Thursday, September 10, 2015

Where Can You Get Hands on with Wampanoag Culture and History? {A MA History Field Trip Report}

Back in July, a local homeschool mama asked if any other families would like to join hers as they explore Massachusetts history this year through once-a-month field trips. Since we love history, field trips and the company of others, I immediately replied with an enthusiastic, "YES!"  Better still, since that month I was planning to be on Cape Cod quite close to a museum that I had been wanting to check out for some time, I suggested that our newly formed MA History Homeschool group make our inaugural trip one to the Mashpee Wampanoag Museum.

I am so glad I did.   

The Mashpee Wampanoag Museum is truly a "hidden gem" of a place where both adults and children can easily get hands-on with the history and culture of the Wampanoag tribe for a morning, an afternoon, or an entire day!

Before meeting at the museum, a mom from our group attempted to call the staff to let them know we'd be coming and to ensure that,admission was, indeed, free, save for welcome donations, as the museum website said at the time.  That mom was unable to reach anyone at the museum though, because, as we later found out, the museum's lines were having a problem.  Thus, it was that we surprised the staff by showing up with a relatively large group and the staff surprised us by letting us know (graciously) that admissions were not in fact by donation only, but were set rates.  (The museum website now displays its current reasonable admission prices.) 

Luckily, all of our MA Homeschool History group families had enough cash on hand to cover admission and the two wonderful women that were staffing the museum that day had enough energy and experience to not only handle our group, but also to delight us!

Upon paying for entry, our group was welcomed to sit in the front room of the
museum building, which was was originally built in approximately 1793 by Sherjashub Bourne, great grandson of the missionary Richard Bournewhich, and later restored and made into the Mashpee Wampanoag Museum , a geographic core of the Mashpee Wampanoag People.

As soon as all the children were settled, one of the museum staff quickly caught their attention with introductory comments and stories from Wampanoag folklore, which were replete with giants, mermaids and whales.  The woman enraptured the children with her oral tales and kept their hands and eyes busy with dolls, puppets and pictures that related to the stories. 

The woman then invited the children to join in playing traditional Wampanoag instruments before viewing the other rooms in the musuem, one which had a whaling display and another which had, among other things, images of past tribal leaders.

After that, we all headed behind the museum building to enjoy the chatting more at the picnic tables, seeing a mishoon (canoe) and waiting to enter a wetu (traditional home), where another staff member was just finishing up a tour with a small group.

Once inside the wetu ourselves, the children had so many questions!  The staff member inside not only fielded all of these, but let the children handle artifacts, test our games, and grind corn.  The kids just loved all of this!

ime passed quickly and some families had to depart.  However, a few of us stayed until closing time, our children completely engaged in testing out tools, playing games and enjoying dramatic play as Wampanoag people of old.

Truly, the afternoon was fantastic!  Hands-on learning.  Stories, exhibits and explanations that suited every age visitor.  Friends, history and FUN!

Our Mashpee Wampanoag Museum made for a perfect kick off to our year long adventure with Massachusetts state history, because, the native people were the first people to create stories in the land that eventually became the state of Massachusetts, and we thoroughly enjoyed learning about their stories at the museum.

In the Kids' Words

Luke summed up our trip in his Massachusetts State Notebook with his own written words:
I went to the Wampanoag museum.  It was so fun.  First, we went inside the museum and heard a story.  Then, we went outside and saw a Wampanoag home.  Then, we played Wampanoag and a lot of other things.  July 14,2015.

Nine dictated the following (with me filling in the date):
I went to the Mashpee Wampanoag Museum on July 14, 2015.  They had a cool wetu in the back.  A wetu is a traditional Wampanoag house.  I went inside it.  I was allowed to grind corn and to sit on their beds which were covered in furs (but I did not really like that, because it’s just not my thing, because I do not like when animals are killed or hurt).  Jack and I got to pull the corn off a cob and grind it afterward and put it in bowl and Jack pretended to eat it.

We got to see friends and play Wompanoags, too.

I did not know that Wompanoag carried their babies in pouches like the ones I saw there.

I never want to forget that it was fun.

And, Jack dictated the following (with me filling in the the date):

I went to the Mashpee Wampanoag Museum on July 14, 2015.  I played Wampanoag football with my friend Franny.  I played Wampanoag, too.  Luke pretended to load an arrow on a bow.  I pretended to eat ground corn.  I peeled raw corn.  I pretended to use a tomahawk.

I learned that a bow could be all different colors.

I never want to forget anything.
Obviously, all of the children enjoyed the museum as much as I did.  In fact, we enjoyed it so much, we are planning another trip there with friends later this fall!

Learn More

  • The Mashpee Wampanoag Museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • It can be found on 414 Main Street, Mashpee, MA 02649.  The number for the Museum Building is 508-477-9339 and their Tribal Historic Preservation Office number is 508-477-0208 ext. 101.

  • Current admission rates are $5 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-18 $10 for families and $4 for seniors and educators.  Special events and organized field trips have different rates, available upon contacting museum staff.

  • If you plan to make a day of things in Mashpee, I'd also recommend a hike at some of the conservation lands nearby.  We found them both beautiful and easy to navigate!
We were so pleased to discover the Mashpee Wampanoag Museum.  What fabulous hidden gems have you found to get hands-on with history and culture? 


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