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This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving

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Ahead of the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving, a new look at the Plymouth colony's founding events, told for the first time with Wampanoag people at the heart of the story. In March 1621, when Plymouth's survival was hanging in the balance, the Wampanoag sachem (or chief), Ousamequin (Massasoit), and Plymouth's governor, John Carver, declared their people's frien Ahead of the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving, a new look at the Plymouth colony's founding events, told for the first time with Wampanoag people at the heart of the story. In March 1621, when Plymouth's survival was hanging in the balance, the Wampanoag sachem (or chief), Ousamequin (Massasoit), and Plymouth's governor, John Carver, declared their people's friendship for each other and a commitment to mutual defense. Later that autumn, the English gathered their first successful harvest and lifted the specter of starvation. Ousamequin and 90 of his men then visited Plymouth for the “First Thanksgiving.” The treaty remained operative until King Philip's War in 1675, when 50 years of uneasy peace between the two parties would come to an end. 400 years after that famous meal, historian David J. Silverman sheds profound new light on the events that led to the creation, and bloody dissolution, of this alliance. Focusing on the Wampanoag Indians, Silverman deepens the narrative to consider tensions that developed well before 1620 and lasted long after the devastating war-tracing the Wampanoags' ongoing struggle for self-determination up to this very day. This unsettling history reveals why some modern Native people hold a Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving, a holiday which celebrates a myth of colonialism and white proprietorship of the United States. This Land is Their Land shows that it is time to rethink how we, as a pluralistic nation, tell the history of Thanksgiving.


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Ahead of the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving, a new look at the Plymouth colony's founding events, told for the first time with Wampanoag people at the heart of the story. In March 1621, when Plymouth's survival was hanging in the balance, the Wampanoag sachem (or chief), Ousamequin (Massasoit), and Plymouth's governor, John Carver, declared their people's frien Ahead of the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving, a new look at the Plymouth colony's founding events, told for the first time with Wampanoag people at the heart of the story. In March 1621, when Plymouth's survival was hanging in the balance, the Wampanoag sachem (or chief), Ousamequin (Massasoit), and Plymouth's governor, John Carver, declared their people's friendship for each other and a commitment to mutual defense. Later that autumn, the English gathered their first successful harvest and lifted the specter of starvation. Ousamequin and 90 of his men then visited Plymouth for the “First Thanksgiving.” The treaty remained operative until King Philip's War in 1675, when 50 years of uneasy peace between the two parties would come to an end. 400 years after that famous meal, historian David J. Silverman sheds profound new light on the events that led to the creation, and bloody dissolution, of this alliance. Focusing on the Wampanoag Indians, Silverman deepens the narrative to consider tensions that developed well before 1620 and lasted long after the devastating war-tracing the Wampanoags' ongoing struggle for self-determination up to this very day. This unsettling history reveals why some modern Native people hold a Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving, a holiday which celebrates a myth of colonialism and white proprietorship of the United States. This Land is Their Land shows that it is time to rethink how we, as a pluralistic nation, tell the history of Thanksgiving.

