Over the past few years I have been reading and hearing that America’s traditional Thanksgiving celebration is actually the celebration of a massacre by the Pilgrims against hundreds of Indians. I have seen articles by Nicole Breedlove in Huffington Post (January 25, 2014) and Charles M. Blow in the NY Times (November 27, 2019) that state that the massacre of Pequot Native Americans led directly to the creation of our modern Thanksgiving Day. I have also noticed that in Portland Oregon recently Antifa launched an “anti-Thanksgiving” riot—destroying property because of the “injustice” of Thanksgiving.
As I have looked at the charges and examined the history, I have come away with several thoughts, both recognizing and being appalled by bloody massacres, as well as upholding what the original Thanksgiving celebration was all about. I also ask if the writers in Huffington Post, the New York Times, and other recent articles actually study the timeline of what took place in colonial America, honestly look at their own biases, and try to refrain from disinformation and propaganda for their own political purposes.
What massacre are these authors referring to? They are referring to the one in which some 400 Pequot Indians (about 150 of them being women and children) in May 1637 were killed in less than half an hour. Half of them were burned alive in their fort. Those who somehow escaped were shot by the English and their Indian allies, or sold into slavery.
After that massacre, the English governor proclaimed a “thanksgiving celebration” for the defeat of the Indians. That is pretty horrible isn’t it? And I assume that the English did remember that event as a major turning point in their war against the Pequot and celebrate some thanksgiving for many years after.
However, that horrible event was in 1637. The first Thanksgiving by the Pilgrims was in the fall of 1621. That is a difference of sixteen years. The two events are not connected. The Thanksgiving that Americans across the land have been celebrating for the past almost 400 years has never pointed back to any massacre of Indians. The facts are (from the writings of the Pilgrims themselves) is that after the first winter they were able to produce a bountiful harvest and they invited the Wampanoag Indians (about 90 of them came) to three days of feasting and games. The Pilgrims also signed a peace treaty with the Wampanoags that lasted for the next 50 years. (It is not easy finding a peace treaty or a state of peace between neighboring different cultures that lasts that long.) Fifteen years later the English (Pilgrims and Puritans) had a war with the Pequots, not with the Wampanoags. In fact, the English were allied with several Indian tribes who wanted to wage war with the Pequots.
The first Thanksgiving that we continue to memorialize with our own celebration each November is about thanking God for a bountiful harvest and having a peaceful festival with neighboring Indians. Shouldn’t we be celebrating that? When Americans in the succeeding centuries celebrated Thanksgiving, it was always pointing back to the Pilgrims and their joyful celebration with the Wampanoags; it was never about celebrating a massacre. Do
The Pequot War (1636-1637) was not started by the English, nor did they initiate killing women and children. This is an important historical point to make for those who may believe that America was founded by marauding Europeans whose first instinct was to slaughter innocent women and children. As we look at the sordid details of the Pequot, nobody comes out looking very good…either Englishmen or Indians…and its aftermath had nothing at all to do with our modern celebration of Thanksgiving. I’ll share the details of that war in my next article.
Do historical facts and logic matter to some of these writers for Huffington Post, the New York Times, and rioters in Portland Oregon, or are they simply taking a few pieces of information and stringing them together to form their own narrative to fit their own agenda?