This land is their land The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the troubled history of Thanksgiving

David J. Silverman, 1971-

Book - 2019

Ahead of the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving, a new look at the Plymouth colony's founding events, told for the first time with Wampanoag people at the heart of the story. In March 1621, when Plymouth's survival was hanging in the balance, the Wampanoag sachem (or chief), Ousamequin (Massasoit), and Plymouth's governor, John Carver, declared their people's friendship for each other and a commitment to mutual defense. Later that autumn, the English gathered their f...irst successful harvest and lifted the specter of starvation. Ousamequin and 90 of his men then visited Plymouth for the "First Thanksgiving." The treaty remained operative until King Philip's War in 1675, when 50 years of uneasy peace between the two parties would come to an end. 400 years after that famous meal, historian David J. Silverman sheds profound new light on the events that led to the creation, and bloody dissolution, of this alliance. Focusing on the Wampanoag Indians, Silverman deepens the narrative to consider tensions that developed well before 1620 and lasted long after the devastating war-tracing the Wampanoags' ongoing struggle for self-determination up to this very day. -- Publisher.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Bloomsbury Publishing 2019.
Language
English
Physical Description
x, 514 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 443-498) and index.
ISBN
1632869241
9781632869241
Main Author
David J. Silverman, 1971- (author)
  • Mourning in America
  • The Wampanoags' old world
  • Danger on the horizon
  • Golgotha
  • Reaching out to strangers
  • Ousamequin's power play
  • A great man and a little child
  • Ungrateful
  • Ruining Thanksgiving
  • "Days of mourning and not joy"
  • Toward a day with less mourning.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Much of how non-Native Americans imagine the first Thanksgiving is wrong. Most importantly, the alliance between Wampanoags and pilgrims was not forged in a political and historical vacuum, as portrayed by generations of pageants. Focusing on the Wampanoag and their Native American neighbors in New England, historian Silverman (Thundersticks, 2016) repositions the Wampanoag-pilgrim relationship within the region's history and brings its complexity to life. New England had already been disrupted by European visitors when the pilgrims arrived, and the Wampanoag, devastated by a mysterious plague, allied themselves with the newcomers to survive in the region's complex political and economic ecosystem. This relationship persisted for half a century, even as the immigrants became rapacious colonizers. Instead of the first Thanksgiving, which Silverman presents as a minor event, the pivotal moment was Metacom's War (1675-76), an attempt by a desperate coalition of Native peoples to push the English out of New England. They failed, but so, too, did later English (and American) attempts to erase the Wampanoag from the region. Linking this history to a present in which New England Indians observe a Day of Mourning on the third Thursday in November, Silverman's highly recommended work enlightens as it calls into question persistent myths about the origins of Thanksgiving. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

The Thanksgiving myth is a one-sided, two-dimensional account of a tragedy. Both Pilgrims and Wampanoags made promises that went unfulfilled and mistakes that led to war two generations later, nearly exterminating the Wampanoag Nation. The Wampanoags and their enemies, the Narragansetts, had long interacted with Europeans who fished and traded along their coast, though shortly before the Mayflower's arrival, the Wampanoags had been decimated by disease spread by this seafaring. Upon landing at Plymouth, the Pilgrims depended on these long-established civilizations for their survival, and in turn looted the Wampanoags' seed corn and desecrated burial sites. Though the Wampanoags did not welcome the Pilgrims, they were gracious and willing to share, believing they could be allies against the Narragansetts. Instead, however, the Pilgrims dominated the Wampanoags, stealing their land; capturing, transporting, and selling Natives into Caribbean slavery; and bending those who remained to their way of life. Wampanoag losses became Plymouth's gains until the former were forced into the devastating King Philip's War in 1675. Instead of Thanksgiving, many of the First People hold a Day of Mourning, an opportunity to restore the reality of what happened and perhaps reestablish their heritage. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty.--D. R. Jamieson, Ashland UniversityDuncan R. JamiesonAshland University Duncan R. Jamieson Choice Reviews 58:02 October 2020 Copyright 2020 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In celebration of a peace and mutual defense agreement, a Wampanoag delegation led by Ousamequin visited Plymouth during fall 1621 and celebrated what became known as Thanksgiving. In the U.S. mythology, that event was immortalized as the moment when American Indians ceded the New World to Euroamericans. To modern Wampanoag and other American Indian peoples, the day is viewed as one of mourning. Silverman (history, George Washington Univ.; Thundersticks) situates the origins of the Thanksgiving tale within the scope of Wampanoag history, beginning prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims, to illuminate why they would have allied themselves with the floundering Plymouth colony in the first place. The relationship between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag grew quickly strained, leading eventually to the devastation of the tribe during King Philip's War in 1675. Although that event saw Wampanoag nearly erased from history, they continue to express their identity and agency to this day. VERDICT Silverman's reconstruction of the world of the Wampanoag provides fascinating insights for both general readers and scholars into the early years of the colonization of Massachusetts, situating not only Thanksgiving within the nation's history but also the tragedy of King Philip's War.—John R. Burch, Univ. of Tennessee at Martin Copyright 2019 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

