Updated: Aug 31, 2022
Everything you learned from your history textbooks about Thanksgiving is wrong. The story we were taught as soon as our young impressionable minds were able to comprehend it was this: Pilgrims from England sailed on the Mayflower to Plymouth rock to escape religious persecution. They then effortlessly assimilated with the peaceful Squanto and Wampanoag Native Americans who taught them how to harvest such things such as corn, squash and other things we associate with Thanksgiving. It’s a story of togetherness and a bountiful friendly dinner. However, the true events are neither consoling or all together that friendly.
In reality, the natives of the region and the Pilgrims were associates at best. Their relationship was based more on survival than anything. This is due to the fact that the natives already had preconceived notions about the settlers. They didn’t appreciate the disease they had brought with them to other regions of America, but learned to tolerate them. The settlers also disliked the natives, regarding them as “uncivilized” and“satanic heathens.” Nevertheless, the natives aided the settlers with their harvest, which the pilgrims repaid them by robbing their graves and their grain stores. The iconic feast did take place, but they didn’t actually eat turkey, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes. Instead, they ate duck and geese, corn mush, and stewed pumpkin.
However the true origin of Thanksgiving gets muddled when the tension between settlers and natives comes to a climax. The Pequot tribe, who you may recall earlier helped the settlers adjust, were having their own “Thanksgiving” when a band of Puritans shot and clubbed 700 men, women, and children to death. In 1637, Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop declared this event to be the true origin of Thanksgiving, in gratitude for God’s destruction of the Pequot village. Thereafter, massacres of Native American tribes were followed by days of feasts. The official Thanksgiving holiday came to be when George Washington declared it to be a national holiday to honor those who survived these bloody massacres in 1789. However, the true reason for the holiday will remain hidden in the bloodshed of Native Americans and all the covered up history of early America.