Unit 1: Summary

This Unit aligns with the Patuxet Stratigraphy Sort" (Activity 1) in the “You are the Historian” Interactive Game.

Learning Themes:

In this unit, students use archaeological material, maps, and excerpts from written sources to explore how Wampanoag culture transformed between the end of the last Ice Age 11,500 years ago and the arrival of Mayflower in 1620. Materials explore how Wampanoag people adapted to changing climates and ecosystems and built political, economic, and kinship networks of independent communities across the region before and after Europeans first inserted themselves into those networks. Upon completion, students should understand that Wampanoag people have (and continue to live) in their homelands for thousands of years, but not in stasis.

Key Ideas

  1. The North Atlantic was a bridge that connected Europeans and Indigenous Americans for more than a century before 1620.
  2. Wampanoag and other Indigenous people still live on or near the fields, forests, and waterways their ancestors settled thousands of years ago
  3. The Pilgrims were not the first Europeans that Native people encountered. By the early 16th century, European fisherman and adventurers began trading along New England’s shores.
  4. The arrival of Europeans introduced new materials, trade items, languages, and ways of looking at the world which transformed Wampanoag life and culture in the 1600s.
  5. After many generations, Wampanoag culture continues to adapt to new circumstances and develop new tools and ways of living. It is still growing and adapting today.
  6. Archaeologists study the past by looking at the things - or artifacts - people made and left behind in the ground. They use stratigraphy (the study of rock and soil layers) and context to interpret artifacts. Knowing where archaeological artifacts were found helps us understand how and when they were used.

Learning Goals

In this unit, students will:

  • Describe how people in the past lived and research their values and beliefs
  • Demonstrate how holding different values and beliefs can contribute or pose obstacles to understanding between people and groups
  • Describe interactions between and among individuals, groups, and institutions
  • Identify and describe examples of tensions between and among individuals, groups, and institutions
  • Identify examples of science and technology in daily life
  • Give examples of conflict and cooperation among individuals, groups, and nations in different parts of the world
  • Identify and examine how wants and needs of people in one part of the world may conflict with the wants and needs of people in other parts of the world
  • Locate, access, organize, and apply information from multiple sources reflecting multiple points of view

Primary Sources

Essential Questions

  • What is archaeology? How do archaeologists understand the past?
  • How did cultural exchange between Indigenous communities impact how people lived in Patuxet?
  • How did Wampanoag culture transform between the end of the last ice age to the arrival of European explorers?
  • How did European explorers describe the Northeast and Indigenous Peoples?
  • How did encounters with European fishermen, explorers and colonists change daily life at Patuxet?
  • How did the interactions between Wampanoag and other Indigenous and European communities shape the development of Plymouth Colony? Massachusetts? The United States?
  • Why is the diversity of Indigenous cultures unfamiliar to some Americans?

Suggested Activities

Grades 2-6

  • Make a timeline of Wampanoag history by putting the artifacts and sources from Unit 1 in chronological order. How did Wampanoag lifeways and culture changed from the end of the ice ages (approximately 11,500 years ago) to the earliest arrival of Europeans in southeastern New England in 1524?
  • Choose 2-3 artifacts from this data set and ask students to do research to learn more about how these artifacts were used every day by Wampanoag people. Challenge students to make a new map of Patuxet featuring their artifacts.
  • Find Patuxet/Plymouth, Massachusetts on a modern map. How has the landscape changed compared to the early 1600s? What has stayed the same?
  • Analyze Champlain’s map of Patuxet/Port Saint Louis (1605) alongside The Wampanoag Way (best for grades 1-4) or Paddling Through History (grades 5+) and this essay for young readers about building homes. What did Champlain accurately portray? What might not be accurate on his map?
  • Ask the students to make a map of their school or classroom including key landmarks they think would be important for new students. Have students explain what landmarks they chose to include and why that information is important.

Grades 7-12

  • Create a short essay, graphic novel, or illustrated story to reconstruct what daily life was like for a Wampanoag family using 5-7 artifacts from the unit.
  • Choose 4-5 artifacts from this data set and ask students to do research to learn more about how these artifacts were used every day by Wampanoag people. Find examples of them being used in Champlain’s map or his written description of Patuxet. How are these artifacts being used? Based on what you learned, what did Champlain get right? What did he get wrong? Challenge students to annotate the map or the written description to include more information about Wampanoag people in the 1600s.
  • Curate an exhibit explaining how the arrival of Europeans starting in the early 1500s impacted Indigenous communities in the northeast and connect it to what happened in your own community’s history. Don’t forget to consider economics, leadership, physical geography, and daily life.
  • Explore how Wampanoag culture transformed in response to climate changes such as global warming after the end of the ice ages. What are some examples of how our communities are adapting and transforming in response to climate changes today?
  • Compare the descriptions of Patuxet written by Champlain (1613) and the authors of Mourt’s Relation (1622). How did Patuxet change? What caused those changes?

Additional resources