Native blood: the truth behind the myth of `Thanksgiving Day' (now with video)

Video: Thanksgiving: A Native American View

By Mike Ely

It is a deep thing that people still celebrate the survival of the early colonists at Plymouth — by giving thanks to the Christian god who supposedly protected and championed the European invasion. The real meaning of all that, then and now, needs to be continually excavated. The myths and lies that surround the past are constantly draped over the horrors and tortures of our present.

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Every schoolchild in the United States has been taught that the Pilgrims of the Plymouth Colony invited the local Indians to a major harvest feast after surviving their first bitter year in New England. But the real history of Thanksgiving is a story of the murder of indigenous people and the theft of their land by European colonialists–and of the ruthless ways of capitalism.

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In mid-winter 1620 the English ship Mayflower landed on the North American coast, delivering 102 exiles. The original native people of this stretch of shoreline had already been killed off. In 1614 a British expedition had landed there. When they left they took 24 Indians as slaves and left smallpox behind. Three years of plague wiped out between 90 and 96 per cent of the inhabitants of the coast, destroying most villages completely.

The Europeans landed and built their colony called “the Plymouth Plantation” near the deserted ruins of the Indian village of Pawtuxet. They ate from abandoned cornfields grown wild. Only one Pawtuxet named Squanto had survived–he had spent the last years as a slave to the English and Spanish in Europe. Squanto spoke the colonists’ language and taught them how to plant corn and how to catch fish until the first harvest. Squanto also helped the colonists negotiate a peace treaty with the nearby Wampanoag tribe, led by the chief Massasoit.

These were very lucky breaks for the colonists. The first Virginia settlement had been wiped out before they could establish themselves. Thanks to the good will of the Wampanoag, the settlers not only survived their first year but had an alliance with the Wampanoags that would give them almost two decades of peace.

John Winthrop, a founder of the Massahusetts Bay colony considered this wave of illness and death to be a divine miracle. He wrote to a friend in England, “But for the natives in these parts, God hath so pursued them, as for 300 miles space the greatest part of them are swept away by smallpox which still continues among them. So as God hath thereby cleared our title to this place, those who remain in these parts, being in all not 50, have put themselves under our protection.”

The deadly impact of European diseases and the good will of the Wampanoag allowed the settlers to survive their first year.

In celebration of their good fortune, the colony’s governor, William Bradford, declared a three-day feast of thanksgiving after that first harvest of 1621.

How the Puritans stole the land

Early North America as Native peoples and Europe settlers collide

But the peace that produced the Thanksgiving Feast of 1621 meant that the Puritans would have 15 years to establish a firm foothold on the coast. Until 1629 there were no more than 300 settlers in New England, scattered in small and isolated settlements. But their survival inspired a wave of Puritan invasion that soon established growing Massachusetts towns north of Plymouth: Boston and Salem. For 10 years, boatloads of new settlers came.

And as the number of Europeans increased, they proved not nearly so generous as the Wampanoags.

On arrival, the Puritans and other religious sects discussed “who legally owns all this land. ”They had to decide this, not just because of Anglo-Saxon traditions, but because their particular way of farming was based on individual–not communal or tribal–ownership. This debate over land ownership reveals that bourgeois “rule of law” does not mean “protect the rights of the masses of people.”

Some settlers argued that the land belonged to the Indians. These forces were excommunicated and expelled. Massachusetts Governor Winthrop declared the Indians had not “subdued” the land, and therefore all uncultivated lands should, according to English Common Law, be considered “public domain.” This meant they belonged to the king. In short, the colonists decided they did not need to consult the Indians when they seized new lands, they only had to consult the representative of the crown (meaning the local governor).

The colonists embraced a line from Psalms 2:8. “Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” Since then, European settler states have similarly declared god their real estate agent: from the Boers seizing South Africa to the Zionists seizing Palestine.

The European immigrants took land and enslaved Indians to help them farm it. By 1637 there were about 2000 British settlers. They pushed out from the coast and decided to remove the inhabitants.

The shining City on the Hill

Where did the Plymouth and Massachusetts colonies of Puritan and “separatist” pilgrims come from and what were they really all about?

Governor Winthrop, a founder of the Massachusetts colony, said, “We shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.” The Mayflower Puritans had been driven out of England as subversives. The Puritans saw this religious colony as a model of a social and political order that they believed all of Europe should adopt.

The Puritan movement was part of a sweeping revolt within English society against the ruling feudal order of wealthy lords. Only a few decades after the establishment of Plymouth, the Puritan Revolution came to power in England. They killed the king, won a civil war, set up a short-lived republic, and brutally conquered the neighbouring people of Ireland to create a larger national market.

The famous Puritan intolerance was part of a determined attempt to challenge the decadence and wastefulness of the rich aristocratic landlords of England. The Puritans wanted to use the power of state punishment to uproot old and still dominant ways of thinking and behaving.

The new ideas of the Puritans served the needs of merchant capitalist accumulation. The extreme discipline, thrift and modesty the Puritans demanded of each other corresponded to a new and emerging form of ownership and production. Their so-called “Protestant Ethic” was an early form of the capitalist ethic. From the beginning, the Puritan colonies intended to grow through capitalist trade–trading fish and fur with England while they traded pots, knives, axes, alcohol and other English goods with the Indians.

The New England were ruled by a government in which only the male heads of families had a voice. Women, Indians, slaves, servants, youth were neither heard nor represented. In the Puritan schoolbooks, the old law “honour thy father and thy mother” was interpreted to mean honoring “All our Superiors, whether in Family, School, Church, and Commonwealth.” And, the real truth was that the colonies were fundamentally controlled by the most powerful merchants.

The Puritan fathers believed they were the Chosen People of an infinite god and that this justified anything they did. They were Calvinists who believed that the vast majority of humanity was predestined to damnation. This meant that while they were firm in fighting for their own capitalist right to accumulate and prosper, they were quick to oppress the masses of people in Ireland, Scotland and North America, once they seized the power to set up their new bourgeois order. Those who rejected the narrow religious rules of the colonies were often simply expelled “out into the wilderness.”

The Massachusetts colony (north of Plymouth) was founded when Puritan stockholders had gotten control of an English trading company. The king had given this company the right to govern its own internal affairs, and in 1629 the stockholders simply voted to transfer the company to North American shores–making this colony literally a self-governing company of stockholders!

In US schools, students are taught that the Mayflower compact of Plymouth contained the seeds of “modern democracy” and “rule of law.” But by looking at the actual history of the Puritans, we can see that this so-called “modern democracy” was (and still is) a capitalist democracy based on all kinds of oppression and serving the class interests of the ruling capitalists.

In short, the Puritan movement developed as an early revolutionary challenge to the old feudal order in England. They were the soul of primitive capitalist accumulation. And transferred to the shores of North America, they immediately revealed how heartless and oppressive that capitalist soul is.

The birth of the `American way of war'

European colonists attack the Pequot village

In the Connecticut Valley, the powerful Pequot tribe had not entered an alliance with the British (as had the Narragansett, the Wampanoag, and the Massachusetts peoples). At first they were far from the centers of colonization. Then, in 1633, the British stole the land where the city of Hartford now sits–land which the Pequot had recently conquered from another tribe. That same year two British slave raiders were killed. The colonists demanded that the Indians who killed the slavers be turned over. The Pequot refused.

The Puritan preachers said, from Romans 13:2, “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” The colonial governments gathered an armed force of 240 under the command of John Mason. They were joined by a thousand Narragansett warriors. The historian Francis Jennings writes: “Mason proposed to avoid attacking Pequot warriors which would have overtaxed his unseasoned, unreliable troops. Battle, as such, was not his purpose. Battle is only one of the ways to destroy an enemy’s will to fight. Massacre can accomplish the same end with less risk, and Mason had determined that massacre would be his objective.”

