Voices of Native Youth

The Shocking Truth about the Pilgrim Story

Have you ever read the Pilgrim story, The History of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford? What you read might shock you because it doesn’t line up with the Thanksgiving story we’ve all heard from childhood.

Everyone thinks of the Pilgrim story as one of heroic people. After all, they escaped religious intolerance in England and came to the New World. They survived storms, sickness, leaky boats, and still managed to make it across the ocean. Once they arrived, they survived bitter cold, starvation, and even more sickness (183). And everyone knows the story of how a nice Native, Squanto, helped keep them alive and everyone celebrated together the next fall after the harvest. But people might not realize that that story only has a grain of truth. The Pilgrims didn’t treat Indians very nicely at all. 

The Pilgrim Story isn’t Very Christian

If you've ever taken the time to read William Bradford's account of the Pilgrim story, you might be shocked. It's not at all the Thanksgiving tale we know. #ownvoices #ushistory #myth #thanksgiving

Even though they were Christians, the Pilgrims treated the Indians unfairly. The pilgrims took part of their goods, like corn, which the Natives had buried (171). They knew that the corn belonged to the Indians, but still took it. Pilgrims also walked into Native homes without permission. The Pilgrims found two of their matt-covered houses with food and tools inside. When the Pilgrims thought that the Indians had run away, they decided to take what they wanted—including corn, beans, and tools. The Pilgrims saw that they were just a bunch of nobodies and treated them horrible by taking important things from them.

The Pilgrims were unfair to the Indians, they didn’t treat them very well. They took advantage of the Indians by learning their ways from Squanto. Squanto spoke English because slavers had captured him when he was a child and taken him to Europe. When Squanto returned, his people had all died. He befriended the Pilgrims and directed them how to plant their corn, where to take fish, and helped them to ‘procure other commodities.’ He also acted as ‘their pilot to bring them to unknown places for their profit’ (172). Squanto stayed with the Pilgrims until he died. 

The Pilgrims left no record of doing anything for Squanto, and they just took advantage of him. Squanto helped them survive, but they did nothing for him. The Pilgrims stole from the Natives and never returned it back. The Natives did steal from the pilgrims once, but they returned the things they stole back to the Pilgrims (187).

The Original Thieves

The Natives acted fairly by returning what they had taken, but the Pilgrims didn’t have the same courtesy. What the Pilgrims did wasn’t right, they had used Squanto for his skills to guide to them until his death. Pilgrims were greedy and stole much from the Indians and never returned anything.

The Pilgrim found land occupied and decided to call it theirs. Even though the land was cleared, just because the Pilgrams didn’t see anyone they called it a “Divine Providence” and moved in. The Pilgrims did not care to ask anybody whose land it was. The Indians saw the Pilgrims on their land and felt confused. When the Pilgrims saw the Indians, the Pilgrims didn’t care who’s land it was and decided to use force against the Indians for their land. They killed Indians, and scared them away by shooting their guns.

Stealing from someone and calling it 'Divine Providence' doesn't make it right. #pilgrims #thanksgiving #nativeamerican Click To Tweet

The Pilgrims stole from the Indians without returning what they stole. Pilgrims saw that the Indians had no records that they could understand and used this as an excuse to treat them unfairly. The Pilgrims used the Indians for support and used them to survive without keeping any record of their help. The Pilgrims took land from the Indians using force and didn’t acknowledge the way they did it. People think the Pilgrims were nice and good to the Indians, but clearly they were not.

Jorge hates snow but loves snowboarding. He’s proud of his Navajo heritage

Announcing the Truth: Native Americans Weren’t Savages

Did you know that the Native Americans weren’t savages? Throughout the history of the United States, people have referred to Native Americans as “uncivilized” and “savages.” However, Natives were and are civilized people.

By what I have gathered from different sources there are many different opinions on what makes a person or group civilized. Native societies exhibited the markers of civilization because they had some form of government, had rules of etiquette, and practiced some form of religion.

Civilized People Have Leaders

The myth of the savage Native is just that: a myth. Native American's weren't savages (or at least any more savage than their colonizing counterparts). #civilization #preColumbian #savage #nativeamerican #myth

Native Americans had a form of government or some type of leader. Giovanni da Verrazzano wrote a letter to the king of Portugal describing his interaction with the people he met in North America in the early 1500s. One of the entries tells how a king comes on their ship and tries to communicate with them. Different tribes or groups of people had leaders, someone to look up to, and someone to put things in order. If they didn’t have a leader then everything would have been chaotic and unorganized.

In the same passage when the king came onto the ship it says that the queens stayed outside and the people watched from the ground. That proves that only the leader took care of things and his people and allowed him to keep them in place. Even in history books it talks about how a leader takes charge and helps his people. If the natives had someone to listen to and to look up to, then that demonstrates a civilized form of government.

Civilized People Have Etiquette

Natives were presentable and polite to the best of their ability. da Verrazzano says that whenever they came across a group of Natives, they always had their hair up or braided and wore their trinkets (jewelry). Also he says that the “[women’s] customs and behavior follow womanly custom as far as befits human nature.” Even the women had a presentable look.

da Verrazzano says that he and his men tossed things to the Natives out of their boats or gave them things. The Natives appreciated the gifts with gratitude. The Natives’ appreciation demonstrates a form of etiquette. In this letter alone it shows that the natives were presentable and had etiquette, qualities that civilized people share.

Native Americans weren't savages and uncivilized. Stop perpetuating that myth. #ushistory #nativeamerican Click To Tweet

Native Americans Weren’t Savages

Other hallmarks of civilization include resourcefulness, sociable behavior, and religious practices. Giovanni da Verrazzanohe wrote that the ‘Indians’ had copper, corn, and water. If they had those essentials, then they must have had food and herbs that they grow for themselves. The Natives got together sometimes and conversed among themselves in a group. They were very sociable with each other, they also had religion. Before the white people came, Natives had their own beliefs and cultures. Natives shared qualities of civilization such as religion and using resources with other people groups during the same time period.

Native Americans weren’t ‘savages’ and are civilized people. Natives had a leader and therefore a form of government. They were polite and were presentable to the best of their ability. The Natives had their own religion, were resourceful and were sociable. The Native Americans were groups of civilized people. Textbooks that portray Native Americans as savages without culture, perpetuate a myty. And that myth has hurt Native Americans since colonizers first landed in North America.

Davarena (a.k.a Dave) is a Navajo currently finishing her last year of high school and preparing for her college education. Dave is an eccentric foodie with dyspraxia who loves her puppy, Oliver.
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