• Gregory Shushan

The Earliest Native American NDEs: Before Thanksgiving (Historical NDE of the Month)


It's Thanksgiving in the United States, so I thought I'd post an indigenous Native American account for this month's historical NDE. Wampanoag people, a group of associated tribes that originated along the southern part of the Massachusetts coastline, attended the first Thanksgiving* with the pilgrim colonists in 1621. While I've been unable to find an account from a Wampanoag tribe, there are accounts from other Algonquian-speaking peoples of the Eastern Woodlands.


The two earliest were reported by the English explorer Sir Thomas Hariot (1560-1621) in his account of the first voyage to Virginia in 1585-86. That's over thirty-five years before the first Thanksgiving.


Interestingly, these accounts were said to have occurred prior to the arrival of any European colonists. But German scholar Jens Schlieter is not buying it. He classifies the accounts as European on the grounds that Hariot was European, and because they contain ideas that are incidentally similar to Christian afterlife concepts. In my review of Schlieter's book for the most recent issue of Journal of Near-Death Studies, I address the problems with his perspective. For those who are interested, I've included that discussion following the NDE accounts themselves.


To read the full accounts and the discussion, click here to become a Patron.


Enjoy! And as always, feel free to chime in with comments and questions!

*Pedantic note: technically speaking, the first first Thanksgiving was actually in Virginia in 1619, and did not include Native participants. Even earlier, however, Spanish and French colonists had Thanksgiving celebrations in the 16th century.

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Dr. Shushan is available for lectures, documentary film work, interviews, research, and other projects worldwide. 

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