The First Thanksgiving Chat: November 19, 2009, 2 p.m.
Students' Questions Answered by a Modern-Day Wampanoag Native American and a Pilgrim Interpreter
Patience, a Pilgrim girl interpreter, and Kerri, a Wampanoag woman from Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts provided answers to students' questions about life in the 1620s.
See the transcript from the 11 a.m. First Thanksgiving chat.
PlimothPlantation: Welcome, everyone! You will be speaking with Patience, a 12-year-old colonial girl and Kerri, an adult Wampanoag woman.
jrm1180: What types of transportation were used by the Pilgrims and Native Americans? -Mr. Menz's 4th grade class! Greensburg, PA
PlimothPlantation: Patience: We arrived here on a ship. And there are no roads here. We walk when we go to our fields.
Patience: Sometimes the men take a boat to go to the main.
Kerri: We traveled by boats that we call mushrooms.
Kerri: We also travel by foot. Sometimes all the way to the Great Lakes.
vnader: Was it cold on the Mayflower?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: It is very cold and very dark on a ship!
Patience: I traveled very close together with people that I did not know. Most of us were very sick.
jamiemercer: Was the boat clean or dirty?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: It was very foul! So many people were sick in their bellies, casting and scouring. It did have a most foul odor!
Macik1: Did a lot of people become ill?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: Yes. It was worse at first for many. Some fared better than others.
Patience: Captain Standish and Elder Brewster were more well than others.
mrwalker57: What did you do if someone got hurt or sick? How did you fix a broken arm?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: If someone got sick, we would use plants to cure them. To fix a broken arm we would set it and wrap it in birch bark, like a cast.
Patience: Our deacon, Master Fuller, knows many secrets of the surgeons. He can set a bone.
missyp12: What did the Native Americans think of the Mayflower when you arrived? What did they think of all of the passengers?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: The first ships that we saw, before the Mayflower, looked like mountains and the sails looked like clouds. The sailors looked like bears climbing on the mountains.
Kerri: By the time the Pilgrims arrived, we had seen ships for over 100 years.
kddmb: How did the Pilgrims and Indians dress?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: We dressed mostly in animal skins. We wore a lot less in the summer than in the winter. We wore capes made from smaller animals, like raccoons, sewn together, with the fur on the inside.
Patience: I wear a waistcoat and at least two petticoats. I have a corset, which I call "stays."
Patience: My brothers wear breeches and doublets or cassocks. We all wear the same kind of hosen and shoen.
afinnteach: Hello, Patience and Kerri. We are a 2nd grade class in PA, and we're wondering if colonists' clothes were really just black and white or did you have other colors?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: My mother has told me that black is the most expensive cloth because it is so difficult to dye something black.
Patience: No one in my family owns something black. My clothes are in diverse colors, such as blue, brown, and goose-dung green.
pprager: Was there any jewelry?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: We wore lots of jewelry! Sometimes bracelets covered from our wrists to our elbows. We word handfuls of necklaces. Beads made from shell, stone, bone, copper, clay, teeth, and claws.
Patience: Most people in my church do not adorn themselves.
Patience: Some who are not in my church might wear a ring if they are married.
question1: Did the Wampanoag ever wear English clothing?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: By 1627, you see Wampanoag sachems being given horsemen's coats as a gift. You might also see people wearing English shirts and stockings.
Kerri: We didn't need these clothes. They were a sign of status, and people liked to be different!
ShannynEMCA: Did the Indians really wear feathers on their heads?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Yes, but not those big headdresses like you see out West.
Kerri: Because Massachusetts was once covered in old growth forests, it wasn't practical to wear these huge war bonnets.
Cochran's kids: What language do the Wampanoag speak?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: We speak Wampanoag. It is part of the Algonkian language group, the largest language group in this hemisphere.
Kerri: Words such as moose, skunk, squash, whack, and peewee all come from our language.
Boteilho: Hello! This is a second grade class from Concord, NC. We were wondering if you could teach us a Wampanoag word.
