The Dark Truth Behind Thanksgiving Your Teacher Never Told You

We’ve all heard the cute little Thanksgiving anecdote about how the friendly Indian, Squanto, met friendly Pilgrims over dinner, everyone was pleasant and amicable, and they all lived happily ever after in peace. But we now know that is far from the truth.

An expert on Wampanoag history, Paula Peters said, “This is history that’s just been overlooked because people have become very, very comfortable with the story of happy Pilgrims and friendly Indians. They’re very content with that — even to the point where no one really questioned how is it that Squanto knew how to speak perfect English when they came.”

Here is the real story that she narrated.

In the year 1614 — 6 years before Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts — Englishman, Thomas Hunt kidnapped the Indian, Squanto (or Tisquantum) from his village, Patuxet.

He took Squanto and more than two dozen more Wampanoag people to Spain to sell them into slavery. But this was not well received by Spain and the Church.

With the help of a few Church friars, Squanto escaped to England in 1619. He finally returned home to Massachusetts shortly after. According to historical evidence, he is the only Wampanoag to return.

While he was returning home, an unidentified epidemic had infested England, the source of which were French sailors shipwrecked at Cape Cod.

The deadly disease was suspected to be viral hepatitis, and it had consumed everyone on the ship except for Squanto.


When Pilgrims landed on the continent, local Indians thought of them as strange invaders and were not keen on sharing their land. However, they were interested in trading goods with them.

Indians would usually force the Europeans out if they overstayed their welcome, but there was no longer anyone to stop them after the epidemic.

The Pilgrims cleared whatever was left of the Indians and their land and settled into Patuxet which is now known as Plymouth.

After his return, Squanto joined a local tribe, led by Massasoit, which was also affected by the plague. The neighboring tribe Narragansett, however, weren’t badly affected and frequently attacked the Wampanoag tribe.

For their protection, Massasoit struck a deal with the Pilgrims to have a trade relationship in exchange for them guarding them against the Narragansett attacks.


On March 22, 1621, Massasoit met the Pilgrims and brought Tisquantum (Squanto) along with him as a translator.

Writer Charles Mann describes the meeting and says, “Tisquantum most likely was not the name he was given at birth. In that part of the Northeast, Tisquantum referred to rage, especially the rage of Manitou, the world-suffusing spiritual power at the heart of coastal Indians’ religious beliefs. When Tisquantum approached the Pilgrims and identified himself by that sobriquet, it was as if he had stuck out his hand and said, “Hello, I’m the Wrath of God”.”

Massasoit was distrustful of Tisquantum and this wasn’t unwarranted seeing that he tried to pit the Pilgrims against Massasoit.

Infuriated, Massasoit demanded the Pilgrims to hand Tisquantum over to be sentenced to an execution. However, the Pilgrims refused and let Squanto stay with them as he would’ve been an asset in this foreign land.

With Squanto’s help, the Pilgrims were prepared for winter and they invited Massasoit and nearly 90 of his men to a feast. This feast was supposedly for the very first ‘thanksgiving’.

However, the suspicious Wampanoag men arrived with weapons and the Pilgrims too responded by firing their guns in the air. But after clearing the air, both the sides buried the hatchet and sat down and enjoyed a sumptuous meal together.

While you may have several memories of Thanksgiving and stories associated with it, it’s good to know its strange origin.



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