Some people immediately think of the pilgrims as the first people to settle on Cape Cod but as many of the Cape's village and place names remind us, it was the Native Americans who first lived here. At least 5,000 years ago, The Nauset people sometimes referred to as the Cape Cod Indians, lived in what is present-day Cape Cod, living east of Bass River and lands occupied by their closely related neighbors, the Wampanoag. Although no longer distinct as a tribe, most of the Mashpee Wampanoag band are descended from Nauset people, who currently number 1,100 people and are federally recognized as Wampganoag meaning "Easterners" or "People of the Dawn. It was the Native American who taught the colonists who ventured back to settle on the Cape after establishing themselves at Plymouth, how to strip the blubber of whales who stranded on the beaches. Although the last native speakers of their Massachusett language, Wôpanâak,died more than 100 years ago, since 1993 Wampanoag people have been working on a language revival project and have produced new native speakers. Before the pilgrims arrived, the Native Americans had already named many areas, which encompassed the Cape's piney woods, rolling dunes and sandy shores. The original name of Hyannis is of Indian derivation as are many of the Cape towns. This original Indian name was Iyannough, in honor of the young sachem who first received and welcomed the colonists. The name has since gone through modifications of Janno, lanno, Hyanno, and finally Hyannis which still has the flavor of Indian syllables. So as you go over the Sagamore bridge to visit places like Hyannis, Poponesset, Mashpee, Sippewissett, Pocasset, or Nauset Beach or take a drive on 6A, once a Native American trail, stop a moment to appreciate that long ago the special Cape beauty and natural surroundings inspired others to name and choose it as their own.
I am a designer and Cape native who loves cottage style, simple, small house living and guiding people to the hidden treasures