The First Thanksgiving Chat: November 19, 2009, 11 a.m.
Students' Questions Answered by a Modern-Day Wampanoag Native American and a Pilgrim Interpreter
We had record turnout for this years online chats with Plimoth Plantation. More than a thousand students from across the country, including Hawaii, sent in questions. Patience, a Pilgrim girl interpreter, and Kerri, a Wampanoag woman provided answers from Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts.
See the transcript from the 2 p.m. First Thanksgiving chat.
PlimothPlantation: Good morning, everyone, from Plimoth Plantation. Kerri: Hello out there! Today we have Patience, a colonial girl, and Kerri, a Wampanoag woman.
St. Mark's: What was is like when the Pilgrims came over on the Mayflower and stepped onto your land?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Seeing Europeans wasn't surprising to us. We had had contact for over 100 years. It was surprising to see women and children, who told us that they weren't coming to make war.
furies: How long did it take for Plimoth to be built?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: Our town has seven years. We are always building more houses and storehouses.
PS196: Pilgrims & Native Americans: What games did you play?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: We played lots of ball games. Sometimes we used games to settle disputes before going to war. Adults enjoyed gambling games.
Patience: We play many games with balls. One game is called ninepins, where you knock down wooden pins with a ball. I have a small cloth baby called a poppet.
psholcomb: What was a typical day of school like for a 6-year-old Pilgrim boy and girl?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: We have no school in our town! Patience: During the winter my father teaches me my letters. Many children here never do learn their letters.
Kindergarten Room 26: Do the Indians help you find fish?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: The Natives taught my neighbors to bury fish called herring in the ground to help the corn grow. Patience: Our men mostly fish like we did in England.
go heels: How did the Wampanoag Indians make their arrows, bows, and quivers?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Bows would be made from hard woods like hickory or ash. The bowstrings are usually made from the muscle from the moose's spine. Kerrie: Turkey feathers were used as fletching for the arrows. The tips were made from stone, bone, or copper. Kerrie: Quivers were made from reed, skin, rawhide, or even whole animals such as a fox.
KatieH1780: How did the Pilgrims and Wampanoag communicate if they didn't speak the same language?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: There are some Natives that speak the English tongue very well. They factor for us with the others. Patience: Master Winslow can speak a little of the Native tongue.
FlynnRoom47: What did they eat at the first Thanksgiving?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: The Natives brought five deer. Our men shot a lot of birds like geese and ducks.
rusty2802: How old are you?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: I am 29.
Patience: I have 12 years.
Go Eagles: Hi, Patience and Kerri! We are a 2nd grade class in Bronson, Florida. We would like to know what all you hunted with.
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Bows, mostly. Traps and snares. We used clubs, also.
Patience: My father has a musket called a fowling piece. My brother sometimes sets snares or nets.
WELOVETURKEY: How do you grow the corn?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: We grow corn in mounds, alongside beans and squash. The Iroquois call this the three sisters because all the plants help each other to grow.
Patience: Those things grow excellent good for us also.
PS196: What was your experience like when you first came to America?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: I was greatly afeared because I arrived in 1623 and many of my old neighbors looked very ragged. They were starving, and they only had foods like lobster and water to eat and drink.
charmteachrgs: Was it worth the trip to come to America?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: My father says "when I own land, all of the suffering would have brought about good things." But we do not know if we shall get our land yet.
secondadams: How did they build the Mayflower? Is it in a museum now?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: The Mayflower is a replica and was built in England about 50 years ago by skilled craftsmen. It is a museum now! People like you can come and visit her.
Patience: That ship that the firstcomers arrived on went back to England in April to be a cargo ship.
Kerri: The original Mayflower wasn't used for too many more trips after it brought the Pilgrims. It was already a pretty old ship.
jnl1128: How did you get the name of your tribe?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Most Native nations mean some form of "The People." Wampanoag means "People of the First Light."
St.Edward: Is Squanto real?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Yes. Kerri: His name was Tisquantum, and he was Patuxet Wampanoag, which is our name for Plymouth.