George Washington University history professor Silverman (Thundersticks) deconstructs the "Thanksgiving myth" in this revealing study of the 1621 gathering at Plymouth colony between Puritan colonists and Wampanoag Indians that inspired the holiday. A confederation of local tribes, the Wampanoag had recently been decimated by an infectious disease brought by Europeans (Wampanoags credited the epidemic to supernatural causes) and were under threat from their rivals, the Narragansett. Wampanoag chief Ousamequin entered into a "mutual defense pact" with the Pilgrims, Silverman writes, and brought 90 men to the colonists' fall harvest celebration in order to help cement the agreement. But an influx of settlers in the decades following the 1629 establishment of Massachusetts Bay Colony led to increased tensions and occasional outbursts of violence between natives and Pilgrims, setting the stage for King Philip's War in 1675. That brutal conflict shifted the balance of power in the region so dramatically, Silverman notes, that the Wampanoag were nearly wiped out over the next two centuries. Silverman sketches the Wampanoag story up to the present day, giving voice to such tribal activists as Frank James, who declared Thanksgiving a "National Day of Mourning" in 1970. This lucidly written and convincingly argued account of the most "American" of traditions deserves to be read widely. (Nov.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"Ahead of the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving, a new look at the Plymouth colony's founding events, told for the first time with Wampanoag people at the heart of the story. In March 1621, when Plymouth's survival was hanging in the balance, the Wampanoag sachem (or chief), Ousamequin (Massasoit), and Plymouth's governor, John Carver, declared their people's friendship for each other and a commitment to mutual defense. Later that autumn, the English gathered their first successful harvest and lifted the specter of starvation. Ousmaequin and 90 of his men then visited Plymouth for the "First Thanksgiving." The treaty remained operative until King Philip's War in 1675, when 50 years of uneasy peace between the two parties would come to an end. 400 years after that famous meal, historian David J. Silverman sheds profound new light on the events that led to the creation, and bloody dissolution, of this alliance. Focusing on the Wampanoag Indians, Silverman deepens the narrative to consider tensions that developed well before 1620 and lasted long after the devastating war-tracing the Wampanoags' ongoing struggle for self-determination up to this very day. This unsettling history reveals why some modern Native people hold a Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving, a holiday which celebrates a myth of colonialism and white proprietorship of the United States. This Land is Their Land shows that it is time to rethink how we, as a pluralistic nation, tell the history of Thanksgiving"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The author of Thundersticks presents an account of the Plymouth colony’s founding that incorporates the perspectives of Wampanoag witnesses and contributors, documenting the events that led to the creation and violent dissolution of essential peace agreements.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Ahead of the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving, a new look at the Plymouth colony's founding events, told for the first time with Wampanoag people at the heart of the story.In March 1621, when Plymouth's survival was hanging in the balance, the Wampanoag sachem (or chief), Ousamequin (Massasoit), and Plymouth's governor, John Carver, declared their people's friendship for each other and a commitment to mutual defense. Later that autumn, the English gathered their first successful harvest and lifted the specter of starvation. Ousamequin and 90 of his men then visited Plymouth for the “First Thanksgiving.” The treaty remained operative until King Philip's War in 1675, when 50 years of uneasy peace between the two parties would come to an end.400 years after that famous meal, historian David J. Silverman sheds profound new light on the events that led to the creation, and bloody dissolution, of this alliance. Focusing on the Wampanoag Indians, Silverman deepens the narrative to consider tensions that developed well before 1620 and lasted long after the devastating war-tracing the Wampanoags' ongoing struggle for self-determination up to this very day. This unsettling history reveals why some modern Native people hold a Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving, a holiday which celebrates a myth of colonialism and white proprietorship of the United States. This Land is Their Land shows that it is time to rethink how we, as a pluralistic nation, tell the history of Thanksgiving.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Ahead of the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving, a new look at the Plymouth colony’s founding events, told for the first time with Wampanoag people at the heart of the story.