THIS LAND IS THEIR LAND by David J. Silverman
Kirkus Star


The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving
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An impassioned, deeply knowledgeable history of the “first contacts” between the Indigenous peoples of the Americas and the English and Europeans, this time told from the Native side.

A scholar of Native American, Colonial, and racial history in America, Silverman (History/George Washington Univ.; Thundersticks: Firearms and the Violent Transformation of Native America, 2016, etc.) first orients readers toward what the landing Pilgrim scouts at Cape Cod in November 1620 would have actually seen in the environs: evidence of an undeniable Native civilization. As the author shows, the Wampanoag Indians had already adopted horticulture (maize, beans, squash); created a system of governance via individual sachems (chiefs), inherited through the male line; and established proprietorship of the land stretching back generations. Moreover, there had already been a history of violence between the Natives and the shipboard European explorers for at least 100 years, as the explorers often lured the Natives into unfair trade, which often led to violence, and spread fatal diseases that decimated their population. “The ease of some of the Wampanoags with the English,” writes the author, “suggests that there had been other more recent contacts than surviving documents report. At Martha’s Vineyard, thirteen armed men approached the Concord without any fear, as if they had experience with such situations.” Throughout this well-documented, unique history, Silverman offers a detailed look at the long, tortured relations between the two and captures the palpable sense of overall mourning after the aftermath of King Philip’s War and the attempt to annihilate (and assimilate) the Wampanoags—and their incredible ability to transcend the dehumanization and prevail. Ultimately, the author provides an important, heart-rending story of the treachery of alliances and the individuals caught in the crosshairs, a powerful history that clearly “exposes the Thanksgiving myth as a myth rather than history.” Silverman also includes a helpful “Glossary of Key Indian People and Places.”

An eye-opening, vital reexamination of America’s founding myth.

Pub Date: Nov. 5th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-63286-924-1
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2019