Photo courtesy of History.com.
When you were in kindergarten, a few days before Thanksgiving, you most likely sat at a big table with your classmates. Your teachers might have sat you down and gave the kid next to you a DIY Pilgrim hat while you were given a makeshift Native American headdress.
As you all fidgeted in your seats, your teachers probably gave you some traditional Thanksgiving food and, as you munched down on the grub, they might have told you a story that sounded like the Pilgrims and Native Americans all joined together and held hands as they ate.
Well, we’re here to tell you that’s not entirely true.
In September 1620, the Mayflower, a small ship, left Plymouth, England with 102 passengers — if you remember that piece of history, that’s true.
The travelers were some religious separatists who were looking for a new home to freely practice their faith, and they were attracted to the New World, which referred to the Western Hemisphere — America — as Christopher Columbus coined it.
After a rough 66-day trip, they stopped near the tip of Cape Cod, which according to History, was far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River.
It took one month for the Mayflower to cross the Massachusetts Bay where the Pilgrims established their new village — Plymouth.
The first months of the settlement were harsh and drastic as many of the settlers died during the cold months. Food was also scarce as they struggled to grow their own.
But, as the friendly story goes, and even as written on History, a Native American named Squanto — a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who was kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London — taught the Pilgrims how to grow corn, catch fish and extract sap from maple trees.
Then, in November 1621 after a successful corn harvest, Governor William Bradford had a celebratory feast and invited the Native Americans, including Massasoit, the sachem, or paramount chief, of the Wampanoag.
But the real nitty-gritty history behind Thanksgiving isn’t what happened on that day, it’s what followed.
Massasoit became an ally to the English settlers as he helped during the early establishment of Plymouth. He made a trade pact and allied with them against the French and other local tribes.
But, after thousands of English colonists began flocking to the region, authorities in Plymouth began controlling “most aspects of Wampanoag life.”
Eventually this led to war.
Metacomet, Massaoit’s son or, known to the English as King Philip, had inherited leadership but the relationship between the Native Americans and English were frazzled. According to Insider, King Philip’s war surged when “several of Metacomet’s men were executed for the murder of the Punkapoag interpreter and Christian convert John Sassamon.”
In the archives of Indian Country Today, they wrote:
“The true history of Thanksgiving starts with a treaty. The leader of our nation at the time—Yellow Feather Oasmeequin [Massasoit] made a treaty with (John) Carver [the first governor of the colony]. They elected an official while they were still on the boat. They had their charter. They were still under the jurisdiction of the king [of England]—at least that’s what they told us. So they couldn’t make a treaty for a boatload of people so they made a treaty between two nations—England and the Wampanoag Nation.”
Wampanoag went on a series of raids and the New England Confederation of Colonies declared war in 1675.
Springfield, Massachussetts was burnt down. The Wampanoag held colonists for ransom while the English attacked the Narragansett.
The war went on as the English colonists and Native American tribes allied with different groups to up their manpower and make up for the bloody casualties.
But this part of history is nearly erased and forgotten at our modern day Thanksgiving tables, thanks to Abraham Lincoln and his proclamation of the holiday on Nov. 28, 1861.
So, there’s the real history behind Thanksgiving.