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 “easterners” 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 – 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’s, 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’s Vineyard that was set up by the United States government.
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