The colonist army surrounded a fortified Pequot village on the Mystic River. At sunrise, as the inhabitants slept, the Puritan soldiers set the village on fire.

William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth, wrote: “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.”

Mason himself wrote: “It may be demanded…Should not Christians have more mercy and compassion? But…sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents…. We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings.”

Three hundred and fifty years later the Puritan phrase “a shining city on the hill” became a favorite quote of conservative speechwriters.

Discovering the profits of slavery

This so-called “Pequot war” was a one-sided murder and slaving expedition. Over 180 captives were taken. After consulting the bible again, in Leviticus 24:44, the colonial authorities found justification to kill most of the Pequot men and enslave the captured women and their children. Only 500 Pequot remained alive and free. In 1975 the official number of Pequot living in Connecticut was 21.

Some of the war captives were given to the Narragansett and Massachusetts allies of the British. Even before the arrival of Europeans, Native peoples of North America had widely practiced taking war captives from other tribes as hostages and slaves.

The remaining captives were sold to British plantation colonies in the West Indies to be worked to death in a new form of slavery that served the emerging capitalist world market. And with that, the merchants of Boston made a historic discovery: the profits they made from the sale of human beings virtually paid for the cost of seizing them.

One account says that enslaving Indians quickly became a “mania with speculators.” These early merchant capitalists of Massachusetts started to make genocide pay for itself. The slave trade, first in captured Indians and soon in kidnapped Africans, quickly became a backbone of New England merchant capitalism.

Thanksgiving in the Manhattan Colony

In 1641 the Dutch governor Kieft of Manhattan offered the first “scalp bounty”–his government paid money for the scalp of each Indian brought to them. A couple years later, Kieft ordered the massacre of the Wappingers, a friendly tribe. Eighty were killed and their severed heads were kicked like soccer balls down the streets of Manhattan. One captive was castrated, skinned alive and forced to eat his own flesh while the Dutch governor watched and laughed. Then Kieft hired the notorious Underhill who had commanded in the Pequot war to carry out a similar massacre near Stamford, Connecticut. The village was set fire, and 500 Indian residents were put to the sword.

A day of thanksgiving was proclaimed in the churches of Manhattan. As we will see, the European colonists declared Thanksgiving Days to celebrate mass murder more often than they did for harvest and friendship.

The Conquest of New England

By the 1670s there were about 30,000 to 40,000 white inhabitants in the United New England Colonies–6000 to 8000 able to bear arms. With the Pequot destroyed, the Massachusetts and Plymouth colonists turned on the Wampanoag, the tribe that had saved them in 1620 and probably joined them for the original Thanksgiving Day.

In 1675 a Christian Wampanoag was killed while spying for the Puritans. The Plymouth authorities arrested and executed three Wampanoag without consulting the tribal chief, King Philip.

As Mao Tsetung says: “Where there is oppression there is resistance.” The Wampanoag went to war.

The Indians applied some military lessons they had learned: they waged a guerrilla war which overran isolated European settlements and were often able to inflict casualties on the Puritan soldiers. The colonists again attacked and massacred the main Indian populations.

When this war ended, 600 European men, one-eleventh of the adult men of the New England Colonies, had been killed in battle. Hundreds of homes and 13 settlements had been wiped out. But the colonists won.

In their victory, the settlers launched an all-out genocide against the remaining Native people. The Massachusetts government offered 20 shillings bounty for every Indian scalp, and 40 shillings for every prisoner who could be sold into slavery. Soldiers were allowed to enslave any Indian woman or child under 14 they could capture. The “Praying Indians” who had converted to Christianity and fought on the side of the European troops were accused of shooting into the treetops during battles with “hostiles.” They were enslaved or killed. Other “peaceful” Indians of Dartmouth and Dover were invited to negotiate or seek refuge at trading posts–and were sold onto slave ships.

It is not known how many Indians were sold into slavery, but in this campaign, 500 enslaved Indians were shipped from Plymouth alone. Of the 12,000 Indians in the surrounding tribes, probably about half died from battle, massacre and starvation.

After King Philip’s War, there were almost no Indians left free in the northern British colonies. A colonist wrote from Manhattan’s New York colony: “There is now but few Indians upon the island and those few no ways hurtful. It is to be admired how strangely they have decreased by the hand of God, since the English first settled in these parts.”

In Massachusetts, the colonists declared a “day of public thanksgiving” in 1676, saying, “there now scarce remains a name or family of them [the Indians] but are either slain, captivated or fled.”

Fifty-five years after the original Thanksgiving Day, the Puritans had destroyed the generous Wampanoag and all other neighboring tribes. The Wampanoag chief King Philip was beheaded. His head was stuck on a pole in Plymouth, where the skull still hung on display 24 years later.

The descendants of these Native peoples are found wherever the Puritan merchant capitalists found markets for slaves: the West Indies, the Azures, Algiers, Spain and England. The grandson of Massasoit, the Pilgrim’s original protector, was sold into slavery in Bermuda.

Runaways and rebels

But even the destruction of Indian tribal life and the enslavement of survivors brought no peace. Indians continued to resist in every available way. Their oppressors lived in terror of a revolt. And they searched for ways to end the resistance. The historian MacLeod writes: “The first `reservations’ were designed for the `wild’ Irish of Ulster in 1609. And the first Indian reservation agent in America, Gookin of Massachusetts, like many other American immigrants had seen service in Ireland under Cromwell.”

The enslaved Indians refused to work and ran away. The Massachusetts government tried to control runaways by marking enslaved Indians: brands were burnt into their skin, and symbols were tattooed into their foreheads and cheeks.

A Massachusetts law of 1695 gave colonists permission to kill Indians at will, declaring it was “lawful for any person, whether English or Indian, that shall find any Indians traveling or skulking in any of the towns or roads (within specified limits), to command them under their guard and examination, or to kill them as they may or can.”

The northern colonists enacted more and more laws for controlling the people. A law in Albany forbade any African or Indian slave from driving a cart within the city. Curfews were set up; Africans and Indians were forbidden to have evening get-togethers. On Block Island, Indians were given 10 lashes for being out after nine o’clock. In 1692 Massachusetts made it a serious crime for any white person to marry an African, an Indian or a mulatto. In 1706 they tried to stop the importation of Indian slaves from other colonies, fearing a slave revolt.


Looking at this history raises a question: Why should anyone celebrate the survival of the earliest Puritans with a Thanksgiving Day? Certainly the Native peoples of those times had no reason to celebrate.

The ruling powers of the United States organised people to celebrate Thanksgiving Day because it is in their interest. That’s why they created it. The first national celebration of Thanksgiving was called for by George Washington. And the celebration was made a regular legal holiday later by Abraham Lincoln during the civil war (right as he sent troops to suppress the Sioux of Minnesota).

Washington and Lincoln were two presidents deeply involved in trying to forge a unified bourgeois nation-state out of the European settlers in the United States. And the Thanksgiving story was a useful myth in their efforts at U.S. nation-building. It celebrates the “bounty of the American way of life,” while covering up the brutal nature of this society.

[Mike Ely is a participant in the Kasama Project, where several of his other historical writings are available.]


That's all I can say right now.
Holiday to celebrate an outlandish massacre that Americans try to cover up into something people should feel proud of being part.


Dear Mike Ely:

Beautifully written; painfully acknowledged. "Bury Myi Heart At Wounded Knee" brought forward the abject horror of brutality and degradation of noble people. Your article remeinds us of this again -- only this time exposing the holiday tradition of Thanksgiving. It is not a feast; it is a massacre.

In the past, I just liked making turkey dinner for my family. That is pretty much all Thanksgiving meant to me...until I met my Kumeyaay and became involved.

I am thankful for the Native American people. I love the small part of me that is Chickasaw. I love my partner-in-life who is a huge, noble Native American of the Kumeyaay Nation. He is a large man with a pony tail, and I am a little blonde woman. The physical differences do not matter.

