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  • Writer's pictureDon Wilding

Life along the estuaries

A view from Salt Pond, looking toward Nauset Marsh. Kitty Hendricks, of the Mashpee Wampanoags, will present a program on Aug. 25 showcasing the historical importance of the Cape’s estuaries to Native American peoples. (Photo by Don Wilding)

Long before European settlers came to Cape Cod, residents of this sandy peninsula had their own way of life, one that was dependent on the cycles and rhythms of earth, sea and sky.

The various tribes of the Wampanoags, or the People of the First Light, spent a great deal of time along the Cape’s estuaries. Their calendars didn’t work on monthly basis, but more on the aroma of the air, the way animals reacted, the weather patterns, pilgrimages of the sun, the tides, and, of course, the moon.

Residing in domed huts called wetus during the warm weather months, the native people took to the water in meshunes (large boats), some as big as school buses, built from white pine or white cedar logs. Some hunted whale and seal, others spear-fished or gathered oysters and scallops.

“The estuaries play a huge part of our everyday life, and the state of estuaries depends on the state of people,” says Kitty Hendricks of the Mashpee Wampanoags.

The theme of Native American life on the estuaries will be front and center at a special Family Wampanoag Program with Hendricks and the Wampanoag Nation Singers and Dancers at the Eastham Historical Society’s 1869 Schoolhouse Museum on Thursday morning at 10 a.m.

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