The First Thanksgiving – (historical fiction – a dark and disturbing tale)

Warning: This is story does not contain warmth and good feelings. For a warm tale to share around the dinner table I would recommend a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. This author does not endorse violence and hopes everyone enjoys a special Thanksgiving surrounded by loved ones. The native American people were devastated by the white man. Most of this devastation was the accidental spread of disease but some cruelty was intentional. The Wampanoag did suffer as did the Patuexet.

Tisquntum awoke from his dream in a deep sweat, despite the cold. The fire in the center of his wigwam was still smoldering. The small domed wigwam was warm and covered with colorful blankets. He was a peaceful man, but he had seen too much tragedy in his short life. He lived among the Patuexet people—part of a larger group of tribes called the Wampanoag. His people lived off the land, where they grew corn, beans and squash. They hunted and fished. The land and the spirits had once been good to Tisquantum.

As Tisquantum became a man tragedy began to invade his peaceful life. An English fisherman named Thomas Hunt kidnapped Tisquantum and nineteen other members of his tribe. He was forced to work on the very ship that was tearing him away from his tribe and land.

Tisquantum arrived in Spain, where he and his tribesman were sold as slaves. Tisquantum was sent to live with Catholic Monks in Spain, who taught him about Christianity and how to speak Spanish and English. In time he was freed from slavery, he moved to England and lived as a servant. Eventually his master gave Tisquantum the opportunity to return to his homeland.

Upon his return he found the people of his village dead, wiped out by a sickness he did not understand, a sickness brought on by the white man. Tisquantum was the last of the Patuexet tribe. Although, the Patuexet were extinct the larger group of tribes the Wampanoag remained and allowed Tisquantum to live among them.

Tisquantum had suffered great loss at the hand of the white man, yet when the ship full of Europeans came to the land he was not angry. Over time he helped the people who called themselves Pilgrims. Tisquantum understood and spoke English and knew the ways of the white man. He helped the Pilgrims grow and cook corn. He helped them warm their houses. At first his Mohawk and deer skins scared the Pilgrims but soon they learned to trust him. The Pilgrims called him Squanto.

Now Tisquantum sat in his wigwam and wondered why he had decided to help the Pilgrims. He lay back on a blanket and thought about the fate of his people. Outside the air was starting to get cold. It was the time of year when the leaves were falling from the trees and the deer were plentiful. His thoughts were interrupted by the voice of John Carver, a Pilgrim.

“Are you in there, Squanto?” John Carver said, using the name given him by the Pilgrims.

“Yes, I am here.” Tisquantum tried to sound pleasant despite his meditation being interrupted.

“Our first harvest has arrived. You and your people have taught us much. You are welcome to join us for a great feast in the morrow when the sun starts to set.” John Carver spoke with an air of superiority despite the generosity of his invitation.

“We are honored to be a part of your celebration,” Tisquantum said, not meaning it.

Tisquantum told members of the Wampanoag. of the invitation. Sixty men and thirty woman would attend. Tisquantum then spent the rest of the day hunting. With an arrow he killed a large buck and prepared it for the feast the next day.

He was tired when he returned to his wigwam. He sat in front of his home on a wood log and cooked a simple stew of venison and squash. He smoked a bowl of tobacco from a stone pipe and considered the feast the next day.

“May I join you?”

A large man sat next to Tisquantum. His skin was as black as pitch and his voice was deep. His eyes were red where they should have been white. His eyeballs were so black his pupils could not be seen.

Tisquantum nodded in answer.

“You know who I am?” The man spoke in Tisquantum’s native language but his accent was strange and unearthly.

“I do not know you, friend.” Tisquantum replied.

“I am Hobbomock to your people.”

“Are you here to steal my soul?”

“I have no wish for your soul. Kehtannit the great spirit, the one who created you, gave you a gift. I am not here to take it.”

“Why are you here?”

“To save you. To save your people.

“From whom?”

“The Pilgrims, the white man, the Christians, the conquerors from across the sea.”

“I have heard many tales about you from my ancestors. You are evil—a trickster. Why should I trust you?”

“You have lived among them. Do they see you as their equal?”

Hobbomock lifted the boiling stew from the fire with one great hand. The smell of burnt meat filled the air as his flesh sizzled from contact with the caldron. He poured liquid from the stew into the other open hand.

“Look,” he demanded.

The liquid in his open hand squirmed and moved as though filled with maggots and then images began to appear, images of the Wampanoag people. They were covered in bleeding sores from head to toe. The children were bleeding from their eyes and skin. Wounds covered in puss and blood. Tisquantum pulled away, unable to look further.

“These people, these Pilgrams are rats … vermin. They bring sickness to your people. You know in your heart it is true. You have seen it among your tribe already.” Hobbomock said.

“What am I to do? How can this be stopped?” Tisquantum pleaded.

