The “Real” Story of Thanksgiving

“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner … Continued

“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.” – Edward Winslow, 1621

Imagine what it would have been like back in 1621 if, at the first Thanksgiving table, the Pilgrims had told the local Wampanoag Indians the real truth. It might have gone something like this:

“We’re pumped you guys could join us for our little shindig because we want to show our appreciation to Squanto and the rest of you for saving our butts. As you know, our barley and other grains didn’t do quite as well as promised on the seed bag. Heck, none of us really had much in the way of farming or woods skills to begin with. Anyway, if you hadn’t taught us to fish and to grow corn, beans, and squash, we’d all be pushing up Jimson weed by now.

“I also want to give a big shout out to my main man, Massasoit, for providing the five deer, which are excellent. If the gravy boat is down at that end of the table, could you please pass it up this way?

“Where was I? Right. As you know, we were aiming for Virginia when we sailed from England. But we got turned around a little—okay, 600 miles—and landed here. And you all could easily have overrun our little group and pushed us back into the sea. But you didn’t. We lost a lot of our people over the winter, but we would have lost a bunch more without your help. To show our appreciation, I’m going to give you a heads-up as to what the future holds. As you know, we’re pretty convinced that our God—who, incidentally, is way more powerful than yours—holds our little band here in special regard. With His blessing, our thundersticks, and some really nasty diseases, here’s what’s going to go down. Basically, we’re going to wipe you and all the other Indian tribes from the face of the Earth, take possession of your lands, and eventually name one of history’s most frustrating NFL franchises after you guys. And then we’re going to commemorate this day with a national holiday. Which we’re going to call ‘Thanksgiving.’

“I totally understand if you all don’t think that’s the best name for it. But you should understand that some of the names you guys use seem strange to us. Like ‘wampum.’ That word just cracks us up.

“Anyway, eat up, and then we’ll show you some shootin’.”

We don’t know what would have happened. But I’m betting the Wampanoag wouldn’t have stayed past half-time.