Thanksgiving. Native American people and Europe

Native American people and Europe

The annual celebrations associated with Thanksgiving divert attention from the persecutions that accompanied the process of colonization. It is crucial not to forget that violence was widespread, constituting an inherent element of the history of the lands that eventually shaped themselves as the United States. What is a history about Native American people and Europe?

Native American people and Europe - first conflicts​

Tense relations between Europe and the indigenous population of North America existed before 1607 when the English founded the settlement in Jamestown. For example, in 1598, residents of Pueblo in Acoma, modern-day New Mexico, resisted Spanish attempts to impose the rule of a distant monarchy. Spanish soldiers, on the orders of their commander, mutilated every man above the age of 25, cutting off his right foot, and in two cases, hands were severed, as a symbol of anyone opposing the process of colonization.

In the subsequent decades, representatives of other European nations arrived in North America, considering their actions as discoveries, and thus automatically believing they had the right to these lands. The argument was the absence of a Christian monarchy on these lands, which, according to the policy declared for both Americas by Pope Alexander VI in 1493, allowed them to recognize their own rulers. However, the indigenous population understandably often rejected the legality of this European doctrine. Men and women defending their land and resisting invasions faced strong resistance from European soldiers and settlers.

Native American people - apogee of the conflict

The colonizers’ fear of rebellion led to many shameful events. In 1637, fearing that the Pequots were planning an alliance with the Narragansetts and the expulsion of the Pilgrims from Plymouth and the Puritans from Massachusetts into the sea, settlers formed an alliance with the Narragansetts. According to Governor William Bradford’s account, armed soldiers surrounded the Pequot village and set it on fire. The fire consumed the weapons, homes, and families of the Pequots, and the colonists shot those who tried to escape. It was said that death was treated as a “sweet sacrifice,” in line with a phrase from the Book of Leviticus, for which colonists “gave glory to God.”

Six years later, efforts were still being made to break the resistance of the indigenous population to the colonies. Governor Willem Kieft ordered attacks on places where Munsee-speaking people sought refuge. In a macabre reference to the brutality in Acoma, soldiers allegedly severed the hands or legs of some of their victims. In 1637, soldiers were ordered to set fire to the town of Tankiteke, killing almost 700 people within an hour.

The Great Swamp Massacre

In 1675, Wampanoag leader known as Metacomet (or Philip for the English) led a confederation of indigenous people in southern New England. The rebellion quickly spread to the areas of present-day Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maine. In the fierce battle, now known as the Great Swamp Massacre, dozens of colonial soldiers lost their lives, but the colonists set fire to the Narragansett camp. Almost 100 indigenous warriors and hundreds of non-combatants lost their lives in one night. Metacomet was captured in August 1676, and the colonists beheaded him and quartered his body. Captured slaves were sold.

Considering all this, a turkey feast in a small colonial town does not seem like the most important story of the 17th century in America.

Picture of Klaudia Ślęzak

Klaudia Ślęzak