Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated by millions of Americans around the world, usually on the fourth Thursday in November.
The history of Thanksgiving in North America is rooted in English traditions dating from the Protestant Reformation.
It has aspects of a harvest festival, even though the harvest in New England occurs well before the late-November date on which the modern Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated.
That’s according to Wikipedia.
The real origins however, are not as wholesome as mainstream historians would want you to believe.
In 1614, the Plymouth Company of England, a joint stock company, hired Captain John Smith to explore land in the ‘New World’ on its behalf.
Along what is now the coast of Massachusetts in the territory of the Wampanoag, Smith’s first port of call was the town of Patuxet.
Smith hurriedly renamed the town Plymouth in honor of his employers, but the native Wampanoag, who were the inhabitants, continued to call it Patuxet.
The following year Captain Hunt, an English slave trader, also arrived at Patuxet.
During that time, it was common practice for European explorers to capture native Indians, ship them back to Europe and sell them into slavery for around 220 shillings each.
That practice was described in a 1622 account of events “A Declaration of the State of the Colony and Affairs in Virginia,” by E. Waterhouse.
True to the European explorer tradition, Hunt duly kidnapped a large number of Wampanoags to sell into slavery.
Another delightful and equally common practice among European explorers was to give “smallpox blankets” to the Indians.
As smallpox was unknown on the American continent prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the Native Americans had no natural immunity, so smallpox would effectively wipe out entire villages with very little effort required by the Europeans.
William Fenton described how Europeans decimated Native American villages in his 1957 work “American Indian and White relations to 1830.”
From 1615 to 1619 smallpox appears in records to have virtually decimated the Wampanoag population and also their neighbours in the north.
The Wampanoag lost 70% of their population to Smallpox and the Massachusetts lost 90%.
As most of the Wampanoag had died from the epidemic, by the time the Pilgrims arrived they found well-cleared fields which they then claimed as their own.
A Puritan colonist, quoted by Harvard University’s Perry Miller, praised the plague that had wiped out the Indians as, “the wonderful preparation of the Lord Jesus Christ, by his providence for his people’s abode in the Western world.”
Historians have endlessly speculated on why the woods in the region appeared to resemble a ‘park’ to the Pilgrims who landed in 1620.
The reason should be obvious: ‘Hundreds, if not thousands, of Indigenous people had lived there and worked the land just five years before.’
In less than three generations the settlers would turn all of New England into a ‘Charnel House’ for the mortal remains of Native Americans, and fire the economic engines of slavery throughout English-speaking America.
Plymouth Rock is the place where the nightmare truly began however.
It is not at all clear what happened at the first – and only – “integrated” Thanksgiving feast as only two written accounts of the three-day event are known to exist.
Even one of those, by Governor William Bradford, was written 20 years after the fact, so cannot be relied upon as a truly accurate record.
Was Chief Massasoit really invited to bring 90 Indians with him to dine with 52 colonists, most of them women and children, as the traditional story has narrated?
This now seems highly unlikely.
A good harvest that year, had provided the settlers with plenty of food, according to their own accounts, so the settlers would not have needed the Wampanoag’s offering of five deer.
What is known for certain however, is that there had been a lot of tension and mutual distrust between the two groups that autumn.
John Two-Hawks, who runs the Native Circle web site, gives an outline of the facts:“Thanksgiving’ did not begin as a great loving relationship between the pilgrims and the Wampanoag, Pequot and Narragansett people.
In fact, in the October of 1621 when the pilgrim survivors of their first winter in Turtle Island sat down to share the first unofficial ‘Thanksgiving’ meal, the Indians who were there were not even invited!
There was no Turkey, Squash, Cranberry Sauce or even Pumpkin Pie.
A few days before this alleged feast took place, a company of ‘pilgrims’ led by Miles Standish actively sought the head of a local Indian chief, and an 11 foot high wall was erected around the entire Plymouth settlement for the very purpose of keeping Indians out!”
It is much more likely that Chief Massasoit either gatecrashed the party, or was accompanied by enough men to ensure that he was not kidnapped or harmed by the peace loving Pilgrim Fathers.
Dr. Tingba Apidta, in his ‘Black Folks’ Guide to Understanding Thanksgiving,’ surmises that the settlers “brandished their weaponry” early and got drunk soon thereafter.
He also noted that “each Pilgrim drank at least a half gallon of beer a day, which they preferred even to water.”
This daily inebriation led their governor, William Bradford, to comment on his people’s ‘notorious sin,’ which included their ‘drunkenness and uncleanliness’ and ‘rampant ‘sodomy.’
”Soon after the feast the brutish Miles Standish got his bloody prize,” Dr. Apidta wrote: “He went to the Indians, pretended to be a trader, then beheaded an Indian man named Wituwamat.
He brought the head to Plymouth, where it was displayed on a wooden spike for many years, as a symbol of white power.”
Standish then had the Indian’s young brother hanged from the rafters for good measure.
From that time on, the whites were known to the Indians of Massachusetts by the name ‘Wotowquenange,’ which in their tongue meant cut-throats and stabbers.”
What is certain is that the first feast was not called a “Thanksgiving” at the time; and no further integrated dining occasions were ever scheduled.
The first, official all-Pilgrim “Thanksgiving” had to wait until 1637, when the whites of New England dutifully celebrated the massacre of the Wampanoag’s southern neighbors, the Pequots.