So what are you all doing for Thanksgiving? I’m driving up tomorrow morning to visit family in SE Massachusetts—pretty close to the original Thanksgiving. Our area was the ancestral home of the Pokanoket band of the Wampanoags, the Native Americans who shared their land with the Pilgrims until they were decimated in King Philip’s (Metacom) War (1675-76) along with most of the rest of the Native Americans in southern New England. Philip’s father was Massasoit, the leader of the Pokanokets when the Pilgrims arrived. Massasoit prevented the failure of the Plymouth colony and almost certain starvation that the Pilgrims faced during the earliest years of the colony’s establishment. The colonists actually arrived at a period of upheaval among the Wampanoags due to the decimation of their numbers by illness, which had been attributed to smallpox, but now is thought to be was leptospirosis, a bacterial infection also known as Weil’s syndrome or 7-day fever.
The Wampanoags living on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard had converted to Christianity and did not take part in the war, and a large number of their descendants live in Mashpee on the Cape and Aquinah on MV. The Mashpee have been involved in a bitter dispute with the federal government about their tribal lands. For more on that join me below.