30 review for This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving

  1. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey

    Suffice to say, the story most of us have been taught about Thanksgiving and English settlement in the Plymouth Colony area is a bit on the sanitized and oversimplified side of things. Now while there is quite an abundance of literature out there that works to address the actual complexity of the matter, even these books still tend to address the history from a Pilgrim-centered point, as if they are still the primary players at the "start" of a fresh new nation. But the basic fact of the matter Suffice to say, the story most of us have been taught about Thanksgiving and English settlement in the Plymouth Colony area is a bit on the sanitized and oversimplified side of things. Now while there is quite an abundance of literature out there that works to address the actual complexity of the matter, even these books still tend to address the history from a Pilgrim-centered point, as if they are still the primary players at the "start" of a fresh new nation. But the basic fact of the matter is that they were just a ragged bunch who anchored ship right in the middle of Wampanoag territory - one of several indigenous nations that had existed in the area for quite some time already in various shapes and forms. So since it was in their backyard that it all began, why can't the focus be grounded on the indigenous side for a change? Thankfully, we now have precisely that much-needed shift of vantage point. Drawing upon everything that historical record can provide, David Silverman provides as rich a history of the Wampanoag tribe as one can possibly construct, stretching from pre-European contact through the beginnings of English settlement in the northeastern US, all the way up to the present day. This Land Is Their Land is a fantastic read for all those who want to give their historical perspective the long-overdue edit that has been necessary ever since whatever fateful day way back in school when we were presented with happy images of Pilgrims and feathered natives gathered around a cooked turkey.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    ***I was granted an ARC of this via Netgalley from the publisher.*** When we think of Thanksgiving we usually think of time spent with family and plates filled with traditional Thanksgiving food. We make allusions to the circumstances of the first Thanksgiving in decorations featuring friendly pilgrims and Indians and if one is in school or has children in school perhaps a Thanksgiving play. But rarely do we think about the true circumstances surrounding the first Thanksgiving and the fraught rea ***I was granted an ARC of this via Netgalley from the publisher.*** When we think of Thanksgiving we usually think of time spent with family and plates filled with traditional Thanksgiving food. We make allusions to the circumstances of the first Thanksgiving in decorations featuring friendly pilgrims and Indians and if one is in school or has children in school perhaps a Thanksgiving play. But rarely do we think about the true circumstances surrounding the first Thanksgiving and the fraught reality of the relations between the Pilgrim and the Native Americans. This Land is Their Land by Daniel J. Silverman does just that, shining a light on a part of history many of us know little about. In this book, Silverman reveals to the reader a brief history of native peoples to the Americas before focusing on the Wampanoags, the Native Americans the Pilgrims first encountered, and the surrounding native peoples. He describes the complex culture of these peoples before their encounter with Europeans and what occurred after contact leading up to the pilgrims, most of which ended violently. He then covers the interactions between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags and the reasons why the chief or sachem, Ousamequin, decided to establish relations with the Pilgrims. Silverman does an excellent job examining the relationship between the two groups and why they made the decisions they made which eventually ended in King Phillips War and almost destruction of the Native American culture in New England. However, Silverman highlights the strength of the Native Americans, their ability to adapt and resist erasure both physically and in history while encouraging the reader to take steps in their own lives to acknowledge the truth surrounding the first Thanksgiving. This is an excellent book that should be recommended reading for every American. Rating: 5 stars. Would highly recommend to a friend.