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People of the First Light: Wampanoag History
(Conflict and Contact with Early Settlers) Content Session Material

Theme: The Peopling of America: Migration and Immigration
Topic: People of the First Light: Wampanoag History (Conflict and Contact with Early Settlers)
Date: November 4, 2004
Scholars: Laura Consolazio and Tobias Vanderhoop, Native Ed

Overview | Required Reading | Reading Questions

Materials selected and syllabus created by Lauren Consolazio and Tobais Vanderhoop of Native Ed (


The Wampanoag People have lived in southeastern New England for over 12,000 years. The traditional homeland included the area south of Boston, all along Cape Cod and the islands and southeast to Bristol Rhode Island. A rich and complex society, the Wampanoag culture met the needs of its people completely and valued a strong relationship with the land, animals and resources that supported them. History, cultural values, and tradition were passed on by spoken word and continue today. These vastly different viewpoints clashed dramatically with the English settlers who arrived during the early 1600's. Armed with religion and a will to settle on what they saw was 'abandoned' land the relationship between the two cultures grew increasingly tense culminating in a dreadful war in 1675, "King Philip's War."

Beginning with a discussion of Wampanoag oral tradition and then focusing on primary documents regarding the early settlement of Massachusetts, we will consider cultural assumptions and the misinformation that embeds this important moment in history. The session will be filled with learning experiences designed to present a considerable amount of content while encouraging teachers to share ideas and practices for classroom use. With this new awareness, teachers will discover the multiple perspectives in all of our histories and effective ways to present this vital lesson to their students.

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Required Reading

Church, Benjamin. Diary of King Philip's War, 1675-76. Introduction by Alan and Mary Simpson. Pequot Press: Chester, CT, 1975. (Chapter Heading "King Philip's War")
Note: only need to read pp 19-28

Heath, Dwight B. ed. Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Boston: Applewood Books, 1986. (Note: first published in 1622)
Note: Do not read ahead of Content Session. Will use during Content Session.

Russell, Howard S. Indian New England Before the Mayflower. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1980. (Section III: "The Household")

Simmons, William S. Spirit of the New England Tribes: Indian History and Folklore 1620-1984. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1986.
(Chapter 9: "Giants: Maushop and Squant")

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Reading Questions

Indian New England Before the Mayflower

Throughout the articles, Russell has added the observations by the English of the Native people's life ways. How do the observances reflect the settlers' cultural norms?

Diary of King Phillip's War 1675-76

In American History textbooks, Metacom, named King Philip by the English, has often been portrayed as the rebel who started a war with the colonists, destroying the peace created by his father Massasoit. Do you feel this is an accurate portrayal of Metacom? How might Wampanoag people have described him?

In the hopes of preventing a war, James Easton, a Quaker, met with Metacom to find out why he was so frustrated with the English. Based on Metacom's conversation with Easton, what were some of his grievances?

Spirit of the New England Tribes

Oral history addresses the most essential human questions-who we are, why we a re here, and one's role the world. What does this oral history reveal about Wampanoag beginnings? What does this oral history reveal about Wampanoag values?

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