The Real Story About Thanksgiving You’ve Probably Never Heard

Millions of American schoolchildren are taught that the Pilgrims landed at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620. Many of the Pilgrims died in the first few months. However, almost a year later, the Pilgrims celebrated a feast of thanksgiving to celebrate their bountiful harvest from their first year of crops.

That part of the story is true. Almost everything else we have been told about the Pilgrims’ early years  is either false or misleading.

The story actually begins in 1614, six years before the Pilgrims landed in modern-day Massachusetts. An Englishman named Thomas Hunt kidnapped Tisquantum from his village, Patuxet, which was part of a group of villages known as the Wampanoag confederation. Most of today’s history books mistakenly refer to Tisquantum as “Squanto.”

(Europeans had started visiting the northeast of what is now the United States by the 1520s, and probably as early as the 1480s. There are many tales of even earlier travels for several centuries, tales that mostly remain unproven. European explorers and fishermen traveled up and down the east coast of America for many years before the travels of the group we now refer to as “the Pilgrims.”)

Hunt took Tisquantum and around two dozen other kidnapped Wampanoag to Spain, where he tried to sell them into slavery in England and then later in Spain. However, Thomas Hunt met opposition to the idea of selling people and he never found a buyer. Tisquantum escaped slavery and then somehow found his way to England. He also learned to speak fluent English. He finally made it back to what is now Massachusetts in 1619 on some other ship, not on the Mayflower that didn’t sail until a year later.

When the Pilgrims finally arrived in Massachusetts, they were surprised when a native appeared, speaking English and familiar with the English customs of the day. Over the next few years, Tisquantum was sometimes a friend to the Pilgrims, at other times he was more of an enemy. He taught the Pilgrims how to plant and harvest crops. (Most of the Pilgrims were lifelong city dwellers and had little experience with agriculture.) At other times, Tisquantum was involved in intrigue, creating problems between the Pilgrims and the local Wampanoag Indians.

Then the story gets complicated.

Luckily, reporter Nick Baumann interviewed historian Charles Mann, the author of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, and Paula Peters, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and an expert on Wampanoag history. Together, they have now documented what is believed to be the real story.

You can read Nick Baumann’s article in the Huffington Post at: http://bit.ly/2zKjoum.

6 Comments

Dick, this is a great story. Now I know some of the “rest of the story”. I knew little about Squanto. Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family

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Really interesting!! Thanks!

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This is just another misleading story. Visit the Jamestown NPS website and you get yet another story about Thanksgiving and yet if you venture to the St Augustine, FLA NPS page, there is yet another. Following this page leads you to the thoughtthat Florida was really the site of the first Thanksgiving. Even at Plymouth, they are now acknowledging that Providencetown MA was the real first settlement in MA, where after a year, the majority of Pilgrims left, going on to Plymouth, but some did stay.
My husband’s family came to New Mexico in the 1500’s.

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As for settlements before 1620/1607, etc., the Norse had a settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows where archaeology has discovered remains of buildings that date to ca. 1000.

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    You are right although I am not sure they celebrated Thanksgiving, where bothJamestown and St.Augustine both did. Also not sure that either of those celebrations were about killing American Indians.

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