The First Thanksgiving: In Memoriam

In memorium.  Lest we forget.
The First Thanksgiving
From the Community Endeavor News, November, 1995, as reprinted in Healing
Global Wounds, Fall, 1996

The first official Thanksgiving wasn’t a festive gathering of Indians
and Pilgrims, but rather a celebration of the massacre of 700 Pequot
men, women and children, an anthropologist says. Due to age and illness
his voice cracks as he talks about the holiday, but William B. Newell,
84, talks with force as he discusses Thanksgiving. Newell, a Penobscot,
has degrees from two universities, and was the former chairman of the
anthropology department at the University of Connecticut.

“Thanksgiving Day was first officially proclaimed by the Governor of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637 to commemorate the massacre of 700 men,
women and children who were celebrating their annual green core
dance-Thanksgiving Day to them-in their own house,” Newell said.

“Gathered in this place of meeting they were attacked by mercenaries and
Dutch and English. The Indians were ordered from the building and as
they came forth they were shot down. The rest were burned alive in the
building,” he said.

Newell based his research on studies of Holland Documents and the 13
volume Colonial Documentary History, both thick sets of letters and
reports from colonial officials to their superiors and the king in
England, and the private papers of Sir William Johnson, British Indian
agent for the New York colony for 30 years in the mid-1600s.

“My research is authentic because it is documentary,” Newell said. “You
can’t get anything more accurate than that because it is first hand. It
is not hearsay.”

Newell said the next 100 Thanksgivings commemorated the killing of the
Indians at what is now Groton, Ct. [home of a nuclear submarine base]
rather than a celebration with them. He said the image of Indians and
Pilgrims sitting around a large table to celebrate Thanksgiving Day was
“fictitious” although Indians did share food with the first settlers.

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