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People of the First Light: Wampanoag History
(Conflict and Contact with Early Settlers) Primary Sources

Theme: The Peopling of America: Migration and Immigration
Topic: People of the First Light: Wampanoag History
(Conflict and Contact with Early Settlers)
Date: November 2004

Primary Sources from Partner Collections
Primary Sources from Local Archives and Collections
Additional Primary Sources Used in Content and Follow-up Sessions

Sources selected and annotated by John R. Grimes, Deputy Director of Research, New Media, and Information and Curator of Native American Art at the Peabody Essex Museum, and SALEM in History staff.

Primary Sources from Partner Collections
*Peabody Essex Museum objects on this page are also online at the Museum's ARTscape feature.

Possibly Pennacok or Penobscot artist
Burlwood cup
Birch or maple burlwood
late 18th – early 19th century
Peabody Essex Museum

“Native spirituality and folklore, so strongly associated with the landscape, were critical to Native cultural persistence in New England… This burlwood cup is representative of such persistence. It is an expression of conservatism, since, when it was made, commercial goods had already supplanted many types of Native – manufactured utensils and furnishings. It is pierced at its flat end, apparently so that it could be hung on a belt toggle, and was thus probably an accessory for a hunter or woodsman.” (96)


Northeastern artist, possibly Oneida
Deerskin, porcupine quills, tin cones, porcelain beads, horse hair, sinew
late 17th – mid 18th century
Peabody Essex Museum

“Captain David Bates Douglass acquired this quilled leather pouch in 1820 while serving as a surveyor for the Lewis Cass expedition to the headwaters of the Mississippi River. This blackened deerskin pouch is decorated with quill-embroidered Thunderers, supernatural beings that fly through the sky, hidden by dark clouds. Thunderers are extremely powerful: thunder booms from their flapping wings, and when they blink, lightning shoots from their eyes. The two fish, probably lake sturgeon, may represent the owner’s clan affiliation. Holes in the upper corners of the pouch suggest a now-missing shoulder strap. It was probably used to hold herbal medicines, hunting charms, or tobacco.” (174)


Northeastern Artist
Bowl in Burled Wood
19th century
Burled wood
Peabody Essex Museum

"The rich and turbulent grain of the wood is beautifully enhanced by the simple design and confident carving of the bowl."

Quoted from: Monroe, Dan L., et. al. Gifts of the Spirit: Works by Nineteenth-Century & Contemporary Native American Artists: 14 November 1996 - 18 May 1997. Salem, MA: Peabody Essex Museum, 1996; 100.



Probably Iroquois (Handenosaunee) artist
Wampum belt
Shells and leather
18th Century
Peabody Essex Museum

“Wampum are cylindrical shell beads, typically about one Quarter inch in length and one eighth inch in diameter. Wampum beads are white or purple, with the white made from the interior column of the Atlantic whelk shell and the purple made from that of the quahog…. The more important use of wampum was as a symbolic and documentary medium. Among the Iroquois, wampum strings functioned as mnemonies for reciting ritual speeches, while belts of wampum solemnized intertribal communiqués and commemorated councils and treaties” (103)

“Belts made mainly from white beads suggest cordial diplomacy, while those that made extensive use of purple (sometimes referred to as “black” beads) have more sober connotations. The meaning of the belt shown here, which is predominantly purple with ten white cross-filled hexagons, is now lost, but it bears faint traces of red paint on some of the beads and fringe. Belts marked with red were understood as a call to war.” (105)


Pawtucket artist
Bear Sculpture
16th Century
Peabody Essex Museum

" This sculpture was probably created in what is now Salem, Massachusetts, in the decades shortly before the arrival of Europeans. Highly animated despite its simple form, the sculpture likely represents a clan protector or ancestor." (89)


Unidentified Northearstern artist
Bull Brook palaeoindian site, Ipswich, MA, ca. 11,000 B.C.
Red chert
Peabody Essex Museum

"The Bull Brook site, excavated between ca. 1950 and 1975, ranks among the largest and most important palaeoindian sites in North America. It was occupied by a group of families, probably during the winter season, some 11,000 years ago. Palaeoindians - we have no way of knowing what they called themselves - are thought to be the earliest people to live in present-day New England after the retreat of the last glacier. Evidence at this and similar sites suggests that this spearpoint was probably used to hunt caribou. The beautiful workmanship of this and other palaeoindian tools and objects reveals an obvious concern for aesthetics as well as functionality."

