The Truth about Thanksgiving


The First Thanksgiving painting

For many years, families gathered around the dinner table to share delicious meals and to answer the same question, “What are you thankful for?”. It is important to be thankful for what you have however, the root of this holiday and the events leading to it was not like sunshine and rainbows as we were taught. 

Ever since elementary school, our schools have been lying about the events in our past, from idolizing Christopher Columbus to sharing the short sweet story of Thanksgiving. The truth about these stories is much worse than the friendly meeting that we heard of in grade school. 


For many years, Europeans were peacefully trading resources with the Natives who occupied America. This peace and prosperity was very shortcoming because many locals were kidnapped by the Europeans and sold as slaves. 

The high population of Natives who lived on the East coast prevented European settlers from staying and creating a colony. In 1616, tradespeople inaugurated a virus that wiped out many tribes. The lack of medication and immunization was the leading cause of their demise. In 3 years, 90% of the population was wiped out. 

On September 20, 1620, Christopher Columbus led a large group of people to New Plymouth in hopes to grow their Christian religion. By the time that they landed in New Plymouth, they were running out of food and didn’t know how to fish. Thus, they resorted to stealing from graves and robbing home and storage pits to keep everyone alive. 

In March, a man named Samoset from the tribe, Wampanoag, walked into their newly built colony greeting them to their land. The settlers were eager to trade with the Natives and five days later, Samoset came back with people from his tribe to begin trade. Along with Samoset was a man named Squanto, who was later used as a translator from the Englishmen to the Wampanoag. 

After many terrible experiences of trading with settlers, the Wampanoag were hesitant to trust the newcomers, and rightfully so. Edward Winslow was sent to explain the settlers’ peaceful intentions. Massasoit, the Chief, met with the governor, John Carver in New Plymouth. A peace treaty was created to ensure mutual protection if attacked by enemies. 

With help from Squanto, the settlers planted many flourishing crops and resources. Squanto however, was not pure of heart, many years prior to this, tradesmen kidnapped him from his land and forced him into English culture. After living in London for 7 years, Squanto came back to his land only to find out that his family was wiped out by the epidemic. Massasoit took him in as a translator with the newcomers. Squanto helped and taught the colonists how to plant crops and how to keep them healthy.

By Fall, the flourishing crops were ready to be harvested and feasted upon. Massasoit showed up with 90 warriors and 5 deers for the feast. For three days the English and Wampanoag peacefully feasted. This is the part of the famous thanksgiving that we learn, the end. However, this tragic story continues. 

For many months, Squanto has been plotting to overthrow Massasoit. One day, Squanto’s plan was exposed to Massasoit and he grew furious. He wanted Squantoto to be executed. Governor Bradford refused, for the interpreter was too important to give up. However, according to the treaty, Squanto’s life belonged in the hands of the sachem.

Then, off in the distance, a large ship appeared. Aboard the ship, many Englishmen were embarked with the goal to create a colony close to Boston. They abused the Massacutes locals, which created a conspiracy to kill all of the colonists. New Plymouth was warned about this threat and came to help and support the colonists defeat the Massacutes.

This created peace for a short bit. However, as time went by more settlers arrived and began outnumbering the Natives. To Puritans, who were the main group of colonists, they viewed Natives as wild, savage, and godless. They declared if the Natives didn’t convert to Christianity, and surrender their culture, they had to be executed. From then on, Puritanism ideology spread throughout the land and eradicated the Native inhabitants. 

The peace that was created at thanksgiving was real, yet, short-lived. It is important to remember to be thankful for what is given. However, we must do our best to educate ourselves and the younger generations to stop idolizing the terrible horrors that we have placed upon past generations.

In the future, we must become more aware of our shocking past and how we acquired this land. During Thanksgiving, we tend to remember the good or, the things that we are thankful for instead of the events that lead to thanksgiving and after. Our ancestors stole all or most of the Native land, we should be aware of the Native land that we may call home that we are living on. 

In order to find out if you live on Native land, visit the Native land website, and type in your zip code. Once that step is completed, the map will zoom into the area that was once inhabited by an Indigenous tribe. Afterward, I would suggest learning about that tribe and if there is any way that you can give back. Becoming a better and more educated person can only take a short amount of time, and is very important and beneficial.