Good things are happening today. With the election of president-elect Obama, and his sensitivities to the Native American, along with the fact that gaming is firmly in place, maybe now Manifest Destiny can be turned around. A glass of whiskey, or the intoxicating clinking of slot machines, it does not matter the exliser that seduces people into hypnotic compliance. The veritable enemies are exposed.

Got to go love my man...we are having a quiet chicken supper.

With love,
Miki G


yea right like a bunch of non natives are really going to sit down and eat with us Native Americans it was a massacre you all are celebrating in the name of your GOD
How can you people have a bible in one hand and a rifle in the other just take a good hard look at Iraq

I was born in America and therefore, by default, I am an American. Even though my ancestors had nothing to do with it (except because they were Irish and Scottish they received pretty much the same treatment), I am still ashamed of Thanksgiving and I do not embrace or celebrate it.


This is very well done and documented with quotes, photos and the article.
Thank you for this wonderful historical counter to the "traditional Thanksgiving".


I am so glad to see and know of the truth being revealed about the true meaning of the "so-called" Thankgsgiving Day. For the life of me I'm still trying to figure out how can a person discover someone elses' home, as accredited to the serial killer Christopher Columbus. A serial killer and slave trader has a holiday, WOW!!!! Holiday derives from a "holy day" and holy these people were not. The tribes were only called indians because Columbus thought he was in India. The Native Americans decend from the tribe of Gad(one of the 12 tribes of Israel) as found in the Bible and not once have these people been referred to as such. These atrocities were commited by a Godless people who used the Bible as a "permission slip" much like the slave master over the tribe of Judah, or Afro American slaves beginning in 1619 in this country. Thanksgiving Day is nothing more than a tool of propaganda that is continually believed by the masses without truly knowing the history. Excellent job Mike. Keep it up!!!!!


Paul D'Amato tells the real story of the "first Thanksgiving"--and the history of conquest and resistance that followed after it.

THE THANKSGIVING myth is intertwined with this country's origin myth.

Puritans fleeing religious persecution in England landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620 in search of freedom. Indians helped them plant corn and survive. They made a compact that is the basis of our first constitution, and they held a feast, together with some Indians, to celebrate and give thanks to God for their first bounteous harvest.

The story has elements of truth, but not much more than elements. What children learn is the overarching message--that Pilgrims were everything good about America: European, Christian, sober, democratic, generous, God-fearing, and so on and so forth.

True, an Indian named Squanto did teach the Pilgrims how to plant corn and saved the invaders from total starvation. What we aren't told is that Squanto learned English because he had been abducted and made a slave in Europe some years before, and the place where he taught the new settlers to plant corn was the village he had grown up in, Patuxet, now depopulated by the impact of European diseases.

The colonists planted their first crops in an abandoned field cleared by Indians, and found the area strewn with the bleached bones of dead Indians, which the surviving ones, having fled elsewhere, were unable to bury.

There are other problems with the story. The Pilgrims' relations with the first Indians they encountered were not initially friendly; short of provisions, the Pilgrims stole corn from a granary of the Nauset Indians, and later robbed a grave and some Indian houses they stumbled across.

What has in hindsight been described as the "first" Thanksgiving was a typical English harvest feast. It took place almost a year into the existence of the settlement, whose numbers had dwindled by half because of disease and starvation to only 50 people. According to the account of William Bradford, 90 Indians, led by Massassoit, the Wampanoag chief or Sachem, attended the feast, bringing five deer with them.

In all the Thanksgiving stories and plays, the Indians are really a kind of sideshow to the Pilgrim "fathers"--even though all the foods were Indian foods; the Indians outnumbered the Pilgrims; and without the Indians, the Pilgrims would not have survived. Yet the thanks are never to the Indians, but to God, to the Pilgrims themselves--anything but to Native Americans.

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THIS IMAGE of Indians as props for the occasion still persists. It reflects a not uncommon view of the "New World," peddled from the beginning by Europeans who aimed to conquer and settle it--that it was a sparsely populated place, inhabited by nomadic people.

Capt. John Smith, who had helped settle Jamestown in 1609, argued that Englishmen could rightfully seize Indian land because God intended land to be cultivated, and this land was "unmanned wild country" that Indians "range rather than inhabit." (Did the Zionist leaders who founded Israel read Smith?)

The truth was very different. On the Eastern seaboard, Indians did "tame" the land. They grew three types of corn, with at least two growing seasons, as well as squash and beans, and they supplemented their diet with fish, shellfish, deer and birds. They cleared land not only for farming, but also set controlled brush fires in forests in order to create better hunting conditions. They made extensive systems of trails and roads for trade and travel, and more. The English settlers found wooded areas that looked like parks and large open fields that reminded them of home.

In New England, what may have been bubonic plague, brought to coastal Maine a few years before the arrival of the Mayflower, had reduced Massasoit's Pokanokets from 12,000 people, with 3,000 warriors, to a tribe able to deploy only a few hundred fighters. Indeed, the reason Massasoit was so friendly to the Pilgrims was because he felt too weak to fend off his rivals, the larger Naragansetts, and hoped to form an alliance with the newcomers to strengthen his position.

The myth also obscures the purpose of the colony. While it was true that some of the Mayflower passengers were English Puritans attempting to find a place to practice their religion without persecution, more than half of the colonists were not Puritans. Moreover, in order to be able to travel to this "New World," the colonists had to secure the backing of a joint-stock company whose investors expected a return on their investment.

Plymouth was both a profit-making venture and an outpost of English imperialism. There had been a spate of colonizing efforts by England in the region, in competition with other European powers Spain, France and Holland. England, like its competitors, aimed to claim this "New World" and its riches by any means necessary, including the outright extermination of entire peoples.

The historian Francis Jennings outlines the policy adopted by English conquerors that had already been established in Ireland:

(1) A deliberate policy of inciting competition between natives in order, by division, to maintain control; (2) a disregard for pledges and promises to natives, no matter how solemnly made; (3) the introduction of total exterminatory war against some communities of natives in order to terrorize others; and (4) a highly developed propaganda of falsification to justify all acts and policies of the conquerors whatsoever.

Listen to this Jamestown colonist, writing after the Powhatans had risen to drive out the English settlers in 1622:

We, who hitherto have had possession of no more ground then their waste, and our purchase...may now by right of War, and law of Nations, invade the Country, and destroy them who sought to destroy us: whereby we shall enjoy their cultivated places...and possessing the fruits of others labors. Now their cleared grounds in all their villages (which are situated in the fruitfulest places of the land) shall be inhabited by us.

The Indians were not prepared for the level of savagery meted out against them.

In 1621, the Plymouth colonies' military commander, Captain Miles Standish, ambushed and massacred a group of eight Massachusetts Indians north of Plymouth in order to set an example to those who might consider challenging the Plymouth settlement. "This sudden and unexpected execution," wrote colonist Edward Winslow, "hath so terrified and amazed them...they forsook their in swamps...and so brought manifold diseases amongst themselves, whereof very many are dead."

After this incident, the invaders acquired a new name among the indigenous people: "Wotowquenange," meaning stabbers or cutthroats.

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IT SHOULD be clear, then, that the first Thanksgiving was not the end of the story. The Indians very quickly discovered they had little to celebrate.

As the European settlements grew and began to outnumber the Indians, the invaders became more arrogant, more land-hungry and more powerful. The increasing encroachment on Indian lands built to a tension that eventually provoked some Indians into decisive and desperate action.

Some 64 years after the colonists feasted with Massassoit, in 1675, Massasoit's son, Metacomet, known by the Pilgrims as "King Philip," fought a war of resistance against the New England colonists. At the war's end, 600 were killed and 1,200 houses burned in the English side; 3,000 Indians were killed, many of them victims of outright massacres by the colonists. Survivors were sold into slavery.

Philip was finally hunted down and eventually murdered. The colonists displayed Philip's head on a pole in Plymouth, where it remained for 25 years.