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This is a really personal and in-depth narrative of the relationships between Europeans and the Narragansett and Wampanoag nations in what’s now Massachusetts. It makes it clear how informed the Wampanoag were about the Europeans and how cautious they were and the plans they made to handle them. The personal relationships, the way Christianity worked, the gradual population surge of Europeans and their land use—it’s all so carefully laid out. This story had all been summarized in a couple senten This is a really personal and in-depth narrative of the relationships between Europeans and the Narragansett and Wampanoag nations in what’s now Massachusetts. It makes it clear how informed the Wampanoag were about the Europeans and how cautious they were and the plans they made to handle them. The personal relationships, the way Christianity worked, the gradual population surge of Europeans and their land use—it’s all so carefully laid out. This story had all been summarized in a couple sentences for me before but now I have a sense of all the nuance. The first Thanksgiving was much more complex than we think about. The greatest takeaway I had was how sad it is for current members of the Wampanoag nation and even other Indian groups to only hear about themselves at Thanksgiving and then the story is told that they just disappeared and aren’t around anymore. But they are still here and they deserve to be included as a more full part of the story than just as victims that disappeared. I loved the stories of the women leaders and the many Indians who crossed to England and Spain and then came back. They were pretty well informed. Tragically so many of them were sold into slavery in the Caribbean and in later years were kept in bondage to Europeans in ways that were essentially slavery. But in the early years, many learned English and were familiar with English law and used the courts to their advantage and advocated for themselves. The equality in agency of all groups was impressive. As was the desire of the Wampanoag to retain their identity and land and rights.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    Another timely read for both Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Month, it is long past time to hear the "real" story behind the sanitized version children are often taught. Silverman shows that the stories you were likely taught if you were educated in the US are...not very true. From the founding of Plymouth to the now-known genocide of Native people, Silverman shows what is likely a much more accurate version of what happened. It's an informative book but it also wasn't quite what I thou Another timely read for both Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Month, it is long past time to hear the "real" story behind the sanitized version children are often taught. Silverman shows that the stories you were likely taught if you were educated in the US are...not very true. From the founding of Plymouth to the now-known genocide of Native people, Silverman shows what is likely a much more accurate version of what happened. It's an informative book but it also wasn't quite what I thought it would be. I thought it would be more focused on the concept of Thanksgiving itself, instead of a more in-depth history. Which is not wrong but I perhaps went into the book with a slightly different idea of what it is. I also found it to be a tough read, not for the content (which in itself was interesting), but the author's writing style. He's a professor and...you can tell. I could very easily see this book as something that shows up in a syllabus for a class of the history of the US settlements and colonies, a class on Native history, etc. but it wasn't "light" reading at all. Which is not to take away from the text but I'd recommend you take your time with the book to really learn from it but don't expect it to fly by , either. Library borrow was best for a non-school reader, I think.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    An informative book about The Wampanoag Indians and the Thanksgiving myth. It opened up my eyes to some of the history we've been taught about Thanksgiving, and I'm glad I now have that view. While I learned a lot from this book, it was a really difficult read. It was more of a textbook than a nonfiction book in my opinion. The book also covered different topics than I was expecting. I enjoyed learning about The Wampanoags way of life (before being taken over by the colonists) and how the actual An informative book about The Wampanoag Indians and the Thanksgiving myth. It opened up my eyes to some of the history we've been taught about Thanksgiving, and I'm glad I now have that view. While I learned a lot from this book, it was a really difficult read. It was more of a textbook than a nonfiction book in my opinion. The book also covered different topics than I was expecting. I enjoyed learning about The Wampanoags way of life (before being taken over by the colonists) and how the actual Thanksgiving went down but most of the book extended all the way to the late 1600s. Either way, it's always a joy to have more knowledge about history.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca L.

