When the Mayflower landed in November of 1620 at what’s now known as now Provincetown Harbor, Cape Cod, it arrived on the land belonging to the Wampanoag Nation. The lives of women in Wampanoag tribes were very different from those of Pilgrim women in that era. Wampanoag women lived in matrilineal societies, “in which women controlled property, and hereditary status was passed through the maternal line.” From Wikipedia:
“They were also matrifocal; when a young couple married, they lived with the woman’s family. Women elders could approve selection of chiefs or sachems. Men acted in most of the political roles for relations with other bands and tribes, as well as warfare. Women passed plots of land to their female descendants, regardless of their marital status.”
“The production of food among the Wampanoag was similar to that of many American Indian societies, and food habits were divided along gender lines. Men and women had specific tasks. Women played an active role in many of the stages of food production, so they had important socio-political, economic, and spiritual roles in their communities. Wampanoag men were mainly responsible for hunting and fishing, while women took care of farming and gathering wild fruits, nuts, berries, and shellfish. Women were responsible for up to 75 percent of all food production in Wampanoag societies.”
Yet everyone within their tribes needed to know how to do these activities. This NBC News Learn video, in partnership with NBC 10 Boston, compares and contrasts the roles, responsibilities, and community powers of Wampanoag and Pilgrim women during the 17th century.
Also spotted in the video above: A dome made from tree saplings, grasses, bark, buckskin, cloth. Watch this video next: Building a wigwam, a time lapse.
Plus: More Native American stories.