This story of conquest and resistance is not part of the "Thanksgiving" myth because the myth is meant to sanitize history and make the invasion of the Americas by European conquerors a benign and sublime national origin story.

Indeed, in 1970, the Massachusetts Department of Commerce asked the Wampanoags to select a speaker to mark the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrims' landing. Before Wamsutta Frank James could read his speech, though, it had to be approved by the people in charge of the ceremony. Here is what they decided not to allow him to read:

Today is a time of celebrating for you...but it is not a time of celebrating for me. It is with heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my people...The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn...

Massassoit, the great leader of the Wampanoag, knew these facts; yet he and his people welcomed and befriended the settlers...[B]efore 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoags...and other Indians living near the settlers would be killed by their guns or dead from diseases that we caught from them...Although our way of life is almost gone and our language is almost extinct, we the Wampanoags still walk the lands of Massachusetts...

What has happened cannot change, but today we work toward a better America, a more Indian America where people and nature are once again more important.

In response to the censorship, a group calling itself the United American Indians of New England declared the Thanksgiving holiday to be a National Day of Mourning.

On that day in 1970, protesters boarded the Mayflower II (a replica of the Pilgrims' original ship, built in 1957) and tore the Union Jack from the mast. It was replaced with the flag that had flown the year before over liberated Alcatraz Island when Indian activists in California had occupied it, and offered to buy Alcatraz from the government for $24, the same price the Dutch paid for Manhattan.

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THE UNITED American Indians of New England have held a Day of Mourning every year since in Plymouth.

Thirty-two years later, at the Day of Mourning in 2001, Moonanum James drew the connection between the resistance of Native Americans in the past and the struggles they face today:

Back in 1970, those who started Day of Mourning spoke of terrible racism and poverty.

Racism is still alive and well. Our people still are mired in the deepest poverty. We still lack decent health care, education and housing. Every winter, thousands of our people have to make a bitter choice between heating and eating. Our youth suicide rates, our rates of alcoholism continue to be the highest in the nation. As the economy crumbles around us, these conditions will only worsen.

Today, we mourn the loss of millions of our ancestors and the devastation of our beautiful land and water and air. We pray for our people who have died during this past year. We join America in grieving for those who lost their lives at the World Trade Center.

And I hope that you will join me in grieving, too, for the immense suffering of our sisters and brothers in Afghanistan, in Palestine, in Iraq--human beings who are referred to by this government as "collateral damage." We remember all too well that our people throughout the Americas have for centuries been the "collateral damage" of the European invasion.

The events of this past September were tragic and have affected all of us. Many innocent people lost their lives. We condemn all acts of violence and terrorism perpetrated by all governments and organizations against innocent civilians worldwide. And we condemn the racial profiling and detentions that are being directed against our Arab, South Asian and Muslim brothers and sisters in this country.

But the events of September 11 were certainly not the first acts of terrorism to have occurred in this country. Since Columbus and the rest of the Europeans invaded our lands, Native people have been virtually nonstop victims of terrorism. I think of the slaughter of the Pequots at Mystic, Connecticut, in 1637. I think of U.S. military massacres of peaceful Native people at Wounded Knee and Sand Creek, and so many, many other places. I think of the armed assault by the FBI on a peaceful encampment at Pine Ridge in the 1970s.

In fact, the very foundations of this powerful and wealthy country are the theft of our lands and slaughter of Native peoples and the kidnapping and enslavement of our African-American sisters and brothers. And the U.S.-assisted terrorism against Native peoples continues to this day in all too many countries in Central and South America...

These are indeed difficult times. But our ancestors and our traditions will give us the strength that we need. Always we must remember that we shall endure. A handful of us somehow managed to survive Columbus and the conquistadors and the Pilgrims and the French and all the other invaders.

Beautiful Native youth: Remember what your ancestors went through to bring you here. We are like the dirt, like the sand, like the tides. We shall endure. The struggle will continue. In the spirit of Crazy Horse, in the spirit of Zapata, in the spirit of Metacom, in the spirit of Anna Mae Aquash, in the spirit of Geronimo: We are not vanishing. We are not conquered. We are as strong as ever.

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What else to read

For a biographical sketch of nine American Indian leaders that are often glossed over in textbooks, check out Alvim M. Josephy’s The Patriot Chiefs: A Chronicle of American Indian Resistance [1]

James D. Drake’s King Philip's War: Civil War in New England, 1675-1676 [2], looks at the 1675 war between the English colonists and the indigenous people of New England, which decimated the region's native population.

Francis Jennings’ The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest [3] recasts the story of American colonization as a territorial invasion and shows Puritan actions in the light of material interest and expansion.

Gary B. Nash’s Red, White, and Black: The Peoples of Early North America [4] presents an account of the interactions between Native Americans, African Americans and Euroamericans during the colonial and revolutionary eras.

By A.H. Goldberg
The beginning of Thanksgiving as the holiday known in the USA now began with the Pilgrim sanctioned massacre of Pequot Indians in 1621 following a treaty these Pilgrims, English settlers had tricked the Pokanokets into approving 1621 to get title to unspecified areas of land, and was after these Indians had provided the Pilgrims with food aid in making it through hard times following the Pilgrims arrival in what they called the Plymouth colony in 1620. It was a brutal, fanatical slaughter of the Pequot regardless of age or gender to be mourned not celebrated as became the early custom among these European settlers and their descendants. It was to be blunt a genocide not so much different from other genocides and all should treat it as such.

The fact that the Pokanokets were a different Indian nation from the Pequots didn't have any relevance for these Europeans,as claims by European "Christian" people would prevail over those of others who weren't "Christian," and European tribes and their states would interpret matters in this way during this time if for no other reason than to expand their empires. Thus people have every reason mourn as well as remember this day in history, mourn, and say never again.

This "Thanksgiving" massacre was harbinger of things to come for the indigenous people of what is today the USA.

William B Newell, a former chairman of the anthropology department at the University of Connecticut and a Penobscot Indian has documented this genocide against the Pequot nation and the fact that in 1637 the Governor of the then Massachusetts Bay Colony proclaimed it as a day to celebrate this massacre of the Pequot in "their own house" celebrating their "annual Green Corn Dance" as Newell puts it. The governor even went so far as to proclaim this Thanksgiving Day for the next 100 years "thanking God that the battle has been won."

The European "doctrine of discovery" with its racist, Eurocentric, and religious biased foundations as a tenet held that all land discovered by European "Christian" people then became the possession of the state that represented them. Thus under this bigoted doctrine Indian nations lost title to land once any European "Christian" people "discovered" it.

Thanksgiving in the USA today and ever since the massacre of the indigenous people that day was no day to celebrate, but to mourn and atone for those of us of the primitive European tribes who at that time carried out that terrible massacre of those Pequot Indians by mercenaries of these Pilgrim types, killing brutally 700 men, women, and children by fire, sword, and other means after other indigenous people had made a treaty with these European primitive, likely Calvinist oriented Europeans with their puritan mentality of how "much better" they were than these "heathen" natives because of their apparent different religion, color, and maybe even their lack of "proper authority" or state mechanism-- so important at that time to primitive European tribes who needed to have their "proper" hierarchy to "look up to" to tell them what they would do, and maybe how to do it.

The Pilgrims must be understood and put in a context. They were religious fanatics in their version "Christianity" not like the classic/traditional Church of England types with a much more tolerant attitude. They wanted a hell fire and brimstone "Christianity,' and they brought same to the Pequot people on that brutal, savage day they hastened to celebrate.

In 1609 these very Pilgrims and Puritans would leave England, which they found to be less favorably disposed to their religion than they liked and move to Holland, a state which was very tolerant of them but also tolerant of other religions and behavior which these Puritans had no use for. They would in time end up in the Plymouth colony to keep themselves and their children isolated from the behavior those they absolutely just couldn't stand. They wanted tolerance for themselves, but not for others different from them.

