The real and horrible history of Thanksgiving


Melissa Doroquez, Used Under Creative Commons License, October 14, 2008

On Cole’s Hill, Native Americans have gathered to have their day of mourning.

Audrey Mooney, Editor-in-Chief

In 1620, pilgrims came over to North America and landed on Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. They arrived in December, so they had to struggle through a difficult winter. When spring came, a friendly Native American from the Patuxet Tribe named Squanto helped them sow and fertilize native crops. The Pilgrims were very thankful and shared their harvest with the Native American people, and they invited them to a big feast. This was the first Thanksgiving. Except it wasn’t like this at all.

The pilgrims did land on Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. They were helped by a kind man named Tisquantum, or more commonly referred to as Squanto, and he did help the pilgrims plant crops. According to the World History Encyclopedia, it was after English captain Thomas Hunt captured 24 Native American people including Squanto and sold them into salvery in Malaga, Spain. After gaining freedom, or escaping, Squanto came back to his tribe, only to find that it was wiped out by leptospirosis, a disease that the Europeans brought over, caused by rat urine. He joined the Wampanoag Tribe, and was used as an interpreter. His time in Europe taught him how to speak English, so he could communicate with the pilgrims. He was introduced to their colony in 1621, which was built right on his old tribe’s dilapidated village. Squanto was protected by the pilgrims after his loyalty was questioned under the rule of Massasoit, but that was resolved after the leader was nursed back to health by the pilgrims.

Massaoit had to make an alliance with the pilgrims, because his tribe was dying from awful diseases that the Europeans had brought over. He thought that the alliance would help his people with other tribal skirmishes. Most of his tribe thought this was a bad idea, so they tried to overthrow Massaoit but failed.

After the pilgrims had their first harvest, they celebrated with a big feast. They had food, and would shoot off guns in celebration. The Native Americans heard these shots and assumed they were going into combat. 

The Native American people weren’t even invited to a feast they made possible. 

According to DoSomething, when they showed up, they decided to share a feast because the tribe was already there. There was not enough food for everyone, so the Native Americans had to bring some of their own. They feasted for 3 days before leaving. after the first Thanksgiving, colonists killed native people and celebrated afterward, calling their celebrations Thanksgiving. If you didn’t become Christain, you would be killed. Some of these ‘celebrations’ were after the Pequot Massacre of 1636 and the beheading of Wampanoag leader Metacom in 1676. Metacom was Massaoit’s son. 

“This action by Massasoit was perhaps our biggest mistake. We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people,” Frank James, or Wamsutta to the Wampanoag people, during his speech in 1970. 

Today, the Native American people have a Day of Mourning where they gather around the statue of Massaoit and honor the Wampanoag Tribe. This day is on Thanksgiving.