Unsung History: The Wampanoag & the Thanksgiving Myth

2 mins read

Editor’s Note: For many Americans the arrival of settlers from Europe brought disease, slavery and death. In her Unsung History Podcast Kelly and her guest dispels some of the myths and tells the real story of the Wampanoag. Please listen to, and share, this powerful story.

In Autumn of 1621, a group of Pilgrims from the Mayflower voyage and Wampanoag men, led by their sachem Massasoit, ate a feast together. The existence of that meal, which held little importance to either the Pilgrims or the Wampanoag, is the basis of the Thanksgiving myth. The myth, re-told in school Thanksgiving pageants and TV shows, is not accurate and is harmful to Native people, especially to the Wampanoag. 

In 1970, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts planned a banquet to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims. They asked an Aquinnah Wampanoag man, Frank James, also known as Wamsutta, to speak at the banquet. However, when they learned what he was planning to say, the true history, they forbade his speech. Frank James would not give a speech that they rewrote, and instead he planned the first National Day of Mourning on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth. Fifty one years later the United American Indians of New England still meet at noon on Cole’s Hill on the US Thanksgiving Holiday to remember the genocide of Native people and the theft of Native lands and erasure of Native culture.

Joining me to help us learn more about the Wampanoag and the dangers of the Thanksgiving myth is Kisha James, enrolled Aquinnah Wampanoag, one of the organizers of the National Day of Mourning, and granddaughter of Frank James.

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Born on the 4th of July, Kelly has always been a firecracker, leading a revolution of girls sitting at the boys’ lunch table in 2nd grade and founding Young Independents in high school. Since earning her Masters, Kelly has spent the past 15 years as a university administrator. In the fall of 2017, Kelly co-created the Two Broads Talking Politics Podcast with her friend Sophy. As producer and co-host, Kelly quickly built the podcast into a nationally recognized interview show, featuring Democratic candidates, activists, and authors around the country. She lives in Chicago with her husband & two sons.

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