The Absurd Story Of Thanksgiving Your Teacher Never Told You – Celebrating Genocide
We all know the Thanksgiving story where friendly Indians, like Squanto, met friendly Pilgrims and everyone had a big, delicious dinner to give thanks, right? The real story is actually a lot more complicated.
"This is history that's just been overlooked because people have become very, very comfortable with the story of happy Pilgrims and friendly Indians," says Paula Peters, a member of the Mashpee Wompanoag tribe and an expert on Wampanoag history.
"They're very content with that -- even to the point where no one really questioned how is it that Squanto knew how to speak perfect English when they came."
Peters gave the Huffington Post a full rundown of the real story.
In the year 1614, about six years before pilgrims landed in what is now Massachusetts, Thomas Hunt, an Englishman, kidnapped Squanto, also known as Tisquantum, from Patuxet, his village.
Hunt took Tisquantum and two dozen other kidnapped Wampanoag to Spain and attempted to sell them into slavery.
Many in Spain considered this to be fairly alarming. Many in the Church loudly expressed their dismay.
Tisquantum escaped slavery with the help of Catholic friars and found his way into England. In 1619, Tisquantum returned to his homeland in what is now Massachusetts.
As far as historians are able to tell, he's the only one of the kidnapped Wampanoags to return.
During the 5 years Tisquantum was in bondage and traveling home, an unknown epidemic roared through New England. It was brought by French sailors who found themselves shipwrecked at Cape Cod.
They think it was some kind of viral hepatitis that could be communicated in water. When Tisquantum returned to Patuxet, there was no one left.
When the Pilgrims landed, local Indians, like the Wampanoag, found them to be strange invaders. They delighted at the chance to trade goods, but thought the Europeans lingered too long and didn't want to share their land.
This usually resulted in the Indians removing the Europeans by force. But after the epidemic, with no one to stop them, Patuxet became the city of Plymouth.
They cleared the land, as well as the remains of Indians, and set up shop. The Pilgrims thought it was the work of the Divine, that God killed the Indians for them.
When he returned, Tisquantum joined with a local Wampanoag tribe lead by Massasoit. Massasoit didn't trust Tisquantum at all and kept him under what amounted to house arrest.
The Wampanoag was decimated by the plague, but the neighboring tribe, the Narragansett, weren't affected at all. This alarmed Massasoit.
But Massasoit had an idea. He basically chose to ally with the Pilgrims, create an exchange of goods and a solid relationship, and that way, he could keep the Narragansett from attacking.
On March 22nd, 1621, Massasoit met with the Pilgrims and brought Tisquantum to translate.
Tisquantum probably wasn't the name he was given at birth. Tisquantum actually meant "rage of manitou," which was the world-suffusing spiritual power at the heart of the beliefs of many coastal Indians.
When he introduced himself to the Pilgrims, he basically introduced himself as the Wrath of God.
Massasoit found that his mistrust of Tisquantum was well founded because Tisquantum immediately tried to pit the Pilgrims against Massasoit.
This infuriated Massasoit, and the leader demanded the Pilgrims hand over Tisquantum because he was slated now for execution.
But the Pilgrims didn't. Instead, they allowed Tisquantum to stay with them and help them prepare for the following winter.
The Pilgrims completely failed to even consider why it was Tisquantum was making himself so useful.
By fall, the settlers were well situated for winter. They held the feast of Thanksgiving, inviting Massasoit and around 90 of his men to feast with them.
Bizarrely, the Wampanoag men arrived with weapons and in response, the Pilgrims paraded about, firing their guns in the air. Eventually, both sides sat down and ate dinner.
So this year, as you're giving thanks with your friends and family, remember the weird things that happened that lead up to this cherished holiday.