Posts Tagged ‘Thankstaking’


November 24, 2022


Sorry to rain on your Thanksgiving Day Parade, but today’s holiday myth covers up lots of tragic history. Europeans were in contact with northern Atlantic Coast Native Americans long before that English religious cult landed in Massachusetts, and indigenous people paid a heavy price for it. There were earlier meetings between native peoples and French and Basque fishermen and whalers, and Giovanni da Verrazzano documented contacts with native peoples in the Carolinas, New York Bay, and Narragansett Bay in 1544. John Smith met the Powhatans in 1608. Henry Hudson met Mohican people in 1609. The Spanish were as deadly to the indigenous nations of Florida as they had been in the Southwest and Southern Hemisphere.

Six years before the Mayflower, in 1614, Captain Thomas Hunt visited Massachusetts, where he abducted two dozen Wampanoag people from Patuxet and brought them to Spain for sale as slaves. One of them learned English and worked in Newfound as a translator in 1616, and on the New England Coast, which had been depopulated due to diseases brought by Europeans, in 1619. The man, Tisquantum, called Squanto by the English, remained, and was there when the so-called Pilgrims arrived in 1620. He helped the newcomers establish a mutual defense pact with the remaining Wampanoag people, as they and the English were threatened by the much larger Narraganset nation. They had a meal during their meeting, the mythic basis for today’s gluttonous orgy of stuffed turkey, candied yams, and pumkin pie.

Fifty years later, the good Christian people of Plimouth Colony attacked their native allies, killed their chieftain, and displayed his severed head on a pole in their settlement. They celebrated that event on June 29, 1676 with (you guessed it) a feast of thanksgiving.


“Before Plymouth Colony and the Pilgrims, There Was Patuxet,” Virginia Williams, Atlas Obscura

“The rise of Thankstaking,” Russell Contreras, Axios

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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

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