The Wampanoags, whose name means “People of the First Light” in their native language, trace their ancestors back at least 10,000 years to southeastern Massachusetts, a land they called Patuxet.
Thanksgiving, a Wampanoags View. Nov. 23rd. 2023.
Who were the Pilgrims?
Thanksgiving is a celebration of survival in an unknown world by a group of people, also known as the Pilgrim Fathers. The Pilgrims were a Separatist Christian group of Puritans, who wanted to return to worshipping in the way the early Christians did, and for this they were harassed,
fined or even sent to jail in England.
These group of Puritans fled England to escape persecusion , but in Holland, they found it difficult to farm and provide for their families there. They found financial investors who would pay their trip to America, plus housing, supplies, and tools, in return for the Pilgrims to work as indenture servants for seven years. Finally they departured from Leiden, Holland on the Speedwell and were at joined in Southampton, a port in England by a group traveling on the Mayflower. The Speedwell broke down and was forced to return. Finally on September 6, 1620, The Mayflower set out alone with 102 passengers. It was crowded and after 66 days, they arrived in New England on November 11, 1620.
It was here, in Cape Cod Bay, that the men signed “The Mayflower Compact.”as the foundation for their community’s government. Only 52 people survived the first year in Plymouth. John Carver was the writer of the compact and the first governor of the Plymouth colony.
On March 22, 1621, Governor Carver and Wampanoag leader Massasoit worked out a treaty of peace and mutual protection. This treaty lasted for more than half a century. Carver died in April or May 1621, aged 56 years, and his wife died five or six weeks later.
The treaty had six points. Neither party would harm the other. If anything was stolen, it would be returned and the offending person returned to his own people for punishment. Both sides agreed to leave their weapons behind when meeting, and the two groups would serve as allies in times of war. In the fall of 1621, the colonists marked their first harvest with a three-day celebration after the Jewish harvest feast of Sukkot from the old testament. Massasoit and 90 of his men joined the English for feasting and entertainment. Historians believe that only five women were present.
The Wampanoag’s View of The Pilgrims’ First Thanksgiving in 1621.
In the 1600s, they lived in 69 villages, each with a chief, or sachem, and a medicine man. They had “messenger runners,” members of the tribe with good memories and the endurance to run to neighboring villages to deliver messages.
They occupied a land of plenty, hunting deer, elk and bear in the forests, fishing for herring and trout, and harvesting quahogs in the rivers and bays. They planted corn and used fish remains as fertilizer. In the winter, they moved inland from the harsh weather, and in the spring they moved to the coastlines.They had traded — and fought — with European explorers since 1524.
The Pilgrims of Plymouth, Massachussets were not the first Europeans to meet the Wampanoag tribe. In 1614 some English lured a group of 20 Wampanoag men onto a ship with the intention of selling them into slavery in Malaga, Spain. Among them was Tisquantum, who was called Squanto by the English. When Squanto returned home in 1619, two-thirds of his people had been killed by a mysterious disease. Historians think it was likely small pox or possibly yellow fever.
When Wampanoags saw the Pilgrims came with women and children, felt they did not come to fight them, and helped them by teaching them how to plant beans and squash in a mound with maize around it and use fish remains as fertilizer — had their first harvest of crops. To celebrate its first success as a colony, the Pilgrims had a “harvest feast” that became the basis for what’s now called Thanksgiving.
The Wampanoags were not invited, but a large group of warriors came after they heard muskets fired, they brought deer and stayed for the celebration.
Darius Coombs, a Mashpee Wampanoag cultural outreach coordinator, said there’s such misinterpretation about what Thanksgiving means to American Indians. It brought disease, servitude and so many things that weren’t good for Wampanoags and other Indigenous cultures.”
The irony of this story is that the Pilgrims risked their lives in order to be free to worship their way, and then they did not allow the Native Americans the freedom to worship their way.
Thanksgiving is also a time to give thanks by giving back to others, donating to charities or volunteering. A tradition that has lasted for hundreds of years up through today.