Yesterday, much of our country had the day off. While many of us just accept Columbus Day as an extra holiday that we’ll gladly take as an excuse to stay home from work or school, others still celebrate this holiday in line with tradition as a day to remember the discovery of the Americas.
We took a slightly different approach.
First, Columbus wasn’t the first major European figure to venture into the Americas, Lief Erikson was. Erikson landed in modern-day Canada and Columbus landed in The Bahamas. Notice that neither of these is in the U.S. That’s where my fourth-grade Florida education comes in handy. Every Floridian knows that Ponce de Leon was the first European to discover any land that is now part of the United States (first Puerto Rico, then Florida).
But we’ll set all of that aside for the moment.
No matter which European was here first, one thing is absolutely true. In every instance, there were already people in America–in Canada, The Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and Florida. All of these places were already inhabited with people who had established societies, religions, communication, and more.
And so that’s what we focused on today, whether we were celebrating Columbus Day, Lief Erikson Day, or Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We focused on studying the people who were already here–the people who were most affected by European exploration.
For us, that meant exploring our own local indigenous people in coastal Virginia: The Powhatans.
We started out at the archeological dig site of Historic Jamestown. Jamestown was the second English attempt at settling Virginia after the Lost Colony went missing at Roanoke. As evidenced by the archaeological record, we can see how Native Americans worked and traded within the walls of the Jamestown fort, but were eventually enslaved, alongside the first recorded African slaves, who were brought to Jamestown in the 17th century.
This settlement is also where Pocahontas met John Rolfe, and the rest is history. Ronnie was intoxicated with the story of Pocahontas and left with so many questions. It will be exciting to dig into her story more during our Virginia study.
Later in the day, we made it over to the Jamestown Settlement, where we got to explore a recreation of a Powhattan village. Our guide was incredibly engaging and she kept the boys hanging on her every word. They had the opportunity to grind corn, lay on a bed of deer pelts, hold arrows, feel turtle shell bowls, scrape deer skin with an oyster shell, and shoot corn arrows at targets.
To finish off our day, we picked up some new books to add to our Cultural shelf and a Toob of Powhatan Indians, which the boys used all afternoon, bartering and protecting each other from wild animals.