The narrative of the New World since the arrival of Christopher Columbus (Jew) has primarily been one of ethnic cleansing, slavery, and racism on an unprecedented scale; however, one peculiar meeting between New Worlders and Old Worlders stands out in stark contrast.
The story of the First Thanksgiving is arguably the most important founding myth of America. As one of the first pieces of history and culture that most American children are taught, the holiday and the story behind it holds a fond place in the hearts of Americans as they grow older. Many may be surprised to discover the story they learned in school was not merely another feel-good lie told to children, but that the historic encounter held all of the necessary elements to make it into the perfect myth.
It is often said that America is a nation of immigrants. While this isn’t wrong, the wording of this statement overlooks a much more humbling truth about the origin of America—the Pilgrims were refugees escaping from a Western Civilization which would not accept them, and Squanto was murdered for welcoming them with open arms.
During the late 1500s and early 1600s, a number of religious groups which rejected the corruption of the Church of England found themselves under severe persecution. Prominent “heretic” leaders were executed, while minor ones (and even simple church-goers) faced stiff fines and constant surveillance by state authorities. Rejected by their society, one group decided to seek refuge elsewhere. In 1607, this congregation attempted to illegally flee to the Netherlands. Unfortunately, they were betrayed by the captain of their ship, who turned them over to English authorities! After serving a brief prison sentence, they tried again the next year, now determined to leave at any cost.
This time, they were successful and found safety in the Netherlands. As most of these refugees were unable to speak the language and had spent all their money in order to travel, they were relegated to the poorest neighborhoods and took any job they were able to find. As the years went by, some individuals who came from wealthy backgrounds or were talented at their new jobs were able to live in relative comfort. Thankfully, those who were less fortunate were able to count on their community for support. (Although, not everything was perfect—for example, the Dutch government did not recognize marriages conducted by their church, so these refugees could only engage in ‘civil partnerships’).
However, despite finding new homes for their families and no longer having to worry about being executed for their faith, many were not satisfied with life in the Netherlands. Their immediate safety and material necessities were secured, but in the long term it was not a welcoming place for foreigners (for example, they faced limited career advancement, exclusion from many guilds, suspicion from natives due to their differing religion, etc.). Moreover, Dutch culture shared many of the ignoble elements of Western Civilization which the Pilgrims had attempted to leave behind in England!
Forced to make a decision wrought with uncertainty and terror (no different than the one which present-day refugees face), the Pilgrims decided to undertake a harrowing journey across a formidable body of water to set up life in a new land–the New World.
102 individuals crammed into an old and overcrowded ship named the Mayflower. (Originally, there was a second ship called the Speedwell, but it developed a leak before the voyage began—William Bradford would later accuse the Speedwell’s captain of ordering his men to sabotage the ship so that they wouldn’t have to make the grueling trip across the Atlantic.) Half of the passengers aboard the Mayflower were members of the religious congregation which had originally fled England, and half were sympathetic tradesmen who possessed the necessary skills to start a new city (some of whom shared similar religious beliefs to the congregation, and some of whom did not). These 102 individuals would later become known to Americans as the Pilgrims.
In 1620, the Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower and traveled to America to found a society based on idealistic religious principles. Although their religious beliefs were far from perfect, their hope that the New World could become home to a genuinely new society which was morally superior to anything in the Old World was in contrast to the colonies founded in Virginia and the Caribbean—which were profit-seeking endeavors meant to benefit the colonial powers. (This idealism has been present in American culture ever since, but the Founding Fathers missed a crucial opportunity in 1776 to create a true New World civilization, preferring instead to cling to their ties with Western Civilization and the Old World.)
The first winter was harsh for the Pilgrims, with half dying from disease and starvation. When spring arrived, they were weak and worried that hostile natives may attack at any time. One may imagine their great surprise when they were greeted by friendly, English-speaking locals named Samoset and Squanto! Squanto introduced the Pilgrims to New World farming techniques and crops, including the ‘three sisters’ (corn, beans, and squash) which are commonly grown to this day. He also served as a diplomat who fostered positive relations between the Pilgrims and the nearby Wampanoag Confederacy.