    THIS LAND IS THEIR LAND by David J. Silverman provides an impeccably well researched account of the true events that transpired surrounding the holiday that the United States celebrates as "Thanksgiving.." The text is illuminated with pertinent illustrations that help to bring the history of of the Wampanoag to life. This extensive book examines the history of the indigenous peoples that inhabited the United States before the white settlers came to America. Silverman shows that the Wampanoag and THIS LAND IS THEIR LAND by David J. Silverman provides an impeccably well researched account of the true events that transpired surrounding the holiday that the United States celebrates as "Thanksgiving.." The text is illuminated with pertinent illustrations that help to bring the history of of the Wampanoag to life. This extensive book examines the history of the indigenous peoples that inhabited the United States before the white settlers came to America. Silverman shows that the Wampanoag and other tribes possessed their own complex civilization before pilgrims set foot on Plymoth Rock. Silverman does not shy away from the stark realities regarding the interactions between Europeans and Native Americans. Using a vast amount of historical evidence, he brings to light the often times shameful ways that the United States has dealt with the Indians. This is an excellent book for those who are interested in learning about the hidden side of history.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Reilly Tifft

    Truly a spectacular work of history.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Renee (The B-Roll)

    READ THIS BOOK.

  9. 4 out of 5

    David Hindman

    An enlightening and important story of the true relationships between the Indians and colonists of Plymouth. The myth we learned in school is not what really transpired.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mark Walker

    Once you start reading this book it is likely you will continue with it to the end—this is gripping documented history that will have you on the edge of your seat in some parts, and shaking your head in others at how stupid humans can be. The time period covered is from near pre-history to our own contemporary time. Prepare for a clear eyed view of New England history (Hint: It's not peace and love between whites and Native Americans at a first Thanksgiving). The English and the Indians each had Once you start reading this book it is likely you will continue with it to the end—this is gripping documented history that will have you on the edge of your seat in some parts, and shaking your head in others at how stupid humans can be. The time period covered is from near pre-history to our own contemporary time. Prepare for a clear eyed view of New England history (Hint: It's not peace and love between whites and Native Americans at a first Thanksgiving). The English and the Indians each had their faults, both moral and cultural; the differences appear to be in power and willingness to use it, exacerbated by different concepts of private and communal—as it still is today. David J. Silverman is open about his thorough approach to historical documentation, and the Native American and English sources consulted to produce the most accurate account possible with currently extant sources. This adds to the confidence the reader may have in the veracity of the content in this book. The effect of this factual presentation is lasting. From the historical account in this book it appears to me that "King Philip’s War (Metacom’s Rebellion)" in 1675-1676 was the inflection point for the acceleration of Native Americans' downward spiral from being independent nations. After that it was not much of a stretch to see the future coming of the Trail of Tears perpetrated by Andrew Jackson against Native Americans in the South—for the same expansionist reasons. Zoom out from the narrative and you may see in the Europeans remnants of the Roman Empire, with its impetus for military conquest and taking of slaves. After Constantine it was a common presumption that the Empire was one and the same as the Kingdom of Jesus. The Native Americans who were "Praying Indians" embraced Christianity without the perspective of being part of European oriented Christendom—they studied the Bible and applied the Gospels through other than a European lens. One possible result of the 21st Century thoughts described in this book might be the reorientation of our Thanksgiving holiday. We may dispense with the silly Pilgrim/Indian motifs, and instead embrace a Thanksgiving for all humanity. Let's hope that is sooner than later.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    a really crucial paradigm shifter - so emphatically appreciate the overall thesis of the book. Definitely a very deep deep textbook-like dive into the nitty gritty, though, which I found I lacked patience (or time) for. Some nice summary quotes: "The Thanksgiving myth promotes the idea that this event involved Indians gifting their country bloodlessly to Europeans and their descendants to launch the United States as a great Christian, democratic, family-centered nation blessed by God. Yet nothing a really crucial paradigm shifter - so emphatically appreciate the overall thesis of the book. Definitely a very deep deep textbook-like dive into the nitty gritty, though, which I found I lacked patience (or time) for. Some nice summary quotes: "The Thanksgiving myth promotes the idea that this event involved Indians gifting their country bloodlessly to Europeans and their descendants to launch the United States as a great Christian, democratic, family-centered nation blessed by God. Yet nothing of the sort took place in the fall of 1621. The Wampanoags' alliance with Plymouth was not about conceding to colonialism. Their hope was that the English would provide them with military backing, martial supplies, and trade goods that would enable them to fend off the Narragansetts while they tried to recover from their losses to the epidemic of 1616-19. Once they returned to strength, they certainly expected to continue exercising dominion in their country over anyone living there, the English included." "If the Wampanoags are as much our fellow Americans as the descendants of the Pilgrims, and if their history can be as instructional and inspirational as that of the English, then why continue to tell a Thanksgiving myth that focuses exclusively on the colonialists' struggle rather than theirs?" "Dispense with the Thanksgiving myth, and focus more on the sentiment of being grateful." Amen.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Books, Tea, Healthy Me

    Wow. I'm not sure I will ever look at Thanksgiving, and especially the traditional images of the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock, the same way ever again. There is a lot of information to digest in this book. Very eye-opening. Thank you to NetGalley for my copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Wow. I'm not sure I will ever look at Thanksgiving, and especially the traditional images of the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock, the same way ever again. There is a lot of information to digest in this book. Very eye-opening. Thank you to NetGalley for my copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Christian Matyi