“The feast will take place tomorrow. It will last three days. Leave your deer and bring a hatchet instead. You will feast on your hosts. You will feed off their pale white flesh.”

“We are peaceful people.”

“Remove the heads of their woman and children and put them on straight sharpened sticks to scare away others. Let them rot on these pikes. The heads are not to be removed … not ever. Other than their heads do not waste their remains. Tan their hides for clothes and moccasins. Use their bones for tools. Feed on their flesh.”

“I can’t … I can’t kill the innocent.”

“The innocent will die. The Wampanoag people are the innocent. Would you rather have your people die while the slave-holders and murderers live? Do you wish to save the children of the Wampanoag?”

“I don’t understand.”

“They came to these shores. They left their people. They came because they destroyed their own lands and want to destroy your land. They cut down the trees. They kill your animals and those of your ancestors. I am not evil. They are evil!”

“It is evil to eat a human being.”

“Then they are evil. When you were with the monks in Spain they spoke of eating the flesh of their savior. They talked of drinking his blood. They are evil.”

“I need time … I need time to think.”

Tisquantum turned to his guest but the spirit was gone. Where he sat lay a hatchet. The blade gleamed in the moonlight.

It took two hours to gather as many of his tribesman as he could. A huge bonfire was lit and one hundred and fifty Wampanoag gathered around it waiting to hear Tisquantum’s urgent message. Massasoit, the leader of the Wampanoag, was in attendance but did not appreciate the interruption. He did not like that Tisquantum was acting as the leader.

Tisquantum stood before the fire as his tribesman looked on. He spoke of the feast and of the words of Hobbomock. No one spoke, respecting Tisquantum’s words but not believing them.

Then Tisquantum heard a loud crack coming from the fire. A man appeared within the flames. He walked out and stood next to Tisquantum. His flesh was black as pitch. This time his skin looked like burning charcoal. The flesh was rough and cracked and between the cracks one could see fire underneath. The red in his eyes burned like embers.

“Tisquantum speaks the truth,” Hobbomock said. His deep, otherworldly voice snapped and cracked like the fire.

The normally stoic tribesman gasped in disbelief.

“The Pilgrims must die for the Wampanoag to live. Cut off their heads. Feed on their corpses. Do not spare women or children.” No one dared interrupt Hobbomock as he continued, “They have a single building that is made of hewn logs in the manner of the white man. It is their church. Burn it down along with all that is inside. It is a mockery of our beliefs. It is their excuse to take our land and enslave our people.” He clapped his hands and an explosion of sparks filled the air. He walked into the fire and disappeared.

The next day one hundred Wampanoag men came to the feast of the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims had not prepared enough meat to feed them all. The tribesmen were not concerned; they knew the meat sat around the table and not on it. There was more than enough meat.

The first winter had been hard on the Pilgrims and only fifty or so remained. They were all in attendance. This was to be a special celebration.

William Bradford welcomed the Wampanoag men and had Tisquantum and Massasoit sit next to him at the front of the great table. Once everyone was seated Mr. Bradford bowed his head in prayer and thanksgiving. It was a prayer Tisquantum had heard often when he lived among the monks.

While his head was bowed Tisquantum took the hatchet from his belt and swung down hard on the neck of his host. The thud and crack of bones caused the Pilgrims to look at Tisquantum. Mr. Bradford’s head rolled onto his plate. His lips were still speaking a wordless prayer. His eyes blinked despite the fact that the head they were set in was no longer attached to his body. The blood sprayed well past his place setting, as screams filled the air.

The head of Mr. Bradford was not to be alone for long. The Wampanoag used whatever blades and weapons they had to slice and chop the heads off of the Pilgrims seated near them. Some blades were not sharp and some deaths were not slow. Soon fifty heads were on the table. Blood filled the bowls and plates brought all the way from Europe to the new world.

The Pilgrims had already started fires for the feast and the Wampanoag took burning logs and tossed them into the wooden church. The church burst into flames.

The bodies were piled up like a cord of wood waiting to be cleaned and prepared for the feast. Their strange clothes were removed and burnt in the fires. The smell of burnt wool and fresh blood filled the air.

The Wampanoag woman came when they saw the great fire. They helped remove the entrails of the Pilgrims and fill their empty bellies with herbs and spices. The bodies were dismembered and the parts divided to be roasted or boiled in great cauldrons.

The feast lasted for three days. The Pilgrim’s heads decorated the table until the feast ended. The heads were impaled on sticks and fences to remain a warning to the white man.

Word got out about this first “Thanksgiving” feast. The Wampanoag became feared and respected. For a time the Pilgrims stopped coming. The white man feared the Wampanoag.

After a time, however, they did come. They brought their guns and disease. After a time Hobbomock could not stop the slaughter. In comparison, the first Thanksgiving looked like child’s play.

Copyright 2012(c)