Squanto, friend of the Pilgrims.
With Squanto serving as translator, King Massasoit of the Wampanoag Confederacy signed a treaty of friendship with the Pilgrims. Sadly, only a few weeks after this treaty was signed the Pilgrims’ leader, John Carver, died from sickness. William Bradford quickly emerged as their new leader. Bradford was only 18-years-old when he fled from England to the Netherlands. Now—13 years later—he and the other Pilgrims had finally found permanent homes and could begin a new life in America.
Before encountering the Pilgrims, Squanto had interacted with English people many times before. In his youth, Squanto was kidnapped and taken to England as a slave. Over the next 14 years he crossed the Atlantic at least 6 times, serving as an interpreter and guide for English explorers. At one point, he was released by an explorer only to be captured and re-enslaved by one of the explorer’s officers!
When he finally managed to return to his home in the region which is now known as New England, Squanto found that the area had been wiped out by a plague the previous year. The Pilgrims and the Mayflower would arrive only one year later…
Considering the cruelties which Squanto had lived through, he could have easily convinced Massasoit of the alleged threat these foreigners posed, and then told him to send a group of warriors to wipe out the English newcomers in an act of revenge. However, he chose to treat these strangers in need with impartial kindness.
King Massasoit and Squanto: “Refugees Welcome.”
After a successful harvest in the fall, a celebration took place where the 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoags feasted together. This celebration is known as the First Thanksgiving.
Tragically, Squanto died the next year. Some historians believe he was poisoned by a treacherous faction of Wampanoag leaders because they thought Squanto was too trusting and friendly towards the newcomers. Regardless, Squanto’s friendship and diplomacy was able to keep peaceful relations between the Wampanoags and New Englanders for 50 years before competition for scarce resources from an ever-increasing number of Western colonists (who rejected the idealistic vision of America forged by Bradford, Massasoit, Squanto, and others) led to war.
Squanto is a unique figure in American history. He stands out because his role in the First Thanksgiving is one of the few well-known stories where a Native American is the central hero—not a sidekick or misguided antagonist. In this case, he was the teacher, the civilizer. He introduced new crops and farming techniques to the Pilgrims when they had little knowledge on how to farm in their new environment, and likely would have starved without his help.
More importantly, he is a real American hero—Squanto is regarded, alongside the Pilgrims, as being one of the first Americans. The story of the First Thanksgiving shows us what it truly means to be an American: it is not something that is tied to ethnicity or skin color, and it will forever be a thorn in the side of US-based White Nationalists who regard the United States as a bastion of “whiteness” and Western Civilization.
Unfortunately the sun has set on the new dawn that Squanto tried to usher in, and the United States has forged a legacy of racism and inter-ethnic discord. Due to this legacy, not everyone views Thanksgiving in a positive light. Some Native American groups have used Thanksgiving as a day to protest against the massacres and plunder which took place in the New World, calling their protests things like ‘Unthanksgiving Day’ and ‘National Day of Mourning’. While these feelings are not unjustified, choosing to protest Thanksgiving is a poor choice.
“Why do I call the Indians fools? Because they should have let the Pilgrims starve… The Indians were thanked: their land was stolen from them, they were massacred, and many lived out their lives in slavery. The consequence is that less than one percent of Americans have Native American blood, contrasted to 90 percent of Mexican Americans with indigenous blood.” –Rodolfo Acuña, professional empathy destroyer. One of many pessimistic historians attempting to dupe leftists into deepening inter-ethnic discord instead of repairing it.
While the constant calls from rightists to build walls to keep immigrants out (modeled after Israel’s apartheid wall), to deport Dreamers who have spent the majority of their lives living as Americans (many of whom are not even aware that they were never given documents as infants), to open fire on boats transporting refugees, and even actual instances of arson on refugee centers, are utterly repulsive to anyone with an ounce of morality in their heart, it is not only the right-wing which has been attempting to erode the value of empathy.