    The raves are well merited, but let me flesh out a bit more with my experience reading the book itself. Silverman is a VERY clever writer indeed, and throughout the narrative kept an easy and accessible pace. Never overburdened, yet never flitting, the author managed to juggle the complex intertwining of characters, places and events in a way that was so easy to follow I was often pausing and impressed with the presentation itself! Now, fair disclaimer; I am from exact and specific regions discus The raves are well merited, but let me flesh out a bit more with my experience reading the book itself. Silverman is a VERY clever writer indeed, and throughout the narrative kept an easy and accessible pace. Never overburdened, yet never flitting, the author managed to juggle the complex intertwining of characters, places and events in a way that was so easy to follow I was often pausing and impressed with the presentation itself! Now, fair disclaimer; I am from exact and specific regions discussed in the story, so I bring to the book a clear picture of geographic detail. This could have made my read easier, but I think not; I do believe it is accessible to anyone from anywhere, without depth of knowledge about New England. granted, one might want to always keep a map or two handy while reading, but let's be honest: tat is ALWAYS a good idea when reading history, and not a failure of the text, which peppers a few map illustrations throughout. I have not talked about the themes and topics at length because, in just about EVERY review I have seen, so many of the accolades and delight I would have given the book are already emphatically stated. He just does such a phenomenal job. The complexity of the stories and the way they interweave characters and incidents is high intrigue unto itself – it makes the plot lines of white fictional commodities like Game Of Thrones seem simplistic! That is NOT an exaggeration – this is jaw-dropping story drama, and none of it is fabricated; the facts are so unbelievably complex and densely woven as to need a breath from time to time just to wrap your brain around it. And yet, Silverman keeps you grounded and clear on all parties and places; for such intense complexity, you will not get lost. There is something additional I consider, however. I am a white man from Massachusetts. Throughout, I was wondering if the impacts of the story was somehow due to some coded means of communicating that I know yet can't consciously describe. I am not sounding mystical, but just comparing to how easily digested this book was for me. I have read a few histories of American Indians, but usually written by Indigenous authors themselves. This Ione felt just a little different, and it was to my benefit, as I was often emotionally connecting. I kept puzzling if it was just flatly that Silverman is a good writer of history, or if there was baked into it some code of white pacing that I pick up on even if I can't directly point to. Either way, the point of the comment was that it digests VERY well. Not always comfortably – nor should it. But as I mentioned I was emotionally connecting w with story beats throughout, in a way that resonated within me and helped me integrate historical ideas I may have had familiarity with, but hadn't yet emotionally felt impact from (and hadn't even realized I hadn't!). The only flaw (and it is SO minor that I will not downgrade my review) is how he briskly travels the last 150 years or so. Now, I know that would literally double the size of the book, and here we are focusing on the origins of the American Thanksgiving myth, and the story of the continent during the Wampanoag, but nonetheless you feel the speed-up in the last 40 or so pages. Now, as I mentioned it is minor, and not really a true flaw. I figured I would mention it because I would have loved to have known about the speed-up so I could anticipate it. I would be lying to say I didn't want to read this again. That is a RARE response from me; I am a classic "one-and-done" reader, especially with non-fiction. But this gem of a history is nothing short of being one of the most important texts I've read in my 50 years on this rock. I am at once grateful and energized to continue seeking change. Thank you Mr. Silverman. Thank you so much.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Great read for a timeline of New England Native Americans, especially the Wampanoags, and their interactions with colonists (though the events in the book actually start at first recorded history of Natives in the area). I realized that I'm most interested in Native culture and spiritual beliefs, which is not a focus of this book. As such, I learned a lot but it was a dense, textbook-like read focusing mainly on political moves between the colonists and Wampanoags. Still well worth it for the in Great read for a timeline of New England Native Americans, especially the Wampanoags, and their interactions with colonists (though the events in the book actually start at first recorded history of Natives in the area). I realized that I'm most interested in Native culture and spiritual beliefs, which is not a focus of this book. As such, I learned a lot but it was a dense, textbook-like read focusing mainly on political moves between the colonists and Wampanoags. Still well worth it for the information conveyed.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Filled with myth busting facts, DS describes a more realistic initial Thanksgiving rife with power conflicts, survival politics and human greed. Sadly, this book impressed me with the horrific degradation of native people by invading Europeans. This nation began with racial and ideological conflict and it is still rife today. Too sad: the whole story became too demoralizing to me and I opted to not finish the book. Maybe a bit of ostrich in me, but this history became too depressing for me.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    I listened to the audiobook. I think the subject material was great, super informative but I just could not get into this book. The 2 stars is purely on me- I couldn’t focus on the material. It is a dense book on an interesting time in history. If you enjoy that type of book then definitely pick this up.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kelly B