These same kind of Calvinist types would go through villages in Ireland in the 17th Century, following Oliver Cromwell and putting whole villages to the sword if they refused to convert to their Calvinist version of Protestantism. Of course, these English Calvinists probably also "took pride" in doing this also due to their own tribal difference from the Irish Celtic tribe. This was the way of primitive European tribes with the tribal warfare between England and France once becoming the Hundred Years War.

No it wasn't about people sitting around a table swallowing tubs of turkey, dressing, and all the trimmings, history fans. It was about how evil "proper authority" and hierarchy worshipping primitive European tribes can be the most barbaric, oh wait, that's not fair to barbarians; OK mad dog types that mother nature has ever unleashed on the human race in the history of same.

But we can all eventually get it right once we get out of our "we're superior" to others the "white man's burden" mentality and deal with our past and damn learn from it. Thus we could move on to being as decent and human and civilized and egalitarian, caring, and sharing as many indigenous people especially nomadic hunter and gatherer tribes and bands for so long. Hell nomadic hunter and gatherer tribes and bands in Europe and elsewhere were likely egalitarian, sharing, and caring people mainly interested in foraging wild animals and plants, getting their living from same and moving when the supply of wild animals and plants ran out. Influence came from ability to hunt game and to gather berries and other needed things. No permanent institutionalized authority was needed nor in use. A person or persons were in charge for a day for foraging for a bear or deer or whatever, and that was that. These societies had no state mechanism obviously, as they didn't need it. Decisions came about by common sense consensus without any hierarchy. Marx and Engels viewed hunting and gathering peoples this way.

Furthermore, this looks pretty damn solid. They figured if those folks for hundreds of thousands of years could get it right until these same nomadic hunting and gathering societies settled down to develop agriculture extensively and cities along with a state mechanism, then maybe it should be possible for us backward types with our hierarchies and other bad habits such as giving to much deference to rule by the "grace of God" could eventually get it right. Marx and Engels also maintained that these hunting and gathering societies lived by the maxim "from each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs."

What is really crucial is to move from an hierarchal society to an egalitarian, and surely a more egalitarian, caring, and sharing one. Yes, this means a collectivist type of society. Think of if this way. The hard core egalitarian societies of nomadic hunters and gatherers had no need for hierarchy, got their nutrition, clothing, and shelter from the game they hunted. They also got some nutrition obviously from wild plants which they gathered. When those folks got what they needed from this foraging, they would enjoy themselves with singing and dancing and whatever else they wanted to do between consenting adults. Now that's not such a bad idea for us all to think about, and then we would all have something to be thankful for, unlike the current day US Thanksgiving.

[A.H. Goldberg is the name on the author's blog which can be accessed at]


As a recent immigrant to Canada from England, I took it upon myself to be a "Good Canadian" and learn it's history. Whilst I was well aware that the incoming Europeans basically committed genocide in what is now the US. I didn't realise the native people faired little better in Canada and in the last century even worse as far as I can tell.
Learning of the true brutality that took place and of the manifest indifference and contempt that still exists towards First Nations has truly shocked me.

If you read Samuel Pepys diaries, a candid journal of life in Puritan Britain in the 1600's, you will see their rule of law is scarily similar to the modern day Taliban. It is clear that with this as their underpinnings, the real history of North America is this ghastly.

I am ashamed of this part of my nations history and can do nothing to make amends other than to educate my children honestly to what has been done to the native peoples of these lands. We have so much to learn from their traditions and I can only hope that attitudes are changed enough now for what remains of the First Nations to be saved and passed down. Thanksgiving in my house will be a remembrance of First Nations suffering.


Why are the accounts of the real story of this sad event which is typical of the monstrosity of the "settling" of america still so mostly unknown


Thank you for disclosing the real historical significance of this foolish celebration. We have a government and an army of Christian houses of fairy tales to remind us of this lie. As a Communist I will continue to spread the word that America has a history but it is filled with the seeds of hatred for innocent indigenous members of the original society here. This behavior just sets the tone for the rest of history of the USA, killing and enslaving the masses to work for the masters with the most money!


My husband comes from Jamaica and knows alot about the killing off of the native apache Indians who lived there before black slaves were brought to the islands by Columbus. We talk often about how Indians use to cover the entire US lands and lived in peace with the lands.

My ancestory are the ones who destroyed this land and the native cultures. Although I am not full blood european, I am caucasian and my ancestory has a past reputation of enslaving blacks, natives, and all aboriginal peoples and cultures. They continue to kill off the shamans in other countries and hunt down the tribes in the amazon to destroy their spiritual connections to the earth and the past.

Many americans are clueless to how our nation, along with the european, have raped, pillaged, and plundered the earth. You know the saying,"the bigger they are the harder they fall..."? Well, America and Europe better look out... They will soon be devastated as the other nations choose to leave their tyranic rule and fight against their oppression.

"Hyperinflation Nation"
"Fight the New World Order with Global Non-Compliance"
"Spiritual Awakening"
AND Zeitgeist the movie

Thanks for the makers of this website
Spread the truth, only the truth shall set us free

Whom ever you are I wish you got the history straight before you write such absurdities as this:
"My husband comes from Jamaica and knows alot about the killing off of the native apache Indians who lived there before black slaves were brought to the islands by Columbus."

First and foremost Apache people in the islands it's a laugh, you must have been a genius in geography!!!
Apache people were and are people of the southwest lands which are now called Arizona and New Mexico, in 1492 when Columbus arrived called the island San Salvador which the natives called it Guanahani. The indigenous people he encountered were Lucayan, Taíno or Arawak no Apache.

Second: Columbus did not bring no blacks to the islands, get this facts straight. The first slaves to arrive as part of a labor force appeared in 1502 on the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Cuba received its first four slaves in 1513. Before, the slaves were the local natives but since they were dieing out cause of smallpox, other diseases and exterminations the black were brought to the islands, by those dates Columbus had already been DEAD the bastard!!!!! Christopher Columbus (c. 31 October 1451 – 20 May 1506)


Then, in 1633, the British stole the land where the city of Hartford now sits–land which the Pequot had recently conquered from another tribe.
The colonial governments gathered an armed force of 240 under the command of John Mason. They were joined by a thousand Narragansett warriors.
Some of the war captives were given to the Narragansett and Massachusetts allies of the British. Even before the arrival of Europeans, Native peoples of North America had widely practiced taking war captives from other tribes as hostages and slaves.

All I'm saying is, it's not like Native Americans weren't participating in the same type of behaviors. It's War and it's a horrible thing. Someone has to lose. If the Native Americans were unified history would of been a lot different.

Let it go.

To let go? How cowardish of u! Do u realize what ure saying? Are u in all ur minds? If smb killed ur family, what would u do? Let go? Even the Natives tribes had been unified, they couldnt have won the fight with "the Pilgrims". Nor Columbus the murderer and his army of morons.


Having native american heritage in my family I am both sickened and appalled at the reading of the brutality the native people have faced for so many years.I was raised like many others,mom and dad and I sitting down for this huge feast every year knowing why from teachings at school.I furthermore do the same thing with my wife and kids...this year I am going to set at our table however I will now be doing so with an enlightened mind.I will not give thanks to a God,rather i will acknowledge how the native american people suffered and died.


Im also European (Caucasian, Romanian) and always have been interested in the Native American culture which I love and admire. Remember the history is written by victors? Thanksgiving Day is another example, not to mention te infamous Columbus Day. It makes me sick how many Americans are foaming their mouths about Thanksgiving Day and try to paint it pink. Bullshit like: "Its a special day to spend it with ur family, nothing wrong/bad about it", "the Pilgrims did little or no harm to the Natives", "If u dont like the tradition, pls go elsewhere", "its celebrating the friendship between the two nations" and so on. Total stupid. Recently Angelina Jolie said that she doesnt want to celebrate such a day and teach her children fake history. I have my reasons to hate her, but I must admit she's right, even she said it for the sake of publicity. Just take a look here and ull be amazed... in a bad way.

