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Thankful to Survive

November 20, 2014 , ,

descendants of Massasoit

descendants of Massasoit

 

The Thanksgiving story is told in November to commemorate the precarious situation in which the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony found themselves. By the good graces of the local tribe these English people managed to survive very far from home. They were not ready for the harsh winter and new surroundings.  They were able to negotiate a treaty for mutual protection with Massasoit, the leader in the area.  The meal shared to celebrate the treaty has been told for centuries, but there are a few written words from the time documenting this meeting.  Most of us have an image from our school days of happy well dressed Pilgrims entertaining Native Americans at an extensive potluck supper.  There is some mention that the Wampanoags supplied all the vittles, but we tend to gloss that over while we celebrate our highly revised impression of history and the Pilgrims.

These Pilgrim heroes soon broke down into all kinds of crazy religious infighting and banished each other for infractions.  My own ancestors were banished to Sandwich and other little settlements on Cape Cod.  Some had to leave because they had been secret Quakers, and one was banished to Barnstable for marrying a Native woman.  We imagine Plymouth as some pure attempt at religious freedom because we have not looked very closely at what happened.  Many of my ancestors went to Rhode Island to look for religious freedom and fair dealings with the Native Americans.  I had several ancestors who fought on both sides of King Philip’s War, which I am sure we did not study in school.  We just move on quickly to Boston and tea party and America without stopping to think what became of those people who gave the Pilgrims dinner and protection.

The big news that has been edited is all about that treaty.  The pact worked for a while, but as time passed the English population grew and the agreements became strained.  The English proved to be less than honorable when it came to keeping their word.  The Wampanoags who survived King Philip’s War were shown no mercy.  I have extra interest in the Native version of this event because I went to Cape Cod expecting to find traces of my Wampanoag family tree.  I found that records do not exist to trace it although my Mayflower ancestors are very well documented.  Intermarriage was very common so I am not the only one with a mystery branch in my tree.  There is a very small group of people who are members of the Wampanoag tribe today, and their last names came from England.  Survival for them meant adapting.  This year, for a change, imagine the entire Thanksgiving story from the perspective of the original people.

What do you think?

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comments

Very cool story, Pam. Like many other events in history, we whitewash the stories to make them more enjoyable to read. The truth is that people were not that different then, than they are today. Your story speaks of prejudice and persecution; both of which are still alive and thriving.

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Marc Zazeela

November 21, 2014

True, but what is just barely alive and not so thriving is the Wampanoag tribe..it is just weird. Whitewash is a very good word..accent on the white.

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Pamela Morse

November 21, 2014

People show true colors not so much when they are in dire need but when they aren’t! Sad but true that the Indian population helped so many,. but then were eventually forced to assimilate so completely that their heritage has pretty much been wiped out.

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Stevie Wilson (@LAStory)

November 23, 2014

this is the sort of thing that encapsulates the America in my imagination

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London-Unattached.com

November 23, 2014

it is ..and I am a typical American.

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Pamela Morse

November 24, 2014

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