NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

November 28, 2013

American Indians, as early Europeans saw them

This is part 2 of a Thanksgiving attempt to remind us of the Native Americans living in New England before the Pilgrims arrived in 1620. The quotes that follow are of early Europeans describing, in short sound bites, the day-to-day world of the American Indians as they saw it.

“The houses were made with long young sapling trees, bended and both ends stuck into the ground. They were made round, like unto an arbor, and covered down to the ground with thick and well wrought mats, and the door was not over a yard high, made of a mat to open. … One might stand and go upright in them. ... Round about the fire they lay on mats, which are their beds … In the houses we found wooden bowls, trays and dishes, earthen pots, handbaskets made of crabshells wrought together … There was also baskets of sundry sorts, bigger and some lesser, finer and some coarser; some were curiously wrought with black and white in pretty works, and sundry other of their household stuff. We found also two or three deer’s heads ... deer’s feet stuck up in the houses, harts’ horns, and eagles’ claws, and sundry such like things there was, also two or three baskets full of parched acorns, pieces of fish, and a piece of a broiled herring. Some of the best things we took away with us, and left the houses standing still as they were.” Edward Winslow, describing the first Indian home the Pilgrims encountered on Cape Cod

[The houses,] deny entrance to any drop of raine, though it come both fierce and long, neither can the piercing North winde finde a crannie, through which he can conveigh his cooling breath. ... They be warmer than our English houses …These bee such smoakie dwellings, that when there is good fires, they are not able to stand upright, but lie all along under the smoake.” William Wood, 1634

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