Though the story of the first American Thanksgiving in which the Pilgrims host a great banquet to thank Native Americans who helped them survive the first winter, there is a darker history to the encounter.
The man behind that generosity, Tisquantum (Anglicized as Squanto), had been kidnapped by a British seafarer named Thomas Hunt in 1614 while Hunt was serving under Captain John Smith (he of Jamestown and the story of Pocahontas). Hunt sold Tisquantum — a Patuxet nation member, which was a part of the Wampanoag confederacy — into slavery in Spain, from which he eventually escaped. Tisquantum then signed up as an interpreter for a Newfoundland-bound ship, and made his way back to New England only to find that he was the sole survivor of a smallpox epidemic that claimed every other Patuxet. He is nonetheless credited with teaching basic survival skills, like planting and fishing, to the Pilgrims and helping them survive the harsh conditions, which was the reason for the November 1621 feast Americans now celebrate as Thanksgiving.
Tisquantum died in 1622, of smallpox.
“Reclaiming Their Voices: The Native American Vote in New Mexico” is an award-winning documentary film by Dorothy Fadiman that looks at the historical roots of the modern-day disenfranchisement of another Native people: the Laguna Pueblo. In it, she traces the historical roots of their oppression at the hands of Spanish colonists and their early efforts — led by Popé, depicted above — to overthrow their oppressors, as well as their modern-day fight for the right to vote and the freedom to access the polls, which Native Americans are still often denied.
Watch it in its entirety, courtesy of Dorothy Fadiman and Concentric Media, below.
Narrated by PETER COYOTE, this film is OSCAR-nominated, EMMY-winning, filmmaker Dorothy Fadiman’s latest documentary. "RECLAIMING Their VOICE" follows Native Americans in New Mexico taking a stand against injustice in the political process. Personal stories demonstrate how minority communities are using their voting rights as they participate more fully in elections. These stories capture a microcosm of growing awareness and activism which is taking root across the United States. In addition to documenting the Native American suffrage movement historically, the film follows a groundbreaking project led by the Laguna, NM Native community. Their efforts lead to significant positive changes in New Mexico state election law.
This story serves as a model for how other minority populations throughout the U.S. can work together to make sure they can cast their votes and that their votes will be counted.
This film documents:
* The Pueblo Revolt (1680)
* Wounded Knee (1890)
* The Sacred Alliance for Grassroots Equality's fight to protect
the sacred art of the Petroglyph National Monument
* The Pueblo of Laguna's 500 Voter Project
* The passage of legislation to ensure greater election security for Native Americans
* The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People