the story of
the true history
Pilgrims (English men and women) arrived in New England on November 11, 1620 on the Mayflower ship. The men began looking for a place to settle and found a former Wampanoag site. The Wampanoag people taught the pilgrims how to plant crops and a successful harvest was made. A festival called “Harvest Home” which is a European holiday was celebrated, with traditional Wampanoag foods.
This was not a marker of peace however, as shortly after, many years of genocide and forced assimilation followed which would change the lives of the Mashpee Wampanoag forever. We call "Thanksgiving", The National Day of Mourning, as a day of remembrance for the lost relatives and broken promises.
what is the take away?
Highlighting one interaction as holiday for Americans is a problem. We are erasing the fact that the Europeans decimated 80-90% of the Native Peoples through their introduction to diseases and intentional genocide. Instead of celebrating or romanticizing one peaceful encounter between Native people and settlers, we should be working to heal and repair the harms caused by colonization.
While Pilgrims did share a meal with the Wampanoag people, it wouldn’t have been possible without the Indigenous people's guidance, and it wasn’t called Thanksgiving, either. Harvest feasts were a tradition that Natives had observed for time immemorial, so it is Native generosity that is the basis for the Americanized idea of Thanksgiving. The origins of the holiday’s modern name are actually quite grisly. Pilgrims and other European invaders launched extermination campaigns against the Wampanoag and other local tribes after they settled.
Because of many changes in North America, we as the Wampanoag cannot live as our ancestors did. We adapt but still continue to live in the way of the People of the First Light.
the mashpee wampanoag today
The Mashpee Wampanoag are not a past people. Wampanoag means “The People of the Light”. In 1600's, there were as many as 40,000 Wampanoag in the 67 villages that made up the tribe. Today, there are 4,000-5,000 to what is now New England area.
On February 10, 2023 the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe won a land suit
for their ancestral homelands against the Littlefields in Taunton.
321 acres of land in Taunton have been named the ancestral homeland of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe following a federal district court ruling after more than a decade of litigation.
Through this win, the tribe is ensuring that their land, heritage, and culture will be protected for future generations. The tribe has plans to keep moving forward to build a tribal economy with sustainable jobs and prosperity for their people and neighbors.
Faces of the Wampanoag today
We're still here
Wampanoag youth recall in the video below what "Thanksgiving" means to them. They relay their own experiences and the impact of this colonial holiday on their families and their legacy.
We decided to ask our community, including our youth, what Thanks-taking means to them. Discussing the legacy of colonization and genocide within Indigenous communities is an important form of truth-telling, and we honor the perspectives of our diverse community.