    The stories we perpetuate are often shadows of the truth. This in-depth, thoroughly researched book gives context and insight into the real story of colonization, treatment of the Native people, and Thanksgiving.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Though a bit tedious and, at times, repetitive, this book is thoroughly enlightening and the subject important.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Smith

    Required reading.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mari

    There are many good and thorough reviews here to tell you why this book should be a must read for all. It not only busts the Thanksgiving myth but also shows how the Northeast was just as culpable in the destruction and genocide of Native Americans as Andrew Jackson, Custer et al. I felt heartened by Silverman's closing comments about current Wampanoag efforts to bring back their language and culture. Talk about resilience and persistence. It's a big book and takes some effort to read - but stay There are many good and thorough reviews here to tell you why this book should be a must read for all. It not only busts the Thanksgiving myth but also shows how the Northeast was just as culpable in the destruction and genocide of Native Americans as Andrew Jackson, Custer et al. I felt heartened by Silverman's closing comments about current Wampanoag efforts to bring back their language and culture. Talk about resilience and persistence. It's a big book and takes some effort to read - but stay with it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    I thought I had a pretty decent grasp of the problems with the Thanksgiving myth, but this deep dive into Wampanoag culture--before, during, and after Plymouth--made me realize how little I actually knew. Silverman distills massive amounts of research into an incredibly readable narrative. Highly recommended!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This book took a long time to read! Typically I can wiz through them, but I had to slow down, re-read and think about what I was reading. It tilted academic and as a result, may not be accessible to all. However, it felt very well researched and I really appreciate the journey it took me on. I learned so much and I highly recommend the book to those looking to understand our past and what really happened between the Wampanoag Indians and Colonists.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gracie

    TW: Use of the N word in chapter nine, in reference to how Indigenous and African biracial descendants were referred to by colonists. Also, occasional use of the word *Indian* in reference to Indigenous peoples -- the author does clarify reasoning for use. Another thing to note is that this book does discuss smallpox and other disease epidemics, wars and battles and the genocide of the Indigenous peoples of the United States during the colonial period as well as some instances of racism and prej TW: Use of the N word in chapter nine, in reference to how Indigenous and African biracial descendants were referred to by colonists. Also, occasional use of the word *Indian* in reference to Indigenous peoples -- the author does clarify reasoning for use. Another thing to note is that this book does discuss smallpox and other disease epidemics, wars and battles and the genocide of the Indigenous peoples of the United States during the colonial period as well as some instances of racism and prejudice that these peoples experience today (including an incidence of police brutality) if this is something that could be triggering to you I would not recommend reading this book. However I personally found this book very educational and a good jumping off point for continuing to learn more about the history of Indigenous Peoples here in the U.S. and issues they still face today, and how to better understand them with the intent to be an ally to Indigenous communities and people.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    **I received an advanced readers copy of this book through NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Simply, this is a necessary read. Though academic in tone, Silverman constructs a very detailed history of the indigenous peoples of New England and their constant struggle with the arrival of European settlers starting in the 1600s. I found the layer of details so fascinating, most of which has never been discussed or taught in history classes in the United States. It's a hea **I received an advanced readers copy of this book through NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Simply, this is a necessary read. Though academic in tone, Silverman constructs a very detailed history of the indigenous peoples of New England and their constant struggle with the arrival of European settlers starting in the 1600s. I found the layer of details so fascinating, most of which has never been discussed or taught in history classes in the United States. It's a heartbreaking and maddening history of the Wampanoag Indians; Silverman does provide a look at the Wampanoags in contemporary times as well. Over 400 pages, with 100 pages of endnotes (a historian's dream!), this is a must read for anyone who wishes to know the true story of Thanksgiving and how relations between the indigenous peoples and the European settlers truly evolved over time.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jo Stafford

