Did you know there were more Wampanoag Indians at the first Thanksgiving than Pilgrims?
Or that the Pilgrims themselves were considered dangerous criminals and treasonous separatists in England for expressing the subversive belief that Christ was the leader of his church and not any King or Queen?
Did you know that America and the New World was not the first place the Pilgrim had fled to? Nor was Plymouth the first place they landed in the New World.
There are people in this country who can claim their family first came to America on the Mayflower, but one family can claim that their progenitor was actually born on the Mayflower itself during the two month voyage.
Fox Nations’ A Very Nation Christmas is a departure from the normal Thanksgiving fare. It takes an accurate and historical view of Thanksgiving which actually makes it even more impressive than the myths that surround it. Host Brian Kilmeade, who has made a specialty of historical programming on Fox Nation, let’s the historians and archaeologists do most of the talking as they give you the facts about the events that shaped an alliance between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians at Plymouth, Massachusetts, and how this led to a successful fall harvest and a feast thanking God for it.
The show is full of fascinating insight into the relationship between the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims. The Indians first feared that the Pilgrims were a war party raiding their territory until they saw women and children among this small band of strangers and reasoned that their purpose was not to make war on them but to settle in these lands. From that realization, the Wampanoag came to believe that the Pilgrims would make great allies against hostile neighboring tribes.
The Colonists Occupied Land the Natives Were Afraid to Go to
The show highlights an interesting fact that refutes recent revisionist history that portrays the Pilgrims as thieves who “stole” America from the Indian tribes (tribes that would have laughed at the idea that anyone could “own” the land). The Pilgrim settlers wanted as little to do with the Indian tribes as possible. They wanted to be left alone in relative peace to hunt, fish, build homes and raise their families. The place they selected was Patuxet Village, which was believed by the Wampanoag to be poisoned land abandoned by the tribe of the same name after they were virtually wiped out by an infectious disease, now believed to be smallpox. It should be recalled that in that first winter, about half of the original 102 Pilgrims had died of New World diseases to which they had no immunity.
Occupying land that the Indians avoided provides some insight into why the Pilgrims were probably safe from not just the Wampanoag but raiding parties from other tribes as well.
First, the superstitious and animist Wampanoag feared this land as cursed and loathed to even set foot on it. So, they might have also figured that these strangers would die soon enough from whatever had killed the Patuxet tribe that had lived there.
Second, when they saw that the Pilgrims were not dying off on this cursed land, they probably figured they possessed a powerful protective magic.
Third, they witnessed the Pilgrims set about clearing land, planting crops, and building houses of earth, wood, and stone with metal tools that would have been a marvel to the nearly stone-age existence and technology of the Wampanoag.
Finally, the Pilgrims seemed to be peaceful: they did not form war parties or engage in any belligerent acts towards them.
The Formation of a Military Alliance
There is a myth in the history of that first Thanksgiving represented an informal early contact between the Indians and the Pilgrims, but that isn’t so. A formal treaty between the two groups existed as early as March 1621. The treaty provided for mutual defense; it also stipulated that neither side would appear in the other’s camps bearing arms.
Historial accounts say that the Indians and the Pilgrims visited each other fairly often prior to that first Thanksgiving feast. We all know the story of Squanto, the English-speaking Wampanoag the Pilgrims called their “Instrument of God” who taught them local farming methods and led them to the best hunting and fishing grounds. This created the myth that these early colonists were helpless and inept at surviving on their own.
Less well-known is the incident that probably cemented the alliance in the most profound way.
Massasoit, the great chief of the Wampanoag, came down with a serious illness. John Bradford, leader of the Pilgrims, dispatched Edward Winslow to see if he could help. Corresponding with a surgeon back at the Plymouth colony, Windslow managed to save the life of Massasoit, prompting the chief to say, “The English truly are my friends.” This alliance between the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims would remain in force for half a century.
One day in September or October 1621, 90 Wampanoag men in a hunting party arrived at Plymouth Colony as the Pilgrims were preparing for a day of Thanksgiving to God for a good harvest. As the treaty required, the Wampanoag left their weapons secured in the woods and brought fresh venison to demonstrate that they were there for peaceful purposes, despite outnumbering the colonists two to one. The Pilgrims, who had intended to take a week off in celebration, invited the Wampanoag to stay for several days and share the harvest with them.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Fox Nation’s A Very Nation Thanksgiving is a very balanced, thoughtful, and factual look at the history of this traditional American holiday. If you have time tonight, watch this program and have your kids watch it too.
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