Why Give Thanks


Haydn Burton, Reporter

The peaceful and harmonic story of Thanksgiving that most of us grew up with isn’t exactly as cheerful as we were once led to believe. “Thanksgivings’ true origins are that of betrayal, murder, battle, and a harvest feast somewhere in the midst of it all. 

The story a lot of people were told as children is a very dumbed down and sugar-coated retelling of the events. Not only that, but there are a lot of misconceptions and flat out lies that some people still believe to be factual.

On September 6th, 1620, The Mayflower set sail to America to escape religious persecution and to build a colony. Shortly after, the pilgrims arrived at Cape Cod and began stealing supplies from homes, storage pits, and graves to keep their men alive.

After arriving, they had a hostile encounter with the Native Americans inhabiting the island, causing them to continue their journey. On December 12th, they finally reached their destination of what would soon be known as the colony of New Plymouth. 

The pilgrims began construction in January and harsh winters led to the death of 44 settlers. A few months later, in March, a Native American named Samoset walked into the pilgrim’s village and greeted them in perfect English. They began their relationship as trade partners and the people of Wampanoag arrived a few days later to greet the pilgrims. A peace treaty was then negotiated.

 A Native American, famously known as “Squanto”, began helping the people of New Plymouth to assure they were fit to live in the area. However, Squanto had an ulterior motive because Englishmen had kidnapped him seven years earlier to sell him into slavery and eradicated his entire tribe. Squanto then learned English while he was gone for all of those years and came back to learn that all of his people had been killed off. 

Because of the help of the Native Americans, the settlers prospered into autumn. In October of 1621, the people of Wampanoag arrived in New Plymouth with food and a large group of men to have a feast with the settlers. This event was later known as, “The First Thanksgiving”. 

The food that was eaten during those three days is very inaccurate to what is now considered tradition; foods like turkey and pumpkin pie.

The story doesn’t quite end there though. Squanto realized his position of power and began manipulating locals, the people of New Plymouth, and the Wampanoag tribe. He planned to overthrow Massasoit and take over the tribe, but word quickly spread back to the tribe due to Squanto’s suspicious behavior and Massasoit was furious. He ordered the execution of Squanto, but the settlers refused due to his valuableness as an interpreter. However, the tribe had every right to take Squanto due to the agreements on the aforementioned treaty. 

A ship then appeared on the shoreline during this confrontation. It was a ship full of English colonists heading towards Massachusetts. The colonists began harassing the locals and this didn’t sit well with the Native Americans who occupied the area. The people of New Plymouth intervened and held up their end of the treaty by defending the Native Americans. This brought peace for a while, but there was bound to be bloodshed as more Puritans arrived in America. 

The treaty between the Wampanoag people and New Plymouth was honored until the death of Massasoit, but the Great Migration marked a time of war. The Puritans viewed the Native Americans as savages and monsters, so they began slaughtering them with their advanced weaponry. The radical beliefs of the Puritans led to the English taking over America and denouncing any peace between the two races. 

This is just one of many examples of a historical event being misconstrued in order to appeal to a more childish audience and to paint an unrealistic picture of past events. Although there was a very brief moment of harmony between the two different groups of people, it didn’t last long and eventually ended in bloodshed. 

The Native Americans had everything stripped from them by the Puritans and they were killed by the masses. There was betrayal, hidden motives, discrimination, vicious murders, theft, and forced religious conversion. But hey, at least the turkey was great this holiday season, right?