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Teaching Resources: Before the Pilgrims
Great websites for exploring those who pre-dated the Pilgrims: Vikings, Native Americans, and the English settlers of Jamestown
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
On Thanksgiving Day, we remember the Pilgrims and their original Thanksgiving feast in 1621, when they celebrated their first harvest in America and invited the Wampanoag to join them. But let's not forget the other people who had been in the Americas before the Pilgrims, from Native Americans to the English settlers in Jamestown. You can discover this history through great sites online.
More than six centuries before the Pilgrims, the seafaring Vikings ventured to the northern tier of North America. From the Viking Network, you can learn about the Vikings' everyday life — even a board game they played — and look at maps of their far-flung travels. Would you like to visit a Viking settlement in North America? You can do this online at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, where Native peoples had camps as far back as 6,000 years ago and the Vikings settled for a short time in the 11th century.
You can also see North America's history being "dug up" by archaeologists at Jamestown, the English colony that predated the Pilgrims' landing by 13 years. Read about the colony's history or about what has been found there today. The English came to Jamestown seeking wealth. Following the 1492 voyages of Christopher Columbus, the Spaniards also sought wealth and a huge empire in the Americas. Would you like your students to focus on one region of the country and compare various early European settlements in America? The National Park Service explores Spanish, French, and other settlements in southeast America, such as Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and Fort Caroline, both in Florida.
The Native Americans, of course, were here long before such Europeans. In the Southwest, the Pueblo Indians had a distinct, complex civilization many centuries before the 17th century. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center presents the history, legends, way of life, and culture of the Pueblo's 19 communities, from the Acoma to the Zuni. End a virtual trek back through pre-Pilgrim history by "meeting" the Indian natives who joined in the Thanksgiving feast with the Pilgrims: the Wampanoag. Tour a Wampanoag homesite to understand not only their history and ways but to imagine how their lifestyles were radically changed by European settlement in America. To them, the "New World" was actually an old land and their long time home.