Many of us sit down at the table with the ones we love on the third Thursday of November each year to celebrate Thanksgiving. We eat green beans, mashed potatoes, turkey etc. Then to top it off, most of us enjoy a pumpkin pie. However, how many of us know the truth of Thanksgiving? We are raised to believe that it was a grand feast between the Pilgrims and Indians. There was something like this in Plymouth between the Wampanoags which we call that the “First Thanksgiving,” but unfortunately it’s a mix between the truth and myth.
The truth of Thanksgiving is that in 1614 a group of English explorers returned to England with a ship full of Patuxet Indians to be sold for slavery. When the English came over to America, they brought smallpox and wiped out most of the Patuxet that had survived except for one. His name was Squanto. He learned the English language and showed them how to grow corn and fish. He also got a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and Wampanoags. Thus, the “First Thanksgiving” was held to honor Squanto and the Wampanoags. Soon the Puritans moved to America, and because there were no fences around the land, the Puritans considered it public domain. Puritans and other British settlers took the land and captured Native Americans as slaves. The Pequot Nation refused to listen to the Peace Treaty that was previously made. They fought back, and it was the bloodiest Indian war.
In 1637, near where Groton, Connecticut is today, over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot tribe gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival, our Thanksgiving celebration. In the early morning hours, English and Dutch mercenaries surrounded them. They told them to come outside and clubbed or shot whoever came out. The women and children, terrified, stayed in their long houses and were burned alive. The next day the governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony planned a “Day of Thanksgiving.” Many other incidents like this happened again.
After another successful raid against the Pequot, the church made another day of Thanksgiving. This would continue until George Washington decided to only have one Thanksgiving to celebrate each massacre.
The very theme of giving thanks for all you have is a great idea, but the real truth behind Thanksgiving is not one we should be proud of. So the next time we are shoving food down our gullets and avoiding those awkward questions from our family, we should keep in mind all of the Indians that we took land from and murdered.