The truth will prevail in the end. Keep it coming!


I myself have stopped celebrating or allowing my children to go on believing all these historical lies!!! I think that the truth sould be told no matter how it impacts us !!! That's why right now the U.S government is so paranoid about the security, Because after all the it's evil deeds committed against the natives of the land and later to any country in the world if it fitted their economical needs has them scared that the time to "Pay the Pipper" has arrived!!! And we all know the saying.......PAYBACK IS A BITCH !!!


You know, I didnt celebrate thanksgiving this year for various reasons and after reading this Im really glad I didnt and dont expect to again. I am a 40yr old African American woman and even as a child being taught American History, knowing what was done to my ancestors I always felt there was something that we weren't being told about "Thanksgiving" I always questioned how could you sit down,thank God and break bread with these people that helped you "survive your first winter" then turn around and rape them of their land, culture and ultimately their lives. Every story I've ever heard about this country coming in contact with any other country, race, civilization has never turned out good for the later. They bully their way into everything. Lie, cheat, steal, and even murder to get what they want and then twist the story to make it look like they're the good guy trying to help and make things better never once thinking that maybe their way of life is not the better way. This country is falling apart little by little and thats because when your foundation is made up of rotting, foul, cowardly deeds eventually it will crumble. I will no longer be celebrating Thanksgiving as I think it would be a slap in the face of not only the ancestors of Native Americans but my African American ancestors as well.


If folks 'celebrate' the shameful history described- then the USA is based on a lie.


I am often met with many questions this time of year. People do not understand why I don't believe in participating in thanksgiving day celebrations. "It is a day to give thanks for everything you have and eat turkey and pie". To me it is a day of great sadness for my thoughts are left to the massacre of my ancestors. When I try explaining the truth people really ask me, "Did that really happen?" The truth has been forgotten by so many and others have no clue as to the history of native americans. I have no problem with being thankful. I do have a problem with a holiday that commemorates the slaughter of my people.


Tomorrow I'm still going to celebrate Thanksgiving, but I'm not going to celebrate in the name of the Christian God, who's followers has senselessly murdered because of such silly differences like skin color or religion. Somehow I'm not surprised to learn the origin of this holiday is more bloody than that was taught in schools... sounds a lot like Columbus Day (I curse the fact that I was born on the day that celebrates that horrible man)and St. Patrick's Day.

No, my thanks are going to be given to no Christian God nor any remembrances to the Puritan Pilgrims. My thanks is going to what progress, however little it may seem at times, made towards equality and my remembrances to those who had lost their lives because there was none.

Thanksgiving: The National Day of Mourning

Text of 1970 speech by Wampsutta - An Aquinnah Wampanoag Elder

Cover Story The Black Commentator November 24, 2011 - Issue 449…

[When Frank James (1923 - February 20, 2001), known to the Wampanoag people as Wampsutta, was invited to speak by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at the 1970 annual Thanksgiving feast at Plymouth. When the text of Mr. James' speech, a powerful statement of anger at the history of oppression of the Native people of America, became known before the event, the Commonwealth "disinvited" him. Wampsutta was not prepared to have his speech revised by the Pilgrims. He left the dinner and the ceremonies and went to the hill near the statue of the Massasoit, who as the leader of the Wampanoags when the Pilgrims landed in their territory. There overlooking Plymouth Harbor, he looked at the replica of the Mayflower. It was there that he gave his speech that was to be given to the Pilgrims and their guests. There eight or ten Indians and their supporters listened in indignation as Frank talked of the takeover of the Wampanoag tradition, culture, religion, and land.

That silencing of a strong and honest Native voice led to the convening of the National Day of Mourning. The following is the text of 1970 speech by Wampsutta, an Aquinnah Wampanoag elder and Native American activist.]

I speak to you as a man -- a Wampanoag Man. I am a proud man, proud of my ancestry, my accomplishments won by a strict parental direction ("You must succeed - your face is a different color in this small Cape Cod community!"). I am a product of poverty and discrimination from these two social and economic diseases. I, and my brothers and sisters, have painfully overcome, and to some extent we have earned the respect of our community. We are Indians first - but we are termed "good citizens." Sometimes we are arrogant but only because society has pressured us to be so.

It is with mixed emotion that I stand here to share my thoughts. This is a time of celebration for you - celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time of looking back, of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People.

Even before the Pilgrims landed it was common practice for explorers to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them as slaves for 220 shillings apiece. The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans. Mourt's Relation describes a searching party of sixteen men. Mourt goes on to say that this party took as much of the Indians' winter provisions as they were able to carry.

Massasoit, the great Sachem of the Wampanoag, knew these facts, yet he and his People welcomed and befriended the settlers of the Plymouth Plantation. Perhaps he did this because his Tribe had been depleted by an epidemic. Or his knowledge of the harsh oncoming winter was the reason for his peaceful acceptance of these acts. This action by Massasoit was perhaps our biggest mistake. We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people.

What happened in those short 50 years? What has happened in the last 300 years? History gives us facts and there were atrocities; there were broken promises - and most of these centered around land ownership. Among ourselves we understood that there were boundaries, but never before had we had to deal with fences and stone walls. But the white man had a need to prove his worth by the amount of land that he owned. Only ten years later, when the Puritans came, they treated the Wampanoag with even less kindness in converting the souls of the so-called "savages." Although the Puritans were harsh to members of their own society, the Indian was pressed between stone slabs and hanged as quickly as any other "witch."

And so down through the years there is record after record of Indian lands taken and, in token, reservations set up for him upon which to live. The Indian, having been stripped of his power, could only stand by and watch while the white man took his land and used it for his personal gain. This the Indian could not understand; for to him, land was survival, to farm, to hunt, to be enjoyed. It was not to be abused. We see incident after incident, where the white man sought to tame the "savage" and convert him to the Christian ways of life. The early Pilgrim settlers led the Indian to believe that if he did not behave, they would dig up the ground and unleash the great epidemic again.

The white man used the Indian's nautical skills and abilities. They let him be only a seaman -- but never a captain. Time and time again, in the white man's society, we Indians have been termed "low man on the totem pole."

Has the Wampanoag really disappeared? There is still an aura of mystery. We know there was an epidemic that took many Indian lives - some Wampanoags moved west and joined the Cherokee and Cheyenne. They were forced to move. Some even went north to Canada! Many Wampanoag put aside their Indian heritage and accepted the white man's way for their own survival. There are some Wampanoag who do not wish it known they are Indian for social or economic reasons.

What happened to those Wampanoags who chose to remain and live among the early settlers? What kind of existence did they live as "civilized" people? True, living was not as complex as life today, but they dealt with the confusion and the change. Honesty, trust, concern, pride, and politics wove themselves in and out of their [the Wampanoags'] daily living. Hence, he was termed crafty, cunning, rapacious, and dirty.

History wants us to believe that the Indian was a savage, illiterate, uncivilized animal. A history that was written by an organized, disciplined people, to expose us as an unorganized and undisciplined entity. Two distinctly different cultures met. One thought they must control life; the other believed life was to be enjoyed, because nature decreed it. Let us remember, the Indian is and was just as human as the white man. The Indian feels pain, gets hurt, and becomes defensive, has dreams, bears tragedy and failure, suffers from loneliness, needs to cry as well as laugh. He, too, is often misunderstood.

The white man in the presence of the Indian is still mystified by his uncanny ability to make him feel uncomfortable. This may be the image the white man has created of the Indian; his "savageness" has boomeranged and isn't a mystery; it is fear; fear of the Indian's temperament!