    Rich in detail, This Land is Their Land is one of the finest books on Native American history I’ve ever read. This is more than an unpacking of the myths surrounding the origins of Thanksgiving. Silverman’s sympathetic and informative account of Wampanoag history analyzes the events that led to the conflict the English colonists dubbed King Philip’s War. He examines the increasing pressures the Wampanoag people faced, delves into intertribal and intratribal dynamics, and exposes English betrayal Rich in detail, This Land is Their Land is one of the finest books on Native American history I’ve ever read. This is more than an unpacking of the myths surrounding the origins of Thanksgiving. Silverman’s sympathetic and informative account of Wampanoag history analyzes the events that led to the conflict the English colonists dubbed King Philip’s War. He examines the increasing pressures the Wampanoag people faced, delves into intertribal and intratribal dynamics, and exposes English betrayal of their erstwhile allies. This is solid, in-depth history, written not only to illuminate the past but with an eye on a more just future committed to truth-telling - a future that includes a strong, resilient Wampanoag nation.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Julian Pecenco

    I initially read this book because it was about the Thanksgiving holiday, but it actually has very little about said holiday in it... which is entirely the point. I was already aware of the Thanksgiving myth and the overall issues surrounding it, but apparently very few of the historical details. While occasionally getting bogged down in names, and sometimes confusingly jumping from one time period to another, the book provided me with much needed context to better understand why Thanksgiving is I initially read this book because it was about the Thanksgiving holiday, but it actually has very little about said holiday in it... which is entirely the point. I was already aware of the Thanksgiving myth and the overall issues surrounding it, but apparently very few of the historical details. While occasionally getting bogged down in names, and sometimes confusingly jumping from one time period to another, the book provided me with much needed context to better understand why Thanksgiving is problematic. Even to one who stopped believing in the Thanksgiving myth long ago, the book was still both eye-opening and heartbreaking.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joy

    This book was wonderful and obviously painstakingly researched. I see a lot of reviews saying that it was hard to read because it read like a textbook; however, that was not my experience at all. I learned so much while remaining captivated the whole time. I especially love how the author puts everything into context and prompts points of reflection for the reader. The suggestions of how we can improve the perception around indigenous people were especially helpful and intriguing to read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Keith Yocum

    Excellent, slightly over detailed version of the Native American demise in the Northeast. Sad, demoralizing tale...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Fischman

