I did it


Thanksgiving is over, and I did it! I did not say one word about genocide, indigenous peoples, or Day of Mourning. I did not interrupt halftime, get up on my soapbox, and tell people about the massacre of the 600 Pequots on this day of family, friends, and football. Nobody wants to hear about the Day of Mourning, as the Wampanoags call it. The Wampanoags were even in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Who am I to rain on the 97-year-old event? I just kept my mouth shut, and didn’t say a word about the lie that the Native Americans helped the Pilgrims, and together they had a Thanksgiving feast. People think that the Disney version of the holiday is much more comfortable for our children to believe. Why should they feel guilty? They didn’t do anything.
All around the country, people are sitting at a beautiful table, and one by one, each says something for which they are grateful. How many say they are grateful to the indigenous people who were killed so that they could enjoy the cranberry sauce today?
I realize that few of us are aware of the past, and all my railing just becomes a downer to people who want to feel good.

It is true that the Wampanoags had a feast called Nikkomosachmiawene, or Grand Sachem’s Council Feast. It is true that the Wampanoags are known for their hospitality and generosity. It is true that Massasoit brought 90 Wampanoag men, five deer, fish, and cooks to this feast, which had evolved into Thanksgiving Day in 1621; that it was a gesture to help the Pilgrims, who did not know about farming or the preservation of food. But that is not the Thanksgiving which we celebrate today. The149 English faux Pilgrims were not really pilgrims, who, we were told, were seeking religious refuge; they had refuge in Holland — they didn’t need to come here. They were Europeans seeking a commercial venue. That’s right, they were looking for a place to make money or steal it. And steal it they did. Before they even hit Plymouth Rock in 1620, they had already started stealing. They started off by robbing Wampanoag graves at Corn Hill, then they stole their winter provisions. They took whatever they needed, by any means necessary.

One year later, Gov. William Bradford of Plymouth proclaimed a day of thanksgiving. He didn’t quite see the value of the Wampanoags who had saved their behinds just one winter ago. He was grateful to his brave and murderous Pilgrims, who, through their own resourcefulness and devotion to God, had defeated hunger.

That is classic “Euro-think.” Like saying that America wasn’t discovered until 1492. It only counts once the Europeans are there.

Truth be told, Bradford did claim that Native Americans were present. He didn’t say in what capacity. Certainly not as dinner guests. The Pilgrims showed their gratitude by calling the people who saved their lives “infidels,” “inferiors,” worthy only of being servants.

Soon Bradford sent troops of these Pilgrims to raid a Pequot village. Bradford felt it was his obligation as a devout Christian to destroy the “heathens.” His Pilgrims systematically destroyed a village of sleeping men, women, and children.

Bradford wrote: “It was a fearful sight to see them frying in the fire, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and stench thereof. But the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice and they [the Pilgrim militia] gave praise thereof to God.”

Years later, Pilgrim the Rev. Increase Mather asked his congregation to celebrate the “victory” and thank God “that on this day we have sent 600 heathen souls to hell.” This is an exact quote from a man of God.

I don’t know how they handle this in history textbooks in schools today. Jocelyn Coleman Walton and Lisa Pimentel have created a beautiful piece called “Honoring the Native People of Noepe,” which can be seen on YouTube, and was shown in all of the Island schools (bit.ly/NativePeopleOfNoepe).

However, the 1993 edition of the Columbia Encyclopedia states of Bradford, “He maintained friendly relations with the Native Americans.” The scholarly Dictionary of American History said, “He was a firm, determined man, and an excellent leader; kept relations with the Indians on friendly terms; tolerant toward newcomers and new religions …”

Sixteen years later, in 1637, John Winthrop, the governor of Massachusetts, proclaimed the official Day of Thanksgiving. This is the Thanksgiving for which we have the parades today. He did not proclaim it to reflect on the fact that the natives had saved the lives of the Europeans; he did it to celebrate the safe return of European men who had massacred those 600 Pequots who had converted to Christianity, and laid down their weapons. No sooner did they lay those weapons down than the army slaughtered the sleeping men, women, and children. I can understand why nobody wants to hear this kind of information on a paid holiday. When you walk down Pequot Avenue in Oak Bluffs, does it ever cross your mind that people were brutally murdered so you can watch football and be grateful that the ferries are running on time?

It was President Lincoln who made it a national holiday (paid time off), because enthusiasm for the war was wearing thin, and he thought this holiday might engender patriotism among the Northerners.

