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Thanksgiving: The ugly truth, slavery connection

The REAL story of the “first” Thanksgiving

In December of 1620 a splinter group of England’s Puritan movement set anchor on American soil, a land already inhabited by the Wampanoag Indians. Having been unprepared for the bitter cold weather, and arriving too late to grow an adequate food supply, nearly half of the 100 settlers did not survive the winter.

On March 16th, 1621, a Native Indian named Samoset met the Englishmen for the first time. Samoset spoke excellent English, as did Squanto, another bilingual Patuxet who would serve as interpreter between the colonist and the Wampanoag Indians, who, lead by Chief Massasoit, were dressed as fierce warriors and outnumbered the settlers.

The Wampanoag already had a long history with the white man. For 100 years prior to the Pilgrim landing, they had encounters with European fishermen, as well as those who worked for slave traders. They had witnessed their communities being raided and their people stolen to be sold into slavery. They did not trust the newcomers.

But Squanto was an exception. He had lived with the British, after being captured by an earlier sailing vessel. He had a deep fondness for the Europeans – particularly that for a British Explorer named John Weymouth, who treated Squanto like a son.

Chief Massasoit and Samoset arrived at the colony with over 60 men, plus Squanto, who acted as a mediator between the two parties. Squanto was successful at making a peaceful agreement, though it is most likely that there was a great deal of friction between the Native community and the colonists. The Englishmen felt that the Native peoples were instruments of the devil because of their spiritual beliefs and trusted only the Christian-baptized Squanto. The Native people were already non-trusting of the white man, except for Squanto, who looked at the Europeans as being of “Johns People.”

It was Squanto who then moved to the English colony and taught them to hunt, trap, fish and to cultivate their own crops. He educated them on natural medicine and living off the land. A beloved friend of the Pilgrims, for if it wasn’t for him, they would not if survived. The Puritian Pilgrims thought of him as an Instrument of God.

Several months later the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims decided to meet again to negotiate a land treaty needed by the settlers. They hoped to secure land to build the Plymouth Plantation for the Pilgrims. The Native people agreed to meet for a 3-day negotiation “conference”. As part of the Wampanoag custom – or perhaps out of a sense of charity towards the host – the Native community agreed to bring most of the food for the event.

The peace and land negotiations were successful and the Pilgrims acquired the rights of land for their people.

In 1622 propaganda started to circulate about this “First Thanksgiving”. Mourts Relation, a book written to publicize the so-called “wonderfulness” of Plymouth, told of the meeting as a friendly feast with the Natives. The situation was glamorized by the Pilgrims, possibly in an effort to encourage more Puritans to settle in their area. By stating that the Native community was warm and open-armed, the newcomers would be more likely to feel secure in their journey to New England.

The sad, sad truth (what happened next)

What started as a hope for peace between the settlers and the Wampanoag, ended in the most sad and tragic way. The Pilgrims, once few in number, had now grown to well over 40,000 and the Native American Continue reading

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