In the tidal wave of cynicism that has been sweeping over much of the left, many have been pushed too far and have begun to look with suspicion towards even those critical values which serve as a beacon of light and bring hope to the world. In times as despairing as these, we must more than ever hold tightly those values and principles which restore hope and resolutely reject those temptations which urge us to bitterly turn a cold shoulder to others in need and increase the amount of despair in society (while perhaps selfishly alleviating the despair for us personally, or for our arbitrarily-defined in-group at the expense of the out-group).
The American Spirit is about helping those in need. To group the Pilgrims (who were innocent refugees) together with the (admittedly countless) bearers of Western Civilization who did steal, murder, enslave, and plunder just because they were of similar ethnic background is literally no different from when Trump repulsively says that immigrants from Mexico are rapists and criminals or when Islamophobes say all refugees from so-called “Muslim countries” are terrorists. (Moreover, treating all Native Americans as if they were some unified entity in mutual agreement, simply due to their ethnic similarity, is highly disingenuous…)
For over a century, it has been leftists who have inspiringly advocated for the cosmopolitan “nation of immigrants” narrative of American history—much to the disdain of rightists who wanted to keep the US a “white” and Anglo-centric outpost of Western Civilization. Sadly, some people who outwardly claim to be left-leaning have become increasingly intoxicated by identitarianism and compartmentalization in reaction to the upswing in rightist identitarianism and bigotry. This dangerous tendency promises to undo all of the inter-ethnic good-will that has been gained in America in recent decades, and indeed, since 1620. This is not acceptable. In order to defeat rightists, leftists cannot adopt a mirror image of rightist rhetoric which divides society across arbitrary ethnic lines (which individuals never chose to be born into in the first place). To defeat tribalists who seek to divide us, the left must unite society by extending empathy across the arbitrary lines of ethnicity, class, and all others which too often prevent one individual from fully empathizing with another. Specifically, we must achieve UNITY THROUGH NOBILITY.
Squanto (who had been kidnapped and enslaved by the English multiple times) and other Wampanoags who personally met the Pilgrims were able to discern that these individuals were innocents sincerely in need of a helping hand, and not Westerners bent on colonial plunder. Seeing the destruction which ethnocentrism and utter lack of empathy has wreaked on the New World, our response should not be to fight ethnocentrism and stereotypes with more ethnocentrism (as Rodolfo Acuña urges us to do), but instead overcome ethnocentrism by judging each individual and their character, quality, and intentions as an individual on a case-by-case basis!
Encouragingly, present-day descendants of the Wampanoags are well aware of the true value of Thanksgiving and the compassion of their ancestors. In May 2017, King Massasoit and a dozen other Wampanoags were reburied in Rhode Island—their remains had previously been
plundered collected by grave robbers Western “archaeologists” and scattered in various museums and private collections since the 1800s. Instead of following Acuña’s advice to cynically dwell on the past, those with Wampanoag heritage today have decided to focus on the light which Massasoit brought to the world, and look towards a healed future.
“Ousamequin [King Massasoit] is a significant figure in our shared history. He stands at the crossroad between the indigenous people of this land and the origins of what would eventually become the United States of America. In the 17th century, when the Wampanoag first encountered the early settlers, Ousamequin had a vision of how we could all live together. There was 50 years of peace between the English and Wampanoag until he died in 1665.
This ancestor is so much about peace — way beyond what we’ve been able to pull off as a country and maybe as individuals. We as a human race haven’t even gotten up to speed to where Ousameequin was.” –Ramona Peters, Wampanoag leader who coordinated the repatriation effort.
Instead of further crushing the embers of hope through cynicism and divisiveness, Massasoit’s reburial has instead offered an opportunity for a renewed conversation about the true spirit behind the First Thanksgiving and its significance as one of the earliest examples of E PLURIBUS UNUM in American history.
Americans overcoming ethnic tensions.