EBESDonnaJones: Did you celebrate birthdays?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: No, we didn't celebrate birthdays, but we had lots of different celebrations and feasts.
Patience: Some Englishmen celebrate the birth dates of royal people. People from my church do not.
Patience: We do not even celebrate Christ's birth date.
cindysturgeon: How did you make clothes?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Mostly from the skins of animals that we eat. Some things are woven from the fibers of plants.
Kerri: Some capes called mantles were woven from feathers.
Patience: Our clothing comes already made from England. They arrive from England in barrels.
Go Eagles: If you read, what did you read about?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: I read the bible.
Kerri: We didn't have a written language in the early 1600s. Some history was recorded in Wampum belts or birchbark scrolls using pictures.
Kindergarten Room 26: What do you make blankets out of?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Usually animal skins sewn together, with the fur left on.
Patience: My blanket is made from English wool, which comes from sheep.
DixieBees: How many people lived in one home?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: In the winter, family clans lived together in homes that were anywhere from 100-400 feet long and 30-60 feet wide.
Patience: There are eight people in my house. Many families have a single man residing in their home as well.
manatee208: Do you listen to music? What kind of music?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: In my family, we sing only psalms, which come from the bible. Many of my neighbors sing country tunes and dance country dances.
Kerri: Singing and dancing is a way of praying to Native People. It is done all of the time. We use water drums, flutes, and the human voice. Rhythm sticks and conch shells are also used to make music.
Moderator: We are receiving so many great questions. We will get to as many as we can. Thank you!
moose0607: Were there toys in the 1620s?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri and Patience: Yes!
Kerri: Cornhusk and deerskin dolls, miniature versions of things that their parents had. Boys would have little bows and arrows with no tips.
Kerri: Learning to make toys was good practice for the things that they would make later in life.
Patience: Girls have little cloth babies called poppets. There are games played on boards with marbles. We also play games with balls.
Patience; My favorite is Nine Men's Morris.
nmish: Did you play sports?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: A game played often is a game that's like a cross between American football and rugby. We play it on the beach and the goals are a mile apart! Sometimes hundreds of men play and a game could last several days!
Patience: Children and men play stoolball, where you hit a ball back and forth over a stool. Men play at pitching the bar.
beastquest909: Did you dance?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: We dance group dances, but we do not mix men and women when we dance.
Patience: Some in my town do not approve of dancing at all!
Kerri: All Wampanoag people dance. There are many different dances for many different reasons. Some are for fun and some are for prayer. Some are to heal.
EBESDonnaJones: What did you do when you got sick?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: We use plant compounds, sweat baths, and prayer. A lot of our medicines were used to prevent getting sick.
Kerri: Before the Europeans arrived, we had no life threatening contagious disease.
Patience: My mother balances my humors with herbs and foods.
Patience: If I am hot, she puts a refrigerator on my head. A refrigerator is a cold, wet cloth.
the first thanksgiving: How did the first Thanksgiving start?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: We had a very good harvest our first year and were thankful to God. We wanted to celebrate God's goodness with a feast.
Kerri: We don't think that the Wampanoag were even invited! We may have heard all of the gunshots, so Massasoit sent 90 men to make sure the peace treaty wasn't being broken.
Kerri: By Native custom, they had to invite us to stay. Our ancestors stayed for three days.
legtree: Did you eat lobster at the feast?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: People didn't like lobster much back then. We fed it to dogs and used it as bait to catch more desirable fish.
Kerri: Before overfishing, we used to be able to get five-foot-long, 40-pound lobsters washed up at low tide.
Kerri: We don't know if they had it at the First Thanksgiving or not. No one mentioned it.
kdsacredheart: Do you have pets?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: A pet is a baby animal that lost its mother and is being nourished by people.
Kerri: Some of the English had dogs for hunting and protection-the same reason that we had them.
Kerri: Women would sometimes rear falcons or hawks to keep birds out of the garden.
question1: On the Mayflower were there dogs? If so, what were their names?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: There was a spaniel and a mastiff on that ship. Common people do not name animals. Some royal people name the animals that they keep.
