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

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  285 ratings  ·  63 reviews
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
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published November 5th 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing
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Start your review of This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
***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
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academic-history
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 ...more
Nov 14, 2019 rated it liked it
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
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, history
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 ...more
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 ...more
Reilly Tifft
Dec 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Truly a spectacular work of history.
David Hindman
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mark Walker
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Books, Tea, Healthy Me
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Kelly B
Nov 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Though a bit tedious and, at times, repetitive, this book is thoroughly enlightening and the subject important.
Dec 13, 2019 rated it liked it
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
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
**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
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
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.
Raughley Nuzzi
Jan 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, adult, nonfiction

An undoubtedly timely read on the eve of the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s arrival and the First Thanksgiving, David J. Silverman relates the historic event in a Wampanoag-centered narrative that challenges one of the United States’ founding myths, celebrated late each November.

Insightful and well-written, Silverman covers the history of the Wampanoags pre-contact with Europeans, throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and into present day. Beginning with an introduction to
Dec 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Strip away the costumes, pageants, and caricatures associated with American Thanksgiving and you're left with the 1620 English invasion the Wampanoag homeland. With decades of experience trading with Europeans, the Wampanoags were not awestruck by the Puritans' landing. Instead they sought trading and political partners to strengthen their standing against rivals such as the Narragansetts. The speed at which the struggling Pilgrims evolved into land grabbers and slave traders caught the Wampanoa ...more
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Feb 06, 2020 added it
A powerful, insightful, and well-written narrative history of the Wampanoag, whose territory encompassed Cape Cod and the Atlantic shoreline to the south of Boston when the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth in 1620. It re-constructs from very old records how the Wampanoag, their numbers already decimated by smallpox, helped and peacefully co-existed with the Plymouth Colony, while struggling against annihilation by the much larger and more mercantile Massachusetts Bay Colony to the north. It builds a ...more
Jan 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
I grew up in Plymouth, Massachusetts and surrounding towns, and even with a high school history professor who taught Zinn's A People's History alongside the conventional textbook, this is the most extensive history of the Wampanoag people from shortly before the arrival of the Mayflower on, and makes a good argument for consigning the old Thanksgiving pageants to the dustbin of harmful, outdated ideas (in case you needed convincing). I have seen at least one negative critique of this book for it ...more
Emily Bertholf
Feb 08, 2021 rated it liked it
A lot of us are becoming aware that, for many Native Americans, Thanksgiving is more of a Day of Mourning than a day of celebration or gratitude. But few non-indigenous Americans seem to care or know why.

This book is a deep dive into a more holistic look at early pre-colonial American history told through the perspectives of early European settlers and the Wampanoag Natives that had lived here for thousands of years before English settlement.

This is a much more nuanced, complex look at what lif
Sheila Mulcahy
Apr 18, 2021 rated it liked it
This Land is Their Land is a retelling of the history of the Indigenous Wampanoag of New England and the European Puritan settlers from what we learned as children about the meaning of Thanksgiving. It is NOT a day of celebration but a day of mourning. There is much academic research and rich history in this book and Silverman apologizes in his Introduction that he chose to pen this tome because it is still another example of a white man writing the Indian's story. He painstakingly tried to stay ...more
Susan Sevier
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
...Silverman tells a difficult story, and that story and the questions he asks are carefully gathered from the few first-hand accounts left to us by those who were there, and from the storied history carried from generation to generation to the hands of the living Wampanoag in our time. As a good historian, Silverman is careful to put heavy qualifications around his sources. These sources, no matter how spare and unscientific (by modern standards) do not paint a merry picture of two just-met gro ...more
Julian Pecenco
Oct 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I've long been interested in the history of the Indians of the East and Mid-Atlantic. Not only their early history, but more and more in what happened after the colonial era, how they struggled to survive as peoples in the 19th and 20th centuries. Silverman does covers both the early and the later history well. I particularly appreciated for example his exploration of the perceptions that the Wampanoag (or many other tribes) are not really "Indians" anymore because of racial mixing, loss of nati ...more
J. Dutilloy
May 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
The introduction focus on the creation of the Day of Mourning in 1990. This is the part that describe the history of Thanksgiving and how it is a pure creation of the Europeans with a colonialist viewpoint. Most of it is based on James W. Baker, also cited in this bibliography. The Epilogue focus more on the idea of reconciliation and how to move forward.

The rest of the book is focused on the pre republic era and is mostly factual.
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audible
So glad to have listened to this book! As we near the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower reviewing the history of what actually happened is a must. Hopefully the correct history of the settlements of Europeans and their interactions with the native populations will become the norm and the celebration of Thanksgiving will become what its name implies, a day of gratitude for all.
Fresno Bob
Sep 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
"No thanks, no giving".....for the Wampanoag, and many other Native Americans, the "Thanksgiving Myth" and the pagentry around it is a painful reminder of the massacre of their people and culture, and is being replaced by a National Day of Mourning. This book shines in the beginning and ending, somewhat of a slog in the middle as incidents of attrocity and thievery repeat themselves. ...more
I can’t rightly say I read the book. I read parts and then skimmed and skipped others. While the content is interesting, I needed the more brief or more compelling version. Maybe I’d just prefer a visual/documentary telling of events, but I appreciate the author’s intent of challenging the Thanksgiving myth with fact.
Edward Sullivan
An outstanding history offering a Wampanoag-centered narrative of the English invasion of New England. In vivid detail, Silverman contextualizes the first Thanksgiving mythos by placing Native diplomacy and actions at the center of the narrative, along with the relentless encroachment, brutal warfare, dispossession, and struggle for sovereignty in the longer aftermath of first contact.
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