“When we met with the Wampanoag people, they told us that in researching the history of Thanksgiving, they had confirmed the oral history passed down through their generations. Most Americans know that Massasoit, Chief of the Wampanoag, had welcomed the so-called Pilgrim Fathers—and the seldom-mentioned Pilgrim Mothers—to the shores where his people had lived for millennia. The Wampanoag taught the European colonists how to live in our hemisphere by showing them what wild foods they could gather, how, where, and what crops to plant, and how to harvest, dry and preserve them.
The Wampanoag now wanted to remind White America of what had happened after Massasoit’s death. Massasoit was succeeded by his son, Metacomet, whom the colonists called “King” Philip. In 1675-1676, to show “gratitude” for what Massasoit’s people had done for their fathers and grandfathers, the Pilgrims manufactured an incident as a pretext to justify disarming the Wampanoag.
The whites went after the Wampanoag with guns, swords, cannons and torches. Most, including Metacomet, were butchered. His wife and son were sold into slavery in the West Indies. His body was hideously drawn and quartered.
For twenty-five years afterward, Metacomet’s skull was displayed on a pike above the whites’ village. The real legacy of the Pilgrim Fathers is treachery. Most Americans today believe that Thanksgiving celebrates a boar harvest, but that is not so.
By 1970, the Wampanoag had turned up a copy of a Thanksgiving proclamation made by the governor of the colony; the text revealed the ugly truth: After a colonial militia had returned from murdering the men, women, and children of an Indian village, the governor proclaimed a holiday and feast to give thanks for the massacre. He encouraged other colonies to do likewise—in other words, every autumn the crops are in, go kill Indians and celebrate your murders with a feast.
The Wampanoag we met at Plymouth came from everywhere in Massachusetts. Like many other eastern nations, theirs had been all but wiped out. The survivors found refuge in other Indian nations that had not succumbed to European diseases or to violence. The Wampanoag went into hiding, or joined the Six Nations, or found homes among the Delaware Shawnee nations, to name a few. Some also sought refuge in one of the two hundred eastern-seaboard nations that were later exterminated.
Nothing remains of those nations but their names, and even some of those have been lost. Other Wampanoag, who couldn’t reach another Indian nation, survived by intermarriage with Black slaves or freedmen. It is hard to imagine a life terrible enough that people would choose instead, with all their progeny, to become slaves, but that is exactly what some Indians did.”
(The above text was excerpted from Russell Means’ autobiography entitled, “Where White Men Fear To Tread.”)
– Winona LaDuke on Redemption –