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The 1704 Raid on Deerfield

People who say there are two sides to every issue have stopped counting way too soon, especially when it comes to historical events. When delving into history, finding three, four, or more viewpoints on an event is not unusual.

In 1704, a group of French and Native American raiders attacked an English settlement in Deerfield, Massachusetts. For nearly three centuries, the primary story told was that of the English. When the three hundredth anniversary of the raid rolled around in 2004, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association in Deerfield decided it was time to see the event from the point of view of all the participants, a virtual pentagon of “sides”: the English, the French, and three Native American groups—the Kanienkehaka (Mohawk), Wendat (Huron), and Wobanaki (Abenaki, Pennacook, Sokoki, Pocumtuck and others).

The result was an amazing (and award-winning) website: Raid on Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704, funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Dozens of historians, technical experts, Native American advisors, writers, and artists from the U.S. and Canada teamed up to create a comprehensive and visually rich account of the event. Using that one day in 1704 as a starting point, the site provides in-depth information on the five cultural groups and the complex factors that fostered conflicts among them.

The site is visually gorgeous, with ten beautiful illustrated scenes telling the story. But wait, there’s more. Dragging your mouse over one of the scenes will highlight people and objects in the scene. Click on the highlighted item, and up pops the story of that person or thing, often with links to additional information, should you want to learn more. The site is multi-layered, allowing visitors to delve as deeply into the story as they wish. Artifacts, maps, timelines, and even music bring the story to life. I’m not exaggerating when I say that you could spend days exploring this site.

For teachers, there’s a guide to the site that includes eleven lesson plans for students from elementary to high school.

So check out this wicked cool site. But don’t blame me if you get sucked in for hours and hours.

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