About those Friendly Natives at Thanksgiving.
Updated: Mar 14
We've all been learning about the Natives at the First Thanksgiving since 1st grade, maybe even kindergarten. But there's also a lot of things you didn't know that led up to that day and many, many things after. I put a lot of time and effort into researching this title for the simple reason as to not upset any Natives of tribes that still exist in this country today. They are thriving and proud of who they are and we should all respect that. Like other ethnicities we must respect and ask who they identify as, we must also do this for the Natives who ran this country before we took it from them [Awareness is key people!].
While researching the Native aspects of my story, The Wiccan, I learned a lot more than I thought I would. I never once thought that the tribe I am writing about would end up being the actual Natives that ate at the First Thanksgiving [It gave us all the feels, and the pressure!]. Without further ado, The Wampanoag Tribe!
Massasoit Ousemequin, born in 1590-1661, was the leader of the Wampanoag tribe. Before the Pilgrims in 1620, Massasoit and his brother, Quadequina, are mentioned once before in May 1619. Captain Thomas Dermer was returning known English-speaking native Tisquantum ("Squanto") to his homeland, Pokanoket, from slavery when he met Massasoit (Pokanoket was also Massasoit's birthplace and home, now Bristol, Rhode Island). Also keep in mind, the English were strutting through the forests, way before the Pilgrims, looking for Natives to capture and sell as slaves, while also unknowingly bringing diseases with them that killed thousands of Natives, a lot of them being Wampanoags.
When the Pilgrims finally arrived, it was actually months before Massasoit stepped a foot near them. It was the invitation from Samoset (another English-speaking Native), who had met the Pilgrims beforehand, that drew out the strong leader for a meet-and-greet. Massasoit, his brother, and sixty armed men traveled and stood at the top of the hill that overlooked the colony. Edward Winslow was sent baring gifts and a message of peace and trading.
Massasoit saw the benefits of allying with the colonists for powerful defense against his regional enemies, trading their food for weapons because they were in danger of being overpowered by other tribes due to the disease that killed so many Wampanoags. He was given fresh meat, biscuits, and liquor while negotiating a peace treaty that promised none of Massasoit's men would harm the Pilgrims and if anyone claimed unjust war upon the Wampanoag, the Pilgrims would come to their aid. When trading, no one was allowed to bring their weapons as well. Also in the treaty, it was agreed upon that the Pilgrims had a certain amount of land to build on, but that promise was broken numerous times.
Later, Massasoit would invite the Pilgrims to visit their home, for all was going well thereafter. Tisquantum would teach the Pilgrims to gather, hunt, and plant. The following year, in 1621, was when the Pilgrims encouraged the Wampanoag to join them in celebration of their first harvest.
In March 1623, Massasoit became very ill. Edward Winslow made the trip out to Pokanoket with medicine to help him recover if possible. By this time, Massasoit was blind and his mouth was swollen to the point that he could not eat or drink anything. Winslow scraped out the inside of Massasoit's mouth and gave him medicine, chicken broth soup, and water. After a a few days, possibly a week, Massasoit fully recovered.
Fun Fact: Ousemequin means "Yellow Feather."
After the death of Massasoit, the Europeans grew land-hungry and caused tension with the Natives being taken over, along with cultural differences and interracial insensitivities. The straw that broke the camel's back was the execution of three Native warriors from Metacom's tribe (Metacom, aka Phillip, was the son of Massasoit and became the leader after his father died) in June 1675. They were tried and found guilty on murdering John Sassamon, an interpreter and advisor for Metacom, because he was a suspected spy for the Pilgrims and supposedly had turned Puritan.
For six months, raid parties spread throughout what is now Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and coastal Maine between the colonial militia and the Natives. A few individual Narragansett warriors joined in against the colonial militia and violated many peace treaties, causing the uproar of the largest colonial army assembled to date for England, 1,000 militia and 150 Native allies. This was the beginning of King Phillip's War.
Metacom was eventually killed in August 1676. Much of the Natives and their land were destroyed, some of them sold to slavery and indentured servitude. Around 600 English soldiers died and a total of 67 settlements destroyed or damaged.
On a happier note, the Wampanoag's were respectful, spiritual, and incredibly kind people. They believed all creatures were equal and kept no pets because they believed animals should roam free as nature intended them to with their families. They fed and cared for them but let them be, it is because of this attitude that the animals came back.
Every time men went hunting, they thanked the Universe and the animal they had killed for giving its life so they could live and held ceremonies every time they killed deer, fish, or a rabbit. They also did not waste any part of the animal by using it for food, clothes, and tools. In this way, they show the Universe they are thankful for the gifts so it may keep gifting in the future. Life of an animal was special.
Dinner for the Wampanoag was gathered in four ways: hunting, fishing, harvesting, and planting. They hunted deer, moose, beaver, rabbit, skunk, and raccoon. They fished in rivers and fresh-water ponds for herring, trout, perch, catfish, and eels. In salt-water ocean, it was cod, tautog, pollock, bluefish, flatfish, bass, sea eels, mackerels and much more! Different nuts, berries, greens, and mushrooms were gathered from the woods and other places. they were added to soups and other dishes called nasaump, a food made of corn. Some nuts and berries were eaten fresh, then some dried for future use. Different barks, leaves, blossoms, and roots of plants were used for medicines and harvest at certain times of the year. Herring was often used as a fertilizer for seed growth for their underground foods.
A wetu was a Wampanoag's home (Also wetuash, plural of wetu). Multi-family ones could house forty or fifty people and the wetuash were fifty or sixty feet tall and one-hundred feet long. The frames were made from forty saplings, unless it was a big wetu, then it would need two-hundred. Bark from older trees were used in the winter, while cattail mats were used in the warmer months, gathered from swamps and marshes. Dried reeds were sewn into big, double-sided mats. This kept away the rain and the inside dry. A hole is built at the top for smoke to escape from the indoor fire, then a sheet of bark is kept over the hole to keep snow and such from coming in. The round shape keeps heating and cooling the wetu evenly, as it also represents the circle of life. Once built, it belonged to the woman because they birth the people of the future and must be protected and nurtured. The men provided and protected their families and lived with them.
The Wampanoag's clothes were breechcloths. Made from deerskin and worn between the legs tucked under a belt, hanging down in the front and back like flaps. Younger boys wore nothing until they were ten years old. In cold weather, men and women wore mantles. They fastened around one shoulder and then wrapped many different ways around the body. Women often wore skirts also made out of deerskin that could be worn underneath mantles. Leggings were worn during cooler weather or scratches of brush and brambles. Moccasinash, a pair of shoes, were worn in tough terrain or cold weather (Moccasin is their word for a single shoe) and made from deerskin, elk or moose. Paint and porcupine quills were used to decorated their clothes and bodies. Tattoos were also a thing, who knew! But only on important people in the Nation.
This was a lot fun to learn, and I'm so ecstatic I could share it with you! I learned all these things from Plimoth Plantation, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Scholastic, and Mayflower History. And so it's clear, these pictures are NOT mine!
the Blue Label
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