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: "Wunne keesuq" means "good afternoon."
kkm41: Since there were no hospitals, what happened when babies were born? Mrs. Hemenway's 3rd grade class! Morris Plains, NJ
PlimothPlantation: Patience: When my smallest brother was born, my house was filled with other women from Plimoth. My mother says it is best to have other mothers around to assist you.
Kerri: A Wampanoag woman would be well prepared by her mother and? her grandmother long before she gave birth. She usually would go into the woods alone.
Kerri: The English recorded seeing a pregnant Wampanoag woman going into the woods to collect wood and coming back with wood in one arm and a baby in the other.
calcat5: Did the Pilgrims brush their teeth?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: I clean my teeth with a cloth. My mother bruises sage and bakes it with salt to make a powder for yellow teeth.
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: We use hardwood ash to clean our teeth and the softened end of a sassafras root.
jvandewater: Hello, Patience and Kerri: We are a 2nd grade class in NY. We are wondering about your baths. Do you take baths in a pond, and what do you clean yourself with (like soap)? Then do you put on new clothes? How often do you take showers?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: Most often I make my body clean by changing to clean underclothes. I also wash with soap and water, sometimes in my house and sometimes in the brook.
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Wampanoag people bathed once or twice a day because of the paint and oil we put on our skin. We used freshwater streams and plants to wash.
vuentalley: How did you protect yourself from wildlife?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: We would clear-cut the old growth forests from the shore to a mile inland. Animals really don't like to leave the shelter of the old growth forests.
PlimothPlantation: Patience: Our plantation is bound by a palisade, a long fence, all around. It protects us from wildlife and also any people who might wish us ill.
2ndGradePV: For both: Did you have pets?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Yes, we had dogs. They were free to come and go as they pleased. We fed them to encourage them to stay.
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Women would sometimes rear falcons and hawks to keep the birds out of the fields.
PlimothPlantation: Patience: There are dogs at the plantation, but to me that is not a pet. A pet is a baby animal whose mother died and is being nursed by people.
pprager: Was there a sponsor for the Mayflower, like Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand sponsored Columbus?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: There was a group of merchant adventurers. They paid for the Mayflower and for the first few supplies that were sent.
PlimothPlantation: Patience: Our company paid the king for permission to use the land.
pprager: Patience, Did you have fun on the Mayflower?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: I was so very ill, and it was so dark that I could not even mark the time that was passing.
PlimothPlantation: Patience: I have never heard the word "fun" before!
jwmayes: Are Pilgrims still around today? -Mrs. Mayes' 2nd grade class, Fairfax, VA
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Well, there are millions of people who are descended from the Pilgrims, but the Pilgrims died 400 years ago.
Rebaroy: What holidays did the Pilgrims celebrate?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: The only holy days are the Sabbath, which is Sunday, and days of prayer called days of thanksgiving or days of humiliation.
PlimothPlantation: Patience: People in my church do not mark birthdays.
PlimothPlantation: Patience: Even Christ's birthday is not marked.
kkm41: Did you have books to read? -Mrs. Hemenway's 3rd grade class! Morris Plains, NJ
PlimothPlantation: Patience: I read the bible or our psalm book. Our elder, master Brewster, has more than 100 different books.
Macik1: Did the Native Americans have different names or were they common, like John or Sarah?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Your name would change several times throughout your life, from a baby to a child to an adult. Also, if something extraordinary happened. Also, if someone in your community passed away in your community with the same name as you, you would change your name out of respect for that family.
bfrancis77: Tristan (5) asks: What kinds of foods do the Wampanoag Indians eat?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: More than half of our diet came from what we grew and gathered. We also ate lots of shellfish and fish, even whales. We also ate animals that didn't eat other animals such as moose, deer, skunk, seal, and beaver.
mainefiddler: How about musical instruments? Did the Pilgrims and Native Americans play instruments?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: Many have noted that people from our church are very musical. We have some instruments, but we sing more than play instruments.
Patience: We have drum and trumpet that are used for the military.
Kerri: Wampanoag instruments include water drums, flutes, conch shells, rhythm sticks, and the best instrument of all, the human voice.
bradfordgirl: When did the children have time to play?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: All children did was play! Children had no chores. Children and elders were not expected to work. Adults only worked a few hours a day during the busiest time of the year.
