When we think of the pilgrims, the mythology espoused would not have one think of a land stealer, invader, robber or thief (although this is what they were) but rather a group of people who were befriended by the people already in America. The pilgrims came to this country in 1620, were part of the Puritan movement, which was considered objectionable and unorthodox by the king of the Church of England.

The truth is that they were not welcomed and instead considered untrustworthy, but worthy of assistance because the Native people of America were humane. This assistance ended tragically for the Indians, who saw the pilgrim population grow to well over 40,000. Just a single generation later,  the Native Americans’ strength had weakened, and the English started a war after three innocent Wampanoags were convicted of murdering an Englishman, John Sassamon, even though it was well-known and accepted that Sassamon’s death was actually caused by an accidental fall into a frozen pond.

This started what is now known as “King Phillip’s War.”  The leader of the Wampanoags Indians, Metacomet and his people were defeated, even his wife and 9-year-old son were captured and sold into slavery. At the end of the King Phillip’s War,  the remaining Wampanoags, along with their allies, were either killed or sold as slaves. This slave trade was so successful that several Puritan ship owners began a slave-trading business by raiding the coast for Native American Indians and trading them for black slaves of Africa. The black slaves were then sold to colonists in the South. Meaning, the pilgrims were one of the founders of the American-based slave trading industry.

Personally, I do not need a single day to be thankful, for I am grateful each and every day I awake.  Unfortunately, every schoolchild in the U.S. is taught that the Pilgrims of the Plymouth Colony invited the Indians to this fictitious harvest feast after surviving their first bitter year in New England. But the real history of Thanksgiving is a story of the murder of indigenous people and the theft of their land by European colonialists — and of the ruthless impact of capitalism and slavery.  Let us never forget of this truth. Happy Thanks Stealing. A day that history intentionally refuses to indicate is really a day the European colonists set aside to celebrate mass murder, not harvest and friendship.

torrance stephens, ph.d