E/MS Unit I

Activity 3: Examining a Land Deed

Share information from the Mass Moment about the founding of Springfield. Distribute copies of the 1636 deed or display it on a screen so students can follow along while you read it aloud. Although language of the document may look intimidating, the basic points are not hard to extract. Explain what a deed is and how every land transaction made in colonial (and contemporary) Massachusetts is recorded on a deed that is permanently archived. As you read through the deed, discuss:

  1. What is meant by “for ever to trucke and set”? (Even though these words are completely unfamiliar, students are likely to guess that the phrase means the Englishmen will settle permanently on the land.)
  2. How did the settlers pay for the land? (Make a list on the board.) Do the terms seem fair? What do several of the items have in common? Why might metal have been valuable to native people?
  3. Did the settlers use money to pay the Indians? What are “fatham of wampam”? Students can use dictionaries or online sources to learn about wampam. Have they ever heard of paying for goods with something other than coins or paper currency? How is a shell different from a piece of stamped metal (e.g. a coin)?
  4. What does the deed promise the native people in addition to payment for land on which they have lived?
  5. Ask students if they are familiar with how native people viewed land. If not, explain to them that Native Americans did not believe that any individual or group of individuals could “own” land any more than an individual could own air. Have students hypothesize about the difficulties this completely different understanding of land ownership would cause.
  6. Did the Indian leaders agree to this deed? How do we know?
  7. Since the Indians did not believe anyone could own land, what do you imagine they thought they were giving the English?