President George Bush did the same thing. In 2003, he flew to Baghdad, Iraq, to give thanks with the American troops, in order to engender patriotism among Americans. It was a public relations ploy to convince the American people to support his invasion, which was based on lies. This was before the internet was big. Every photographer with a telescopic lens shot him carrying a glazed turkey to eagerly awaiting soldiers. Well, the man left within three hours, and all we at home saw was his brave act of gracious sharing on every TV station in the land. What we did not see was that the turkey was a cardboard prop, thrown in the garbage as soon as his flight took off.

Thanksgiving Day is another celebration of the “right to kill” beliefs of Europeans to hide their systematic system of enslavement and genocide, based on their thoughts that their culture is superior. It has rationalized the killings of millions of Native Americans for the past 400 years with nary an apology.

But you didn’t hear that from me. I’m keeping my big mouth shut.

Thanksgiving is not about me and what a smarty-pants I am. It’s about gratitude. It’s about empathy for others. If you can’t see at least one good point in your rigid relative’s argument, that is your fault, not theirs.

Acceptance is key. What makes you think that you are so right that you can change somebody’s mind over candied sweet potatoes? Don’t pout just because other people don’t see your point.

Try to be a cheerful person; you don’t want to be the doomsdayer who goes around bursting balloons. List the things for which you are grateful. That doesn’t mean you have to lie: Just smile, nod your head, and say, “Is that so?” 

This year, I promised to keep my big mouth shut, and I did. After all, I’m a sweet little old lady who lives alone. I don’t want to have a frozen turkey dinner in front of a TV set. “Isn’t that so?”


  1. Bush was holding an actual cooked turkey. It’s pretty easy to look this stuff up, here’s a link https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/bird-in-the-hand/ . It’s actually a pretty good example of a biased journalist creating a false impression that’s still making the rounds 20 years later. If you couldn’t be bothered to fact check the most recent of the events that you take offense to in this piece, then how much faith can the reader place in the veracity of the rest of it?

  2. Bert, thank you for reading the piece all the way through. It is true, that it was a real turkey, it is also true that it was not edible. Although it was not a plastic “prop” it was used as a decoration, a prop. Nobody ate it.
    “But as a small sign of the many ways the White House maximized the impact of the 2-1/2-hour stop at the Baghdad airport, administration officials said yesterday that Bush picked up a decoration, not a serving plate.”
    If you would like to check out the “veracity” of the piece, I can send you my footnotes privately.

    • Quoting the original tainted news story won’t do much to bolster your argument, but let’s leave that aside for a moment. The decades long events leading up to the Pequot War were quite a bit more complicated than your heavily edited account (dare I say the Disney version?) would indicate. There were native tribal interests on both sides of this conflict, and they predate the arrival of the Dutch or the English. I find it interesting that you have absolved by omission the involvement of the several ( Narragansett, Mohegan, Niantic, Mohawk) other native tribes that were involved in the conflict. You seem to be primarily interested in casting the Europeans as the villains, and using this version of the story to further a 21st century narrative – but I think you do a disservice to the actual history of these events in doing so.

  3. Abigail, you never fail to make me laugh as you inform of events that are so hard to digest any other way. Thank you for bringing us humor while respectfully pointing to the difficult truths we must face to go forward with humanity as a guide! I always love you take on holiday celebrations. Keep them coming. We DO need to laugh.

  4. The massacre of the Pequots was certainly an awful event but the writer fails to acknowledge the context of why this happened and who was involved. The attack took place during a war which pitted the Pequots and their allies the Dutch against the English and various other tribes. The Pequots and Dutch wanted a monopoly on the fur and wampum trade in New England. The Pequots had subjugated dozens of Native American tribes over the previous 20 years or so. The Pequots had also previously killed a dozen or so English settlers and an untold number of Native Americans. The attack was carried out by 80 Englishmen, 60 men from the Mohegan tribe and 200 from the Narraganset tribe. Many awful things happen during a war and it’s important to note ALL those who are responsible.

  5. It seems as if some of the comments above don’t get the point of this well written piece the way Ms. Ditchfield did.
    It is a humorous piece about the real celebration of Thanksgiving which was not very humorous.
    Are you saying that the burning of innocent women and children was some sort of “pay back” for an earlier action and that therefore they deserved it? Does that sound familiar to you?

    • There’s nothing humorous about innocent people who are victims of a war. What’s disturbing is the writer’s ignorance of history and her trying to further a false narrative of our nation’s foundation. Making up lies about the cause of death and destruction of human beings during a war can never be humorous or righteous. Then again it’s sadly happening on a daily basis these days.

Comments are closed.