Quoted from ARTscape entry, Peabody Essex Museum.


Unidentified French Artist
Portrait, Native of Davis Straight
France, ca. 17th-18th century
Watercolor on paper
Peabody Essex Museum

"After about 1500, before Europeans began to establish settlements in North America, European fishermen began exploiting the rich fishing grounds off the coast of European accounts, and depictions, of Native Americans date from this time. This early watercolor, notable for its classical pose, depicts an Inuit resident of present date Greenland or Nunavut, Canada."

Quoted from ARTscape entry, Peabody Essex Museum.


William Hubbard. A Map of New-England, 1677. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

This map first appeared in The History of the Indian Wars in New England that was published in London and Boston in 1677 by William Hubbard.


Sheffield Patent, 1623. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

This document is the Charter for the first permanent colony in the territory of the first Massachusetts Company granted 1 January, 1623/4 for the Cape Ann Area. Transcription available at the Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.


*Unless otherwise noted, passages above quoted from: Uncommon Legacies: Native American Art from the Peabody Essex Museum, by John R. Grimes, Christian F. Feest, and Mary Lou Curran. NY: American Federation of Arts, New York in association with University of Washington Press, Seattle and London, 2002.

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Primary Sources from Other Local Archives and Collections



Deed to Salem,1686. Salem City Hall.

In 1686, Salem leaders sought out surviving relatives of local Indians who might clarify ownership of the land held by Salem. Colonial residents were eager to prove to England their rightful claim to the charter. The original copy of this deed is held by the Salem City Clerk’s office, and a copy is on view in the Council Chamber at Salem City Hall. Transcription available at Salem City Hall.

The Charter of Massachusetts Bay, 1629. Salem Athenaeum.

In 1628, a group of Englishmen formed the Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay and sought a land grant to establish a colony in North America. The Council of New England extended a land grant to the company for the area between the Charles and Merrimack rivers as far west to the Pacific Ocean. The first colonies established were at Cape Ann and later, Salem. Transcription online at The Avalon Project : The Charter of Massachusetts Bay : 1629

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Additional Primary Sources Used in Content and Follow-up Sessions



Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation 1620 – 1647. NY: Random House, 1981.

This account of Plymouth Plantation was written by Bradford to be circulated in England. The selections below were selected for their discussion of Squanto. Bradford’s narrative provides some of the slim extant evidence regarding this Native man who figures prominently in imaginative interpretations of early encounters between Native populations and European settlers, and what is contemporarily called the “First Thanksgiving” attended by both groups.

Church, Benjamin. Diary of King Philip’s War, 1675 – 76. Introduction by Alan and Mary Simpson. Chester, CT: Pequot Press, 1975.

The sections on pages 26-28 lists grievances against English settlers by the Wampanoag man known as King Philip. These complaints were recorded by Deputy Governor John Easton, a Rhode Island Quaker, who attempted to arbitrate the differences between the Native Americans and the colonists.

Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Introduction by Dwight B. Heath, ed. Bedford, MA: Applewood Books, 1963.

Mourt's Relation was published in London in 1622, probably with the intention of garnering support for the fledgling colony at Plymouth. Edward Winslow and William Bradford were authors of the text. It describes colonists’ activities and their interaction with Native peoples from the landing of the settlers through the arrival of the Ship Fortune in 1621. First selections specified here concern the settlers’ hunt for food sources and their discovery of Indian food, shelter, and burial grounds. Later discussions from the fall of 1621 provide the only written documentation known to describe events from what was later considered the “First Thanksgiving” with colonists and Native American Indians participating in a feast.


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