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Identify the Wampanoags and their leaders at the time the Pilgrims arrived, and describe their way of life.

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rotating gif.gifFor more information on Native peoples in Massachusetts, see Grade 5.6

    • Massachusetts is derived from an Algonquian word (Massachuset) meaning a "range of hills."

Who were the Wampanoags?
  • The name Wampanoag (wahm-pah-no-ahg) means "eastern people" or "people of the dawn."
  • Native American tribe
  • Before the arrival of the Pilgrims, there were about 50,000 Wampanoags
  • They lived in 67 villages, located in southeastern MA and eastern Rhode Island.
  • Today, there are 4,000 to 5,000 Wampanoags.
  • Many deaths were caused by illnesses brought over by the Europeans.
  • Their diets mainly consisted of the "Three Sisters", squash, corn, and beans.
  • They also ate fruits and fish.
  • Spoke a language called "Massachuset" or "Natick"
  • Lived in dome shaped huts that were made of grass and sticks, called "wetus."
Click here for more information.

Who were the leaders?
  • The leader was referred to as a "Sachem"
  • Famous Sachems:
    • Massasoit:
      • Born around 1590 and died in 1661
      • When the Pilgrims arrived, Massasoit reached out to them
      • He and the other Wampanoags showed the Pilgrims techniques for farming and living in MA
      • He became sick in 1623 and was nursed back to health by the Pilgrims
      • The Wampanoags and Pilgrims lived in peace his whole life
    • Wamsutta (Alexander):
      • Born Wamsutta, but given the name Alexander by the colonists
      • Became leader when his father, Massasoit, died
      • Tried to keep the peace just like his father did
      • In 1662, he was called to English questioning about plots against the colonists
      • He became sick and died during the questioning
    • Metacomet (Philip):
      • Also known as "Metacom"
      • Given the name Philip by the colonists
      • Later known as "King Philip"
      • Became leader when his elder brother, Wamsutta died
      • Disliked the English, who he believed were taking over his home and land.
      • Formed an alliance with nearby Native American tribes.
      • Decided to stand against the English and started King Philip's War.
      • Eventually betrayed and killed by the English.
      • He was beheaded and his head was put on a pole in Plymouth for 25 years.

Link to Dramatic Event Page on Peskeompskut Massacre or Battle of Great Falls

For background on the Native American peoples of New England, go to Wampanoag from the Boston Children's Museum,

For a modern-day view, see the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe website.

external image Red_apple.jpgTeaching and Learning Resources

Teacher and Student Resources for American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving from the National Museum of the American Indian.

Click here for an article that gives a Native American perspective of life in Massachusetts in the 1600s.

Click here for lesson plan ideas on the Wampanoag tribe.

Multimedia.pngMultimedia Resources

  • Click here for a YouTube video of a Wampanoag homesite at Plymouth Plantation.
    • Click here for a clip of a recent Powwow held by the Wampanoags.

primary_sources.PNGPrimary Sources

Includes the text of the Mohawk version of the //Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address: Greeting to the Natural World//.

Click here for an excerpt from a primary source on King Philip's complaints to the English.
A Sketch of a Wetus

Click here for an English account of King Philip's War.

Multimedia.pngThe first episode in PBS's We Shall Remain series details colonial interactions with the Wampanoag tribe. The first 15 minutes of the video detail the first Thanksgiving, as well as Wampanoag life in the years preceding the arrival of the Mayflower. You can stream the video here.