High on a hill, overlooking the famed Plymouth Rock, stands the statue of our great Sachem, Massasoit. Massasoit has stood there many years in silence. We the descendants of this great Sachem have been a silent people. The necessity of making a living in this materialistic society of the white man caused us to be silent. Today, I and many of my people are choosing to face the truth. We ARE Indians!

Although time has drained our culture, and our language is almost extinct, we the Wampanoags still walk the lands of Massachusetts. We may be fragmented, we may be confused. Many years have passed since we have been a people together. Our lands were invaded. We fought as hard to keep our land as you the whites did to take our land away from us. We were conquered, we became the American prisoners of war in many cases, and wards of the United States Government, until only recently.

Our spirit refuses to die. Yesterday we walked the woodland paths and sandy trails. Today we must walk the macadam highways and roads. We are uniting We're standing not in our wigwams but in your concrete tent. We stand tall and proud, and before too many moons pass we'll right the wrongs we have allowed to happen to us.

We forfeited our country. Our lands have fallen into the hands of the aggressor. We have allowed the white man to keep us on our knees. What has happened cannot be changed, but today we must work towards a more humane America, a more Indian America, where men and nature once again are important; where the Indian values of honor, truth, and brotherhood prevail.

You the white man are celebrating an anniversary. We the Wampanoags will help you celebrate in the concept of a beginning. It was the beginning of a new life for the Pilgrims. Now, 350 years later it is a beginning of a new determination for the original American: the American Indian.

There are some factors concerning the Wampanoags and other Indians across this vast nation. We now have 350 years of experience living amongst the white man. We can now speak his language. We can now think as a white man thinks. We can now compete with him for the top jobs. We're being heard; we are now being listened to. The important point is that along with these necessities of everyday living, we still have the spirit, we still have the unique culture, we still have the will and, most important of all, the determination to remain as Indians. We are determined, and our presence here this evening is living testimony that this is only the beginning of the American Indian, particularly the Wampanoag, to regain the position in this country that is rightfully ours.


One thing the article doesn't make clear is that the separatists (Pilgrims) and the Puritans were different groups. Thanksgiving doesn't celebrate the Puritans, those who came on the Winthrop fleet and established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The holiday honors those who came on the Mayflower and established the Plymouth Bay Colony. The first settlers generally got along well with the Wampanoag. Furthermore Governor Bradford in this passage from On Plymouth Plantation laments that the colony members no longer farmed common lands because each man wanted to have his own land.

As the population of the Colony and of New England grew in the early 1630s, the original settlers began to disperse and new towns (and church congregations) were formed :
"Also ye people of ye plantation begane to grow in their owtward estats, by reason of ye flowing of many people into ye cuntrie, espetially into ye Bay of ye Massachusets; by which means corne & catle rose to a great prise, by wch many were much inriched, and comodities grue plentifull; and yet in other regards this benefite turned to their hurte, and this accession of strength to their weaknes. For now as their stocks incresed, and ye increse vendible, ther was no longer any holding them togeather, but now they must of necessitie goe to their great lots; they could not other wise keep their katle; and having oxen growne, they must have land for plowing & tillage. And no man now thought he could live, except he had catle and a great deale of ground to keep them; all striving to increase their stocks. By which means they were scatered all over ye bay, quickly, and ye towne, in which they lived compactly till now, was left very thine, and in a short time allmost desolate. And if this had been it, it had been less, thoug to much; but ye church must also be devided, and those yt had lived to long togeather in Christian & comfortable fellowship must now part and suffer many divissions. First, those that lived on their lots on ye other side of ye bay (called Duxberie) they could not long bring their wives & children to ye publick worship & church meetings here, but with such burthen…"

Also, it must be mentioned that the Mayflower Compact first articulated the separation of church and state. Speaking as an atheist, that is certainly something I can be grateful for.

Comment: Brian Ward

The Cheyenne resistance

Brian Ward brings to life the story of one tribe's resistance to the federal government's campaign to drive them from their ancestral lands in the late 19th century.

February 13, 2012

All we ask is to be allowed to live, and live in peace...We bowed to the will of the Great Father and went south. There we found a Cheyenne cannot live. So we came home. Better it was, we thought, to die fighting than to perish of sickness...You may kill me here; but you cannot make me go back. We will not go. The only way to get us there is to come here with clubs and knock us on the head, and drag us out and take us down there dead.
--Dull Knife, Northern Cheyenne leader

TODAY, THE Northern Cheyenne live on a 444,000-acre reservation in the Tongue River Valley in southeast Montana. The tribe has nearly 5,000 enrolled members. However placid this may appear on the surface, resistance is at the very foundation of the Northern Cheyenne's story.

In the 1860s and 1870s, the Northern Cheyenne, the Lakota and the Northern Arapaho united against the federal government's efforts to steal their territory (as defined by the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty and 1868 Fort Larmine Treaty). Known as the Great Sioux Wars, Lakota leaders such as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull as well as Cheyenne leaders Little Wolf and Dull Knife led the fight against Gen. George Custer and his Seventh U.S. Cavalry.

During the Battle of Little Big Horn, which was the high point of the war, thousands of Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho defeated the Seventh Cavalry and killed Custer. This was a huge win for Native Americans and their fight for freedom from the "Long Knives" (as the soldiers were known by some tribes).

On November 26, 1876, Col. Ranald Mackenzie attacked Dull Knife's winter camp in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming and forced his surrender, thus ending the Cheyenne's participation in the Sioux Wars.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

ACCORDING TO the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, which the Cheyenne signed, the Northern Cheyenne "committed them to live either on the Sioux Reservation or on a reservation set apart for the Southern Cheyenne." The Southern Cheyenne at this point lived at the Darlington Agency in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). The Cheyenne assumed that they would be forced onto reservations set up in South Dakota for the Lakota. Wooden Leg, a Northern Cheyenne, said:

All of us wanted to stay in this country near the Black Hills. But we had one big chief, Standing Elk, who kept saying it would be better if we should go there [Indian Territory]. I think there were not as many as 10 Cheyennes in our whole tribe who agreed with him. There was a feeling that he was talking this way to make himself a big Indian among the white people.

Lt. William P. Clark assured Little Wolf that if they did not like Indian Territory, they would be permitted back north to their home after a year. Of course, the U.S. government never intended on keeping this promise.

In 1877, 972 Cheyenne and Arapaho embarked on the 1,500-mile trek to the Darlington Agency in Indian Territory after they were forced to leave. Only 937 completed the journey. Conditions on the reservation were horrible. In the summer of 1878, about 2,000 of the 5,004 Cheyenne and Arapahos were sick. The culprit was the change in climate and a shortage of food rations promised to them. The Northern Cheyenne resisted being farmers and assimilating to the white man's way of life--and were punished for doing so.

The Cheyenne were "authorized" to hunt for game in the winter of 1877-78, but the buffalo, the livelihood of the Cheyenne, were all but extinct in the lower plains, forcing the Indians to eat some of their horses to survive the winter. Iron Teeth, a Northern Cheyenne, described the experience:

When we were not sick, we were hungry. Much of the time, we had not any food. Our men asked for their they could kill game...Sometimes, a few of them would take their bows and arrows and slip away to get...meat...The bows and arrows were used at times for killing cattle belonging to white men. Any time it happened, the whole tribe was punished. The punishment would be the giving of less food to us, and we were kept still closer to the agency. We had a great many deaths from both the fever sickness and starvation.

In August 1878, Dull Knife and Little Wolf started preparing their people for their trip home. But as their departure drew near, tensions rose between the federal government and the Indians. On September 9, 1878, Little Wolf had a frank conversation with John D. Miles, the federal agent at the Darlington Agency, telling him:

My friends, I am now going to my camp. I do not wish the ground about his agency to be made bloody, but listen to what I say to you. I am going to leave here; I am going north to my own country. I do not wish to see blood spilt about this agency. If you are going to send your soldiers after me, I wish that you would first let me get a little distance away from this agency. Then if you want to fight, I will fight you, and we can make the ground bloody at that place.

