–1936), "The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth," 1914. Collection of Pilgrim Hall Museum. Not all mythical history is verbal. The Plains Indian headdresses worn by Brownscombe's Wampanoag leaders are probably enough said about "The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth." Notwithstanding the shirtless-in-December figure on shore in Corné's "Landing of the Pilgrims" (top), William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth Colony, wrote in his journal that it was four months before the Pilgrims saw the first Indians. (Pilgrim Hall Museum)

The true history of Thanksgiving begins with the Indians.

About four years before the Pilgrims anchored off Massachusetts, British fishermen had already started making their way through New England, storming through Indian towns to kidnap Native people for profit in the slavery trade. Although it’s often left out of textbooks, this series of intrusions was the catalyst to what is probably the most important event in this nation’s history, without which Europeans would not have been able to settle on top of the millions of Native people who already lived in America—at least, not as fast: epidemic illness.

Before 1492, the Western Hemisphere was largely isolated, sparing its indigenous peoples from diseases the rest of the world succumbed to time and time again. But this lack of contact prevented Natives of the Americas from developing any type of immunity to European, Asian, and African pathogens. When Europeans started trekking through Indian towns, they brought sickness with them. Indians died at an alarming rate, making it substantially easier for colonists to overpower entire villages—well, what was left of them.

The Pilgrims already believed they were part of God’s plan. Finding empty villages as 90 percent—yes, 90 percent—of America’s Indians perished in front of them only furthered Europeans’ sense of their destiny, influencing them to continue the colonization westward. As Jolene Rickard (Tuscarora) and Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche) wrote in Our Peoples: Giving Voice to Our Histories, one of the opening exhibitions at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, “That initial explosion of death is one of the greatest tragedies in human history because it was unintended, and unavoidable, and even inevitable. But what happened in its wake was not.”

One people who famously suffered from the onslaught of disease were the Wampanoag, a nation made up of 69 villages scattered throughout present-day Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Skilled hunters, gatherers, farmers, and fishers during spring and summer, the Wampanoag moved inland to more protected shelter during the colder months of the year. Like indigenous groups everywhere, the Wampanoag had a reciprocal relationship with nature and believed that as long as they gave thanks to the bountiful world, it would give back to them. Long before the arrival of the Pilgrims, the Wampanoag held frequent Thanksgiving-like celebrations, giving thanks in the form of feasts and ceremonial games.

Exposed to new diseases, the Wampanoag lost entire villages. Only a fraction of their nation survived. By the time the Pilgrim ships landed in 1620, the remaining Wampanoag were struggling to fend off the Narragansett, a nearby Native people who were less affected by the plague and now drastically outnumbered them.

For a moment of history, the interests of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag aligned. When the Pilgrims landed in New England, after failing to make their way to the milder mouth of the Hudson, they had little food and no knowledge of the new land. The Wampanoag suggested a mutually beneficial relationship, in which the Pilgrims would exchange European weaponry for Wampanoag for food. With the help of an English-speaking Patuxet Indian named Tisquantum (not Squanto he spoke English because he was kidnapped and sold in the European slave trade before making his way back to America), the Pilgrims produced a bountiful supply of food that summer. For their part, the Wampanoag were able to defend themselves against the Narragansett. The feast of indigenous foods that took place in October 1621, after the harvest, was one of thanks, but it more notably symbolized the rare, peaceful coexistence of the two groups.

The events that followed in New England also depart from the Thanksgiving ideal we celebrate. To read what happened to the New England Indians later in the 17th century, see the museum's earlier post Do Indians Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Lindsay McVay is a senior at the University of Central Florida, majoring in writing and rhetoric. Her professional experience includes writing grants for nonprofits contributing to blogs, especially Book Baristas and designing websites for Florida independent publishers. During the fall of 2017, Lindsay has worked as an intern in Marketing and Communications at the National Museum of the American Indian.


Watch the video: Wampanoag Nation (August 2022).