HomeschoolMI: What were the reasons the Pilgrims left the safety of England for the American wilderness?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: 'Tis a good question.
dustyspike2: How hot does it get in the summer? Patience, do you still have to wear all those layers of clothes in the summer?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: There was freedom of religion in Holland, but we thought that it was too free! We wanted to be among English Protestants again.
Patience: This place is very hot in the summer, but this does not make me desire to take off any of my clothing.
Patience: Some people might take off their waiscoat if they are working hard in the field.
luvbugdiva: What are the Indian's clothes made out of?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Mostly the skin of animals. We paint them and sometimes use dyed porcupine quills and sew them on like embroidery. The same is done with moose hair.
Kerri: Mooseskin is great for moccasins because it is thicker. Seal skin we like, too, because it is waterproof.
karif2: What was it like to be an Indian girl?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: In the past, children had no chores. They were free to play and be children. When children started asking questions, it proved to their parents that they were ready to learn. Learning was at the child's own pace.
Kerri: You might see Wampanoag girls playing with dolls or toys in a tower in a cornfield. That way the noise from their play would keep away birds.
jrm1180: What chores were completed by the young children?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: I have twelve years, and I help my mother with all of her work. I also help my father in the fields. Anything my parents do I am able to do also.
JuniorKindergartenWC: Was it scary when you (Pilgrims) first met the Native Americans?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: I was greatly afeared because I had never seen such people before. My father says he knew about such people because other Englishmen had been to this land before.
bickforddx: What was your money called?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: We were self-sufficient - families took care of themselves. We didn't have a need for money. Some trade items were more valuable than others.
Kerri: Wampum, for instance, came from the quahog shell. The purple in the shell you can only find from Long Island sound to Massachusetts Bay.
Patience: In England we used gold or sliver coins called pounds, shillings, and pence. In New England we use corn or tobacco as money.
Mrs Bieber: What kind of tools did you use to build things?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: We used stone axes, beaver-toothed chisels, and wooden billets. By 1620, we had some metal goods from European traders as well.
Patience: My father uses saws, large mallets called beadles, wedges, nails, froes, and chisels. These were metal and wood and most came from England.
slmustangs: Kerri, our 4th grade class would like to know how you made your shelter.
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: We used swamp cedars for the frames of our wetus. Because it's from a swamp, it doesn't rot easily and because it's cedar, bugs won't eat it.
Kerri: For the winter homes, men peeled bark off thousand-year-old chestnut trees in the spring when the sap was flowing.
Kerri: In the summer, spring, and fall we wove mats from cattail reeds to cover our homes.
DixieBees: How did they brush their teeth and take baths?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: For yellow teeth, my mother bruises sage, mixes it and salt, and bakes it. We rub the powder on our teeth with a cloth.
Patience: I bathe my hands and face every day and my body only when it is needful. Mayhaps two times a month in the summer and twice over the entire winter.
Kerri: To clean teeth, people smashed the ends of sassafras roots and used hardwood ash.
Kerri: We bathed in rivers and ponds. In the winter we would sometimes pull boats into the longhouses, fill them with water, drop hot stones in them, and then bathe.
Kerri: We would bathe children in huge clay pots in the winter.
Moderator: We only have time for one more question. Thank you so much for all your great questions and we're sorry we couldn't get to all of them. Please come back for our chat at 2 p.m. ET today!
JamieLynn Griffith: How important is working together in your community?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: The corn is so important for our survival that every single person who can work in the fields is very valuable.
Kerri: Families took care of themselves, but people such as widows and the handicapped would be taken care of as well. There are no words in Wampanoag for starvation and homelessness!
Patience: We have a red heifer who we have set aside for the poor and widows. A heifer 'tis a cow!
Kerri: Thanks for all of the great questions everyone! Come visit us sometime!
Patience: God go with you!
Moderator: Thank you for taking part in our chat. Your questions were excellent. We hope to see some of you back here for our 2 p.m. ET chat.