Unreserved

Mayflower 400: A deep dive into American Thanksgiving

400 years ago the Mayflower ship pulled up to the shores of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The merchant ship wasn’t carrying its normal cargo of dry goods and wine, it was carrying more than 100 people, seeking a new world.
The replica ship Mayflower II under sail on its way back to Plymouth Harbor after being rehabbed in Connecticut for the past three years on August 10, 2020 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims landing in Massachusetts. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

400 years ago, the Mayflower ship pulled up to the shores of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The merchant ship wasn't carrying its normal cargo of dry goods and wine, it was carrying more than 100 people. 

People seeking religious freedom and a new way of life. Seeking a new world.

This week on Unreserved, a deep dive into the history of American Thanksgiving, a holiday usually presented as a friendly meal shared between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. 

To commemorate the arrival of the Mayflower, celebrations were planned in Plymouth, England. Stephanie Pratt is an art historian, and member of the Crow Creek Dakota Tribe of Fort Thompson, currently based in Devon, England. She was invited to advise on an art piece that was going to celebrate the Mayflower's voyage, but she helped correct its course. 

Celebrations surrounding the Mayflower have always been contentious. In 1970, plans for the 350th anniversary of the ship's voyage included a replica ship being built in Massachusetts. But what organizers didn't know is that activists from the American Indian Movement — or AIM — would occupy it. Kent Blansett is a Native American professor of history and Indigenous studies at the University of Kansas, he spoke to Unreserved about the importance of this historical protest. 

One myth surrounding American Thanksgiving is the story of Squanto — the friendly Wampanoag translator for the English. Historian Linda Jeffers Coombs has been working to correct Squanto's story, which she says includes much darker themes of disease and slavery. 

Paula Peters is from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and is an advisor for the Mayflower 400 events. For years she has been trying to track down Metacom's Wampum belt, which was stolen during King Phillip's War of 1675, between the Native Americans and English settlers. She also helped advise the creation of a new Wampum belt to commemorate the anniversary. 

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has resided in their territory in Massachusetts and Eastern Rhode Island for 12,000 years. But the tribe wasn't federally recognized until 2007, and with that they received 321 acres of reservation land. Danielle Hill is Mashpee Wampanoag, and she explains how that land is now in jeopardy. 

Also, hear from Alyssa Harris, a Wampanoag historical educator in Plimouth Patuxtet, a living history museum commemorating the traditional Wampanoag way of life.

This week's playlist: 
A Tribe Called Red. (Still Tree Photography)

A Tribe Called Red - Burn Your Village to the Ground

 

 

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