Take a tour of three Thanksgivings, spread across the centuries, that provide windows into why the Wampanoags have hosted a National Day of Mourning for Native America each Thanksgiving holiday since 1970.
This talk will compare the myth of the First Thanksgiving, which rests on friendly Indians welcoming benign colonization, with the Wampanoags’ actual colonial ordeal. That ordeal included betrayal, as Wampanoags themselves framed it, at the hands of the Plymouth colonists with whom they had allied back in 1621, culminating in the terrible King Philip’s War of 1675-76. We will examine how, for Wampanoags, the colonial era extended well beyond that war, even beyond 1776. It involved centuries of fighting for their land, sovereignty, and cultural self-determination against a society determined to rob them of those things. It has lasted to this very day.
Together, we will follow the lead of Frank Wamsutta James, the founder of the National Day of Mourning, to consider whether we, as a nation, can chart a different path, beginning with how we tell the story of Thanksgiving.
David J. Silverman is Professor of History at George Washington University. He has written several books on American Indian and colonial American history, including, most recently, Thundersticks: Firearms and the Violent Transformation of Native America, published by the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press in 2016. He is currently writing a Wampanoag-centered history of Plymouth colony and the Thanksgiving holiday for Bloomsbury Press with a working title of No Thanks.
Your generosity is vital in keeping the library's programs, exhibitions, and reading rooms free and accessible to everyone. Make a donation today.