During the Atlantic Slave Trade Squanto, the Amerindian credited for helping the Pilgrims survive a harsh winter and their “starving time” which led to the first Thanksgiving, was captured in 1605 and placed in chains by Captain George Weymouth. Tisquantum, Squanto’s real name, was forcibly taken to England where he learned to speak English. After nine years and longing to return to his people, the Patuxets on Cape Cod, he finally traveled home on Captain John Smith’s ship.(1)
He was not home long before Captain Thomas Hunt, part of Smith’s expedition, lured Tisquantum and other unsuspecting Amerindians aboard his vessel under the pretext of trading with them. Once Again Tisquantum, along with the others, were bound in chains and forcibly transported to Spain where they were sold into slavery. Although some died in captivity while others never returned to their homeland, Tisquantum was delivered into the hands of local friars.
Tisquantum eventually fled to England in 1619 where he managed to get safe passage on another American-bound ship. Upon arriving back on Cape Cod, he learned that every single person in his tribe, including all of his family members, had died due to a smallpox plague and a series of clashes with European colonizers. At the same time, some of his ancestral lands were occupied with newly arrived English settlements, their resources exploited by speculators and investors and chartered companies.
One year later in 1620, the Pilgrims reached the shores of Cape Cod. They had lived in England but fled to Holland when they refused to conform to the Church of England. In Holland, they feared their children were losing their English and Separatist identities, including shock over religious laxity. They decided to cross the Atlantic and settle in America at a site they named Plymouth. The place was actually the homeland of Tisquantum’s people, the Patuxets, who had been devastated by wars and plagues.
Through Samoset, another Amerindian, Tisquantum was introduced to the Pilgrims. Not only did Tisquantum help the malnourished Pilgrims acquire new farming and fishing techniques, but he helped establish a peaceful agreement between the Pilgrims and the great Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoags and most of the surrounding tribes. The Wampanoags also gave the Pilgrims food, keeping them from starving during their first grim year after their arrival.
Following the death of Chief Massasoit, his son Metacom (called King Philip by the English colonists) became chief of the Wampanoags. He became increasingly concerned over the settler’s continued encroachment on Wampanoag land, and their over-hunting and -trapping that led to the near extinction of some wildlife. After a series of skirmishes and a war, the Wampanoags were defeated. Chief Metacom’s head and those of his relatives were nailed to the Plymouth blockhouse as a warning Amerindian insurgents.(2)
Still, Chief Massasoit’s wife and son, as well as hundreds of Wampanoag captives, were captured and chained, sold into slavery. After systematically pursuing and then hunting down and killing other tribes that had sided with Chief Massasoit, the English Pilgrims and Puritans tried to erase all traces of the Wampanoag civilization, including their history. Along with razing and burning villages and towns, they sold the Wampanoag’s remaining homelands to other companies and speculators and settlers.
Today, the modern global “humanitarian” community supposedly pays close attention to internally displace peoples (IDPs). It is estimated that each year since the turn of the last millennium, there has been approximately 25 million IDPs each year, individuals who were uprooted within their own countries due to civil conflict, human rights violations, even their own governments. This number is actually twice as high as the global refugee population. Africa, the Middle East and southwest Asia are regions of major concern.
Similar to the Atlantic Slave Trade and the United States’ intercontinental genocide against the Amerindians, starting in 1621, the current and ongoing US-led Global War On Terror (GWOT) has had a decidedly negative effect on millions of IDPs around the world. And like its treatment towards the Wampanoags, the US has sought military solutions to conflicts. Insurgencies resisting US corporate encroachment or financial speculators have met armed land and air occupations, arbitrary killings, and torture.
Except for those directly participating in GWOT or returning home from overseas military deployments, including their immediate families, this Thanksgiving few US citizens will consider how an international antiterrorism campaign has enabled death on a massive scale. Most will never understand how the GWOT has emboldened non-democratic governments to characterize any kind of resistance or opposition movements, even if its peaceful, as “terrorists.” (Does this also include the US?)
Perhaps those in the US have never realized how their own collectivized histories, myths and psyches have been internally displaced and far removed from reality, especially when considering Tisquantum and the Patuxets, Chief Metacom and the Wampanoags, and the Pilgrim’s first Thanksgiving. But in a managed society where war is peace, slavery is freedom, ignorance is truth, terrorism is security, and spying is privacy, maybe cursedness is really thanks, taking is really giving, and displacement is really belonging.
Of course the tens of millions of IDP’, both past and present, would disagree with this last assessment.
(1) Michael, E. and Sharon Rusten. Christian History. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale Publishers, 2003., pp 163 ff.
(2) Kessel, William B. and Robert Wooster. Encyclopedia Of Native American Wars And Warfare. New York, New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2005., p. 337.