A History of Thanksgiving

The original Thanksgiving was marked by prayer and thanks for the untimely deaths of most of the Wampanoag Tribe due to smallpox contracted from earlier European visitors. Thus when the Pilgrims arrived they found the fields already cleared and planted, and they called them their own. But the “holiday” was not yet declared by the colonists….

Tribal Territories of Southern New England

Sixteen years after the alleged first Thanksgiving (using the commonly assumed year of 1621), the English decided the rich Connecticut valley, occupied by the Pequots, the indigenous tribes there, would make a nice addition to their colony. They wanted to get rid of the Pequots in any event – they didn’t like the fact that the Pequots did not exhibit the stringent moral decorum of the Pilgrims, and thus acted as an ongoing temptation to the colony. Moreover, the Pequots were “insolent” in that they resisted subjugation and dispossession. In 1637, colonial militia led by Captain John Mason massacred the Pequots. They were burned alive in their villages – men, women and children alike, some 700 of them. (There had originally been many more, prior to the arrival of disease vectors from Europe.) William Bradford, of Plymouth renown, recorded in his diary:

“Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword; some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so that they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire . . . horrible was the stink and scent thereof, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemies in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enemy.”

William Bradford

William Bradford

He was inspired to issue a proclamation: “This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots.”

You can learn more about the righteous destruction of the Native Americans committed by the land-hungry colonists, in the excellent history Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian Hating & Empire Building by Richard Drinnon.

You can learn more about the righteous destruction of the Native Americans committed by the land-hungry colonists, in the excellent history Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian Hating & Empire Building by Richard Drinnon.

About rhapsodyinbooks

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10 Responses to A History of Thanksgiving

  1. diane says:

    Facing West seems like a great book. It is not something I would typically read, but I am now intrigued.

    Have a great day with family and friends.

  2. Nice post.

    History is interesting. Facts can become skewed with propganda so it is important to know ones source and how history is taught in schools.

    Thanksgiving celebrations have evolved from the original intent IMHO. I am thinking that most people are not in Thanksgiving for Indian slaughter but in Thanksgiving to remember to be thankful for what is in their lives…

  3. Deanna,

    I agree with you – thank heavens it has evolved!

  4. Alyce says:

    It’s always good to have a reminder of our past. I hope that you have a great Thanksgiving!

  5. gwendolyn b. says:

    Yes, thank goodness we associate an attitude of humbleness to the day now. I live in Rhode Island – right in the heart of the area referred to. I drive the Wampanaog Trail almost daily. I’m embarrassed now about how little I really know of this area’s history. I’ll have to take that on for 2010.

    Thanks for printing this post. It’s good to be know how things really got started. Hope you’re having a nice holiday dispite the knowlege of the above truths! I really do think we are better than that now.

  6. Care says:

    yowza. Another reminder that history is written by the victors. Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!

  7. This post points out to me how little I know about real history. Maybe I’ve closed my eyes to it because of how horrific the facts are. Thanks for this kind of post. Don’t stop sharing the facts.

  8. I’ll have to read this book: Facing West…. another passion of mine.
    Thanks for the post.

  9. Bumbles says:

    Have you ever read The Wordy Shipmates? It too bares the facts – but with moments of levity so people won’t get so depressed that they stop reading. I thought it was pretty good.

  10. Nymeth says:

    As a non-American, I very much appreciate the history/context!

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