Little Wolf, Dull Knife and their followers, numbering 353 in total, left later that evening. Their number totaled 353, only a third of those who had made the trip to Indian Territory a year earlier. The number included 92 men, 120 women, 69 boys and 72 girls and no more than 60 or 70 experienced warriors. They were on a trek that was either going to kill them or get them to home--there were no other options in their minds.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

CAPT. JOSEPH Rendlebrock of the Fourth Cavalry was in charge of the pursuit. "In all, about 250 soldiers had been put in the field by the Department of the Missouri by September 12. By the end of the Cheyenne odyssey, that figure would escalate to over 1,000." That's right, more than 1,000 troops to fight against 60 to 70 seasoned warriors. The U.S. government did not want a repeat of the Nez Perce chase that ended a year earlier.

The first test was on September 12 during the Battle at Turkey Springs in Indian Territory near the Kansas border. Little Wolf, who was a brilliant military strategist, said to his warriors:

Let them shoot first. But do you all get your arms and horses, and I will go out and meet the troops and try to talk with them. If they kill any of us, I will be the first man killed. Then you can fight.

The fight lasted for more than 24 hours, and the Northern Cheyenne successfully surrounded Rendlebrock and his Fourth cavalry, leaving them without water and forcing them to retreat. "At Turkey Springs, the U.S. Army lost simply because the Cheyennes won, not by sheer numbers but by virtue of superior tactical leadership," explained historian John Monnett.

In order to survive, the Cheyenne raided settlers' ranches for food and often got in conflicts with the settlers, resulting in the deaths of about 80 settlers along the way. However, Little Wolf and Dull Knife also impressed upon their young warriors that they should avoid killing civilians whenever possible, saying that the fight was with the U.S. Army not the settlers.

Following Turkey Springs, a running battle ensued across Kansas and Nebraska. The Cheyenne followed the old Indian Trail connecting the Northern and Southern Cheyenne. They tried their best to stay on rugged trails so the army would be unable to use wagons. A call was issued to all cavalrymen and infantrymen in the area to come by horse, train and foot.

In the first days of October, the Cheyenne crossed the Union Pacific Railroad and headed toward the sand hills of Nebraska. At this point the weather had begun to get much colder, and the Cheyenne constantly faced a shortage of food and clothing.

When 34 Cheyenne went missing, a divide became apparent in the camp. Desperate for food and shelter, Dull Knife argued that they should go to the Red Cloud Agency in northern Nebraska for the winter (but unknown to Dull Knife, the agency had moved to Pine Ridge, S.D.). Many times before the Cheyenne had helped Red Cloud and the Lakota in battle, and it seemed like a good moment to ask for hospitality. Little Wolf, on the other hand, couldn't stand this talk and said he was determined to make it to the Tongue River Valley.

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THE TWO leaders decided to allow each member of the group to choose whom to follow--either Dull Knife bound for the Red Cloud Agency or Little Wolf headed north to the Tongue River Valley. When they parted ways, 150 left with Dull Knife, and 134 continued home with Little Wolf.

On October 23, Dull Knife and his band were just two days away from Fort Robinson, Neb. Only a couple months earlier, Crazy Horse, the Oglala Lakota warrior, was imprisoned and killed there. When a blizzard caught them on the open plain, the Third Cavalry surrounded them and took them to Fort Robinson where they were imprisoned. Knowing that they would be disarmed upon capture, the band disassembled many of their guns and hid them in their clothing.

Dull Knife was in negotiations with the soldiers in hopes of being permitted to continue to the Red Cloud Agency in Pine Ridge. The cavalry said they needed to get approval from Washington. When the word arrived on January 3, 1879, Washington said that they must return south to Indian Territory. "Unless they are sent back to where they came from," said Gen. Sheridan of the War Department, "the whole reservation system will receive a shock which will endanger its stability."

Dull Knife's band continued to refuse to go back south. At 9:45 pm on the night of January 8, 1879, the Cheyenne assembled their guns and made a run for it. The warrior Bull Bear, who was reportedly seven feet tall, led the break out. By morning, 65 Cheyenne, 23 of them wounded, were taken back to Fort Robinson as prisoners. Only 38 Cheyenne, including Dull Knife, made it out alive, and they were now being pursued by the cavalry. Only nine made it to Pine Ridge alive. Later, 58 of the survivors still at Fort Robinson were allowed to also settle in Pine Ridge.

Little Wolf's band spent the winter months around Wild Chokecherry Creek in the sand hills of Nebraska, where they had plenty of game to hunt. For the most part, they were left undisturbed, but in the spring Lt. William P. Clark came looking for Little Wolf, determined to get a surrender.

The band agreed to surrender and was taken to Fort Keogh, Mont. Many then became scouts for the army--and were plied with alcohol. "The Cheyennes drank whiskey from boredom and despair," said Dee Brown. "It made the white traders rich, and it destroyed what was left of the leadership of the tribe. It destroyed Little Wolf."

Later, Dull Knife and the 58 survivors in Pine Ridge were free to join Little Wolf at Fort Keogh. In 1883, 360 Northern Cheyenne still in Indian Territory were permitted to go to Pine Ridge. After months and months of delay, in 1884 the Northern Cheyenne united for the first time in five years on the newly established reservation in the homeland of the Tongue River Valley.

Landon Means, a Northern Cheyenne who was born and raised on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, discusses the impact of this experience on his people today. "When I was young," he said, "my grandfather would say, 'Be proud that you are Northern Cheyenne.'"

Landon went on to say that the landscape has changed as younger people today have lost some of the knowledge of their Odyssey. Phillip White, a Northern Cheyenne, is trying to change that by organizing an annual run along the same route that Dull Knife used to escape from Fort Robinson.

Although the Northern Cheyenne never achieved their dream of living free on the open plains of their homeland, their story of resistance is inspiring. That this small band of Cheyenne outsmarted and outmaneuvered the U.S. military during a 1,500-mile trek under harsh conditions stands as an enduring accomplishment. And though their homeland has changed, they were never forced back to Indian Territory again.


I understand and empathize with the history behind why some indigenous would recognize Thanksgiving as a Day of Mourning. But please don't take every day of celebration away from me. I already understand christmas is the winter solstice, easter is the spring, as a 22 year veteran of the military that Veterans day really celebrates many genocides, and the list goes on. I think we can be respectful and remember without insulting the memory of the first inhabitants here. It starts by recognizing that we are where we are now on this planet, and it's all we have. 

Seems that some people accept revisionist history as history. Yes, the winners write the history and the losers were the natives. My ancestors were among the pilgrims. Some were butchered by the indians, some we massacred. Some, including women, were abused then murdered. But, revisionist historians have taken the side of the butchers and murderers. In fact, even the Indians were appalled at the behavior of their fellow natives. They testified against them in court in murder trials. The natives were relentless. They didn't quit murdering the pilgrims. The battle continued until the indians were almost wiped out. Why? They wouldn't quit murdering. Rewriting history to make the murderers out as victims sounds like someone who is one-sided.

The writer appears to be in Australia... How did the white men treat the natives they found, the aboriginals? The murdered them, trying to kill as many as possible. Is this cheap shot at the Pilgrims caused by the guilt you feel for the sins of your fathers?

Bugger off.

I disagree; I think that is very selfish and an invalid reason to try to justify a celebration by changing it's context to fit your liking. "We are where we are" because of the events that took place in the past, and to try to alter these holidays as if they are meaningless, lighthearted family celebrations is dishonest. christmas and easter would not exist if it weren't for Christianity. Veterans day would not exist if it weren't for our veterans having killed. And thanksgiving would not exist if it weren't for the pillaging, raping, enslavement, theft, and genocide by the pilgrims. So let's not sugar coat it by making these holidays about ourselves and our wants, because that is a great disservice to our youth who are being sheltered from historical accuracy and truth.