It is holiday season therefore I am going to touch on history and what we were taught that is wrong or miss leading or whatever ya wanna call it. It is not a slam on our teachers, they were likely taught the same. I’ll start, kinda at the beginning ….
There is a lot of information on this topic and some conflict but I am sticking to the major points the reputable references, both here and from England mutually support.
Often Hollywood, see, already absolving teachers, makes heros out of everyday people or paints people in history to be what they need for a better story. Remember the old line, “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a great story.” So they paint the settlers and pioneers and explorers, those on the geographic fringe of society as brave or curious or thirsting for knowledge. This is often part of the truth.
More often than not though, just like today, many who choose to live in the edges of society have chosen to do so because society has shunned them, cast them out or persecuted them or banished or … you get the idea. Watch the Movie Jeremiah Johnson and you get the impression.
Today we use the term Pilgrim to mean people in New England with buckles on their hats and pumpkins abound. Really all pilgrim means is someone who wanders to frontiers, often for religious reasons. The religion in this case is Puritan. Some Puritans were run out of England due to religious differences with England. The ones who remained in England temporarily overthrew the English parliament and suspended parliament for about 7 years from 1653 to 1660.
Some Puritans left England to the new world to form the Kingdom of God as foretold in The Book of Revelations. They intended to live in their own interpretation of the Bible and to claim their right to the new world as the founders of the Kingdom of God.
They did this with brutal force.
The interpretation of Thanksgiving that we were all taught is