    Literally nothing I was taught in school fifty years ago about the landing at Plymouth, the origins of Thanksgiving, or even American Indian culture in the 1600's was true. Before the Mayflower ever landed, European traders had repeatedly made contact with Wampanoag and other Native American people. At best, the British, French, and Dutch had done business and left. All too often, they had abducted some of the people they were dealing with to use them as curiosities, slaves, or translators. (Wher Literally nothing I was taught in school fifty years ago about the landing at Plymouth, the origins of Thanksgiving, or even American Indian culture in the 1600's was true. Before the Mayflower ever landed, European traders had repeatedly made contact with Wampanoag and other Native American people. At best, the British, French, and Dutch had done business and left. All too often, they had abducted some of the people they were dealing with to use them as curiosities, slaves, or translators. (Where did I think "Squanto" had learned the language?) Furthermore, they were filthy foreigners who brought in diseases against which the natives had developed no antibodies, which was why whole areas were depopulated before the landings at Plymouth or at Massachusetts Bay. When they landed, they had every reason to know they were invading a civilized people's home. The Wampanoags had moved inland for the winter, but the frames of what we would call their wigwams were still standing, their fields were still marked, their trails were still clear, and their caches of seed were buried tidily for later use. These were not even hunter-gatherers: they were farmer-fishers, and the Plymouth colonists had every reason to know that. From the Wampanoag point of view, these bedraggled white people were not to be trusted, but they did have some attractive qualities: they were few, initially, and they had good technology and weapons. One sachem (chief), the Massasoit, by the name of Ousamequin, adopted the strategy of trying to use the Plymouth colony as allies (or at the very least as a buffer zone) against his enemies, the Narragansetts, and as a source of stuff he could use in bargaining with farther-away nations like the Mohawks and the Iroquois. His initial idea seems to have been that he could keep the European under his sway like the Nipmucs, another smaller group. But the number of English rapidly grew, especially up around Boston, and the balance of power was upset. From being accepted as vassals, the Plymouth colony more and more began laying down the law to their Wampanoag and Narragansett neighbors. In the generation after Ousamequin, his sons Wamsutta and Pumetacom (known to the English as Alexander and Philip) were pressured into alienating more and more land from their tribal patrimony and forced to allow English courts to try and punish members of their own Wampanoag nation--in part as an excuse to take their land. Some of the Indians became Christian because they hoped the Christian God would be powerful enough to protect them against the smallpox and other plagues the white people had brought among them. Some did so because, being Christian, they could live in "praying villages" and not be displaced by land-hungry colonists. Eventually, in "King Philip's War" and other bloody conflicts, the Wampanoags and some of their allies fought back. But it was too late. With the Mohawks on the side of the English, the praying villages sitting it out, and even the anticolonials having a hard time maintaining a united front, the revolt was doomed. Thousands were killed; thousands more, sold into slavery. "The colonies seized nearly all the territory of the Indians they had defeated as the spoils of war." (349) And the colonists had a day of thanksgiving. As you can see, this book is arranged around the dramatic arc of the Wampanoag's betrayal by the European colonists. The last couple of chapters deal with the post-history up to the present day. Whereas the earlier chapters are painstakingly detailed to the point that you feel like you were there for every trade, argument, trial, and battle, the later ones pass like a bad dream.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Raughley Nuzzi

    This Land is Their Land presents a devastating history of the subjugation of the Wampanoag tribe in southern New England over the course of a few hundred years. The first 2/3 of the book are devoted to the first two centuries of contact with Europeans, from slaving/fishing/trading expeditions up and down the coast through "King Philip's War" in 1675-6. The final chapters focus on the crushing fallout of native defeat in 1676. The book puts paid to the Thanksgiving myth as most often presented in This Land is Their Land presents a devastating history of the subjugation of the Wampanoag tribe in southern New England over the course of a few hundred years. The first 2/3 of the book are devoted to the first two centuries of contact with Europeans, from slaving/fishing/trading expeditions up and down the coast through "King Philip's War" in 1675-6. The final chapters focus on the crushing fallout of native defeat in 1676. The book puts paid to the Thanksgiving myth as most often presented in American culture and educational settings. The whitewashing is more egregious than one might suspect, in large and small ways. One of the things that I found this book did remarkably well was to humanize the key players on the Wampanoag side of history. It avoids the trap of idealizing the actors as "noble savages" or as being faultless innocents in their dealings with the Europeans. The fates of Tisquantum, Epenaw, and Pumetacom serve as good examples of the locals' motivations being at least as complex as the Europeans. For example, Tisquantum apparently made efforts to play both sides off each other, leveraging his position as one of very few interlocutors available to increase his own wealth and power. This type of nuance and agency is so frequently left out not just of the Thanksgiving myth, but of American textbooks, that I was surprised at being surprised to learn such detail. I enjoyed this book greatly, exclaiming out loud several times upon learning startling or upseting information. I found myself rooting for the natives in their struggles against the Europeans. As the conflicts ground to their historical (though not inevitable) outcomes, the book ended with a spark of hope given some amount of revivalism and reform taking place in the early 21st century. Here's to hoping that the changes the author references in his epilogue are not mirages but have a lasting impact on national narratives around colonial-indigenous relationships and the exploitation of the people we like to pretend invited the Pilgrims to settle Plymouth.

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