This holiday does not have as friendly a history as many people believe. Quite the contrary: the dark history of Thanksgiving is surrounded by tales of blood, brutality and slaughter.
We all know that Thanksgiving is an American holiday meant to celebrate and be grateful for our blessings and the friendship of others. What many ignore, however, is that behind this seemingly joyous occasion lies a dark story full of conflict, blood, and genocide.
The origins of Thanksgiving, like with most other traditional festivities, are rooted in old pagan rites. The holiday has its earliest source in ancient customs found throughout the globe that allocated a day of giving thanks for a successful harvest and the fortunes or blessings of the previous year. More specifically, however, it is often said that the current American tradition of Thanksgiving dates back to the establishment of the Plymouth Colony in what today is Massachusetts, in 1620.
Problems with the official story
Most schools teach that Thanksgiving was born when some English religious dissenters, the pilgrims, were struggling to settle in Plymouth and were warmly received by friendly, local Native Americans from the Wampanoag tribe, who taught them how to survive in the New World. To celebrate their success and to honor each other, everyone got together and threw an affectionate feast in which the pilgrims showed their gratitude.
That sounds like a lovely story! But, it falls way short of showing the whole picture.
As we mentioned before, celebrations meant to give thanks for the harvesting season (which mostly fall around the same dates) were plentiful and varied much before the pilgrim story, and it’s hard to pinpoint a single event as the actual birth of the contemporary version of the holiday. Other settlers in Virginia celebrated their arrival with an annual Thanksgiving day since 1619, for example. Decades before, some Spanish settlers in the colonies got together yearly with the Seloy tribe for a friendly feast. Yet others believe Thanksgiving truly began when, in 1637, Massachusetts colony governor John Winthrop declared a day to give thanks for the fact that colonial soldiers had recently slaughtered over seven hundred members of the Pequot tribe, including women and children, in Connecticut.
This is not a history of friendship
It is fairly well-documented that the English, and later Americans, didn’t in fact get along with their native neighbors. Actually, that’s an understatement. Native Americans were driven out of their land, hunted and virtually exterminated by the settlers during the centuries following the latter’s arrival, so it’s hardly surprising that the story surrounding Thanksgiving involves a bloody conflict.
Though it is true that initially the Plymouth settlers held rather good relations with the Wampanoag tribe—in fact, they had an official alliance against the French and other rivals—, this friendship eventually eroded. Little by little, the colonists of Plymouth, though indebted to the Wampanoag, took over their land, straining the locals’ way of life. If that was not enough, disease, spread by the newcomers, decimated the native population.
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Here’s The True And Bloody Story Behind The Origins Of Thanksgiving
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