The Troubled History of Thanksgiving

Denise Rodriguez, Photographer

Nowadays, the Thanksgiving holiday is known as a day to feast with all your friends and family. Famous dishes include turkey, ham, bread rolls, etc. Thanksgiving is also a day to give thanks and appreciation. But do you know how Thanksgiving came about?

A Wampanoag leader named Massasoit negotiated a treaty between the Plymouth settlers and the Wampoanoag tribe during the time of 1620. The agreement consisted of no violence or harm would be involved amongst each other. Based on Schumer’s article, The Brutal, Dark History behind Thanksgiving, she states that “Massasoit and the Pilgrims remained allies, trading English goods for Wampanoag land, access to natural resources and other assets.” However, tensions rose after Massasoit passed away in 1661 and his son Wamsutt took control. 

In the years of 1630- 1642, about 25,000 European colonizers arrived when a devastating plague cut the native population by more than half. Wasmutts passed away while visiting the Puritans to discuss tensions. Wamsutta’s successor, Metacomet, only made matters worse. Because the Natives murdered a man who had served as a translator to the settler, three Natives were killed in 1675. Metacomet was afraid that the Natives would lose more land, so he built a coalition of various native tribes to protect themselves and their resources. The coalitions began to fall with settlers which attacked settlements in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Schumer explains that the Narragansett tribe wished to keep neutrality but wouldn’t give up when Wampanoag took refuge in their encampment or refused to harbor women, children and the elderly. The Narrangansett ended up being devastatingly attacked by the Puritan forces which killed up to 600 Natives and about 150 settlers in the horrific battle. Another conflict that ravaged the Native population was when Wampanoag abducted settlers and held them ransom causing settlers to destroy Native villages. The colonies were burned and looted, taking decades to recover from the damage. 

The war resulted in 30% of the English population being taken and half of the Native Americans in New England. When Metacomet was killed, the war came to an end. At Cole’s Hill in Plymouth, Native Americans and supporters have gathered together to commemorate a National Day of Mourning instead of Thanksgiving day ever since 1970. National Day of Mourning is a day to honor, remember, and protest against the racism and oppression Native Americans have and continue to suffer.