The History of Thanksgiving

Ally Boldrin, Staff Writer

Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s been celebrated for many years by making food, sharing what you’re most thankful for, and spending time with family. Thanksgiving wasn’t always celebrated like this though, and it didn’t even start that way. 

The story of how Thanksgiving originated is one learned in kindergarten or at a young age. It’s said the pilgrims had just settled on new land, the Wampanoag tribe had come across them and offered to help them with cooking food, hunting, and performing other daily tasks. After all this help, both of them together ended up cooking a large meal with each other. The pilgrims did this as a way to show their gratitude towards the tribe. This story was altered to be more suitable and appropriate for children seeing how it was told to kindergarteners. The true story is said to be a much darker one.

It is believed that Virginia settlers had their first Thanksgiving in 1619 as celebration of their arrival, but the pilgrims had their first day of prayer or Thanksgiving in 1637 which was them celebrating with the Wampanoag tribe. After settling, the pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe had formed an alliance with each other against the French. This alliance started to end once more and more English settlers started to move to Plymouth; they insisted they had control over the land which affected life for the Wampanoag tribe. As more time was spent there, more disease was spread like one the colonists called “The Indian fever.” This reduced the New England population by 90% as well. One other series of events had happened that was able to get rid of English settlers. Chief Massasoit, who was, chief of the Wampanoag tribe had a son named Metacomet who was also known as King Phillip. He had inherited his father’s leadership, and his men were executed for being guilty of the murder of the Punkapoag interpreter as well as John Sassamon, a Christian convert. This created a war. The Wampanoag responded to this with raids and war was officially declared in 1675. 

The first Thanksgiving started as a peaceful holiday and still is one, but the violence and tension followed by this need to be remembered. Due to this violence, many have told the New York Times how they believe the holiday should be renamed “Takesgiving” as well as “The Thanksgiving Massacre.” On the national day of mourning for lives lost during the war, Native Americans gather at Plymouth to march in remembrance. The mourning day is a day of remembrance and also a protest against the racism Native Americans faced back then and still do. While Thanksgiving may have been seen and told as a day of peace, that’s not the entirety of the story.