Patience: Young children play more than they work, and older children work more than they play.
MT2ndGrade: How did they keep track of their birthdays?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: My mother does not know the day that she was born, and she does know the time of year. We always know what day and year it is.
Patience: Even if we did know the date of our birth, we do not mark those days.
Kerri: Wampanoag people didn't celebrate birthdays. People usually knew how old they were by counting how many winters they had seen.
referees: Both: this is a third grade class in Methuen, Massachusetts . . . Can you please tell us why the women did not cut their hair much? And, what was your life expectancy?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Men only plucked out their hair so it didn't get tangled in their bowstrings. That's why Mohawks were popular. Women would only cut their hair short to show that they were in mourning.
Kerri: If the Creator wanted our hair to be short, it would stop growing itself. Life expectancy before contact with the Europeans is equal to what it is for Americans today.
Kerri: After contact with the Europeans it got much shorter.
Patience: I braid my hair, and wrap it around my head, and cover it with a coif because this is English custom and because it stays out of my way when I work and play.
Patience: When I was small, I had overmany lice. It was needful for my mother to cut my hairs off.
Patience: My mother says that if you live for 30 years, you can expect to live 30 more.
Bagx8: What sort of inventions did you have to make your daily life easier? For example, did you figure out a way to have running water? (Homeschool family in Nevada)
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Fire made Wampanoag people's lives easier. It was our main tool. It's how we felled trees and made things like boats and bowls and spoons.
Patience: Before we came to Plimoth, there were many inventions that made life easier, such as mills for grinding our grain.
Patience: Here, life is very old-fashioned because we don't have these modern things.
gracel5400: Is there something, a chore perhaps, you wish you could do more easily?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: Grinding corn. We must use a mortar and pestle to grind handfuls of corn, and this is our most common food. It is a most tedious labor.
Kerri: Plant fiber is all spun by hand to make cord. Women spent a long time doing that back then.
mainecoonecat: Did any of the Pilgrims from the Mayflower return to England and not stay at the settlement?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: There was one couple that had four score years, in their eighties, and they went right back. Life was too hard for someone their age.
centennialcoyotes: Brandy is asking, are there still Pilgrims around?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Here at Plimoth Plantation, role-players act like English colonists. There are still descendants living amongst us, but there are no real Pilgrims left today.
kkm41: Was it cold at night in the teepees? -Mrs. Hemenway's 3rd grade class! Morris Plains, NJ
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Wampanoag homes are called wetus. They are not cone-shaped but round. The round shape acts like a convection oven, and it can get up to 80 degrees in below freezing temperatures.
mainefiddler: Did the Native Americans and the Pilgrims ever have school together? -Homeschool student in Maine
PlimothPlantation: Patience: I am taught at home also! There are no schools here. My father teaches me my letters, more in the winter than in the summer.
Kerri: Wampanoag children learn everything that they need to survive from their family.
jclarkburnet: A 4th grade class from Newark, NJ, wants to know what your beds were like. Who did laundry?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Wampanoag beds were made from a cedar frame, because bugs don't like it. A couple layers of mats were underneath eight to ten layers of fur. The beds were along the edges of our homes, with a fire in the center. They were a half a foot off the ground
Patience: My bed is made from straw. My parents have a wooden bedstead with a feather bed atop their bed of straw.
Patience: The mattresses rest on rope.
Kerri: People washed their own clothes. We also smoked the furs off of the beds with cedar to keep bugs away.
Patience: My mother launders all of our clothing when they are filthy. She remembers living in a city where there were laundresses to wash your clothes for you. But there is nothing like that here.
question1: Who kept the fire going at night?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Fires in our home would be years old! We never let them go out. Firewood would be stored under the beds
Kerri: Most of the time, hot coals could just be rejuvenated in the morning. Everyone was responsible for the fire.
Patience: We bank our fire over with ash at night. Sometimes in the depth of the winter my parents will start the fire in the middle of the night so we may warm ourselves and go back to sleep after.