To give a final example of why rejecting Thanksgiving as a Western atrocity is not only factually incorrect, but frankly dangerous (by erasing the fact that Thanksgiving is about the American values of unity and impartial kindness), let us read the treaty of friendship between the Wampanoags and the Pilgrims, as recounted by Edward Winslow and William Bradford:
1. That neither he nor any of his should injure or do hurt to any of our people.
2. And if any of his did hurt to any of ours, he should send the offender, that we might punish him.
3. That if any of our tools were taken away when our people are at work, he should cause them to be restored, and if ours did any harm to any of his, we would do the likewise to them.
4. If any did unjustly war against him, we would aid him; if any did war against us, he should aid us.
5. He should send to his neighbor confederates, to certify them of this, that they might not wrong us, but might be likewise comprised in the conditions of peace.
6. That when their men came to us, they should leave their bows and arrows behind them, as we should do our pieces when we came to them.
Lastly, that doing thus, King James would esteem of him [King Massasoit] as his friend and ally.
The treaty paid lip service to King James of England, but it was his ignobility which had caused the Pilgrims to flee England in the first place!!! English settlers loyal to him would have respected the Pilgrims’ vision of society little more than they respected the Wampanoags; and in turn, the Pilgrims likely had little respect for these ignoble Englishmen who eventually turned their Wampanoag friends into enemies.
It is an unfortunate truth that the goodwill established between the Wampanoags and Pilgrims was quickly overshadowed by subsequent settlers from England who were intent on bringing Western Civilization along with them (and in the process exploiting the land and killing or enslaving those who stood in their way). We cannot change the past, but we can work together to ensure that in the future the same mistakes and evils will never again be unleashed on this soil. It is our duty as Americans to judge individuals as individuals and extend compassion to all who are in need of it. Anyone who advocates deepening animosities between ethnic groups, or decreasing the amount of compassion and empathy in society through any other manner, is not only unqualified to call themselves a leftist, but incapable of being an American.
While the United States government did not come into existence until 1776, American culture started much earlier than that. America began during the First Thanksgiving. This understanding of history presents us with an all too often overlooked conclusion: America is not merely a nation of immigrants, but, more precisely, a nation of refugees. American True Leftists are proud of this heritage and we consider it our duty to help those looking for a friendly face to turn to—just as Squanto and King Massasoit were willing to do.
It is essential to recognize the significance of Thanksgiving—not only is it not about ethnic cleansing or conquest (like Columbus Day and similar celebrations), but it is about sincere inter-ethnic unity and impartial kindness (something which is relatively lacking in American history!). Thanksgiving romantically represents the Atlantean civilization that could have been: a New World built not upon murder, plunder, and deceit, but on friendship, unity, and higher ideals. Of all the evils that the post-Columbian era has unleashed, Thanksgiving is one thing that Americans should certainly be thankful for.
The true meaning behind Thanksgiving.
This has been a very traumatic year. Despite this, we must not lose sight of the small things which can give us hope. This Thanksgiving, we should be thankful that Americans (from Squanto to many of us living today) have been able to open our hearts to refugees and others in need. We should be thankful that so long as individuals willing to offer impartial kindness to strangers walk this Earth, you will never be alone.
“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” –Jesus
But prayers and reflections are not enough. In order to usher in the new dawn envisioned by Massasoit, Squanto, and the Pilgrims, we must act. It is the minimum duty of every American to, without hesitation, correct False Leftists when they outrageously claim Thanksgiving is a celebration of Western plunder and treachery; and to lambast rightists for their bigotry when they make the anti-American assertion that America is a “white” nation (while ignoring the fact that every schoolchild knows Squanto is one of the first Americans), and when they advocate to halt all immigration, arbitrarily deport anyone without proper documents, and gleefully shout that refugees should starve (while gorging themselves on their turkey dinners). All despite the fact that the Pilgrims had no immigration documents and would have starved if it were not for the compassion of strangers who could have easily let them die.
We must not merely lend our thoughts to the less fortunate amongst our communities, but also our voices and our hands. This is the principle America was founded on; this is the principle Squanto died for.