Indigenous Peoples Day Fact Check: Thanksgiving Celebrates Native Tribe Massacre?

Ahead of Indigenous Peoples Day on Oct. 11, 2021, there are many theories that claimed Thanksgiving originated from the 1637 massacre of the Pequot people. Many theories stated that in the aftermath of the massacre, the governor of Massachusetts declared a day of Thanksgiving, in celebration.

What's the Claim?

A Facebook post reads, "In 1637, white colonizers turned on the Pequot tribe who had taught them to farm, take care of the land, and raise food. The white male colonizers slaughtered 700 Pequot men, women, children, and elders, and then celebrated. They "gave thanks" for the massacre they had just carried out. They continued celebrating like this when they massacred indigenous people until Lincoln decreed the celebration should only happen once a year after he himself had ordered the massacre of a group of indigenous people."

Fact-checking website Snopes has recently debunked the myth surrounding Thanksgiving.

What's the Truth?

While the Pequot massacre did indeed take place, Snopes spoke to historians and learned that there is little evidence to prove that it was the origin point of the modern holiday known as Thanksgiving.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade 2017
Santa Claus makes his way down Central Park West during the 91st is Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., November 23, 2017. Reuters

Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the U.S. It has long been celebrated as a secular holiday as well. As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, "as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God".

The Pequot massacre of 1637 resulted in the deaths of several hundred indigenous people.

According to Snopes, the main narrative around Thanksgiving is that it is modeled on a feast in 1621 when the Native American Wampanoag people and English colonists broke bread together. But that story obscures the context around this feast. Native American activists and historians have long highlighted the history of genocide and displacement of indigenous communities surrounding the arrival of colonists on the shores of what would become the United States of America. Since the 1970s, a group of New England Native activists have marked the fourth Thursday in November, or Thanksgiving Day, as the "National Day of Mourning."

According to Snopes, the incorrect association of Thanksgiving to the Pequot massacre is a small part of a larger obscuring of the full context and origins of Thanksgiving over the years, something experts seek to correct today. Hence, the fact-checking website has rate this claim as "false."