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Four Wampanoag folktales for the classroom

Come Thanksgiving, teachers will bring lessons of pilgrims, giving, Native Americans, and more into their classrooms. While some may focus on the first pilgrims and the establishment of the first colony and harvest, other educators may want to look at those who were there before Englishmen even arrived at Plymouth. 

The Wampanoag Tribe were the original natives of Massachusetts and Rhode Island and were the ones who befriended the pilgrims at Plymouth rock and taught them how to properly plant and harvest. The group eventually celebrated their first successful harvest by having a three-day feast, also known as Thanksgiving today. 

For those wishing to teach about the Wampanoag tribe in the classroom, EducationWorld has gathered a Wampanoag Folklore lesson plan with a list of resources for teachers to use, such as quick fact sheets and other information. 

Teachers can start the lesson with this Wampanoag Indian fact sheet that covers where the tribe lives, their language, culture, religion, and more. Teachers can expand the research with this page, that looks at the Wampanoag tribe's mythological creatures and Wampanoag Indian Folklore. 

The page, provided by Native Languages, provides famous Wampanoag folktales that teachers can share with their students. Students can read each folk tales, and depict the message each story shares. At the end of the lesson, students can create their own folklore. 

  1. Squant, The Sea-Woman: This is a story about Maushop, a culture hero of the Wampanoag indians and his interaction with Squant, a sea-woman, or mermaid. Maushop tries for years to join Squant, but can't because he can't breathe underwater. He eventually gets angry, and throws his family into the water, whom then turn into fish. Squant takes Maushop, wraps him in green braids, and he falls into a deep sleep. Squant takes Maushop with her underwater, but Maushop never wakes up again. Lesson: This folklore will teach children to be careful what they wish for, and to be happy with what life gives them. 
  2. A Mashpee ghost story: This is a story about a Mashpee woman who invites a sailor into her wigwam after he asked to be warmed by the fire. The woman was afraid, but brave, and the sailor eventually thanked her for her hospitality, and told her to go outside behind her wigwam to dig up a kettle of gold. The woman did so, but every time she heard her children cry loudly in their sleep. She stopped digging, and went back the next day to find that the treasure was taken. Lesson: This story will show children that money shouldn't run a person's happiness, and that family is more important than gold. 
  3. Maushop the Giant: The story begins with Maushop, a giant who lived on the coast of Massachusetts before the European settlers. Maushop lived harmoniously with the Wampanoags and shared his whale meat with them. One day, to thank him, the Wampanoag's gathered all of the tobacco they could harvest and gave it to Maushop as a gift. Maushop then told the tribe that a "new breed of man" would soon come to shore, and warned them not to let them on their shore, "for if they did the Indians would live no more." Maushop then slipped into the waters off the bay. The Europeans eventually did come, and the Indians didn't listen to Maushop and greeted them. Maushop never returned. Lesson: Students can take from this message that being nice to someone can have its benefits, such as gaining a trustworthy relationship. It is important, however, to trust your friends, and listen to what they say. 
  4. The Circle of Life and the Clambake: This story is another tale about the relationship between Maushop and the Wampanoag tribe. The tale follows the two taking care and helping each other, but Maushop then leaves and becomes a great white whale. The Wampanoag wondered how they would survive without him, but found out that when they work for themselves, everything falls into place. Lesson: Not only will children learn that being self-sufficient has its benefits, but they will also see how nature comes into full circle. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, EducationWorld Contributor 

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