Patience: We also start our fires with coals from the day before.
rm25cr: What were the punishments for misbehaving children?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: The most common way to punish children was embarrassments - reprimanding them in front of their friends and cousins. Really unruly children would be doused with cold water!
PlimothPlantation: Patience: My mother says "first a stern look, then a stern word, and if it is needful, the lash."
Tia Speed: What did you eat at the first Thanksgiving?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Wampanoag men brought five deer. We know that the English were hunting for wild fowl like ducks and geese. We don't know for sure what else they ate, but they probably ate corn and things like pumpkin that were in season at that time of year.
kkm41: Did you use utensils at the first Thanksgiving? -Mrs. Hemenway's 3rd grade class! Morris Plains, NJ
Kerri: People used bowls and spoons and knives, but no forks. Anything that you eat with a fork, you can eat with your hands. The same was true for the English.
jclarkburnet: What kind of spices did you have for food?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: We use leafy herbs from our gardens. Any spices travel here from England and are rather costly. Sugar is a spice that we do not use very often. We use salt at every meal.
Kerri: Wampanoag people used wild onion, wild garlic, wild pepper, sassafras root, maple sugar. We used no refined salt. Sometimes you would save broth from clams or use driftwood for roasting.
jlp9021: What kind of food did they give the babies?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: We nurse our children for up to three years. If the mother had no milk, we made a formula of crushed hickory nuts and water. Babies ate anything that adults ate; it was just crushed up.
Patience: My baby brother was nursed until he was breeding teeth. Then he ate a watery cereal.
bradfordgirl: What would a young child do if all his\her family members died?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Children would be taken in by their aunts. If there was no aunt, the leader of the community would adopt them.
Patience: Children who lost their families in the first winter were usually taken in by other families. Two girls in their teen years lost their families and then got married that first winter.
moose0607: Were the Pilgrims able to talk with their friends and family from England?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: My family sends letters back with a man from our village whom we send back to England for supplies. Sometimes it can take two years to get a letter back. Sometimes a letter miscarries and never arrives.
riseofnations: Did the Indians and the Pilgrims have weddings?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: Our tradition is the laudable custom of the Dutch. They are married by magistrate. This is not a religious ceremony, but one that is led by someone like the governor.
Kerri: All cultures have a ceremony that brings men and women together. With Wampanoag people it was a private ceremony between the bride and groom. The Pauwau, or medicine person, and the couple's parents attend. Gifts were given, but not to the man and woman. Gifts are given to the parents of the couple. Then there is a huge feast for the whole community.
goko: Why are you called Native Americans?
Kerri: We don't call ourselves Native Americans. We were here before it was called America! We call ourselves by the name of our nations. There are over 500 nations in the United States. We call ours Wampanoag.
ascheidtkes: Were there any of the Wampanoag people that went to England, learned English, and then came back?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: Wampanoag men along the coast were sometimes kidnapped and taken to Europe. Sometimes they were shown to prove how healthy New England was. Sometimes they would be taught the language so they could be brought back and used as interpreters.
Kerri: Squanto was one of those men!
Second grade Smarties: What did you use to write with? How did you make ink?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: We use a quill made from a goose or turkey feather.
Patience: The ink is sent over from England. It comes as a powder that we add water to.
suzannesnow: Kerri, What traditions are you most proud of?
PlimothPlantation: Kerri: All of them, really! Practicing and preserving traditional skills is very important to us, especially now.
Kerri: I am most proud that I can speak our language to my four-year-old son and he can understand me!
centennialcoyotes: Our Centennial Coyotes are very thankful for what you are doing today. What are you most thankful for?
PlimothPlantation: Patience: I am thankful for God's good providence. My brothers and sisters are all alive and well. And this land is a very fat place to live. Life here grows sweeter every year.
Kerri: I am thankful for everyone and everything that the Creator put on this earth. I give thanks every day.
PlimothPlantation: Kerri and Patience: We are thankful to be speaking together to all of you, and that so many of you asked such good questions!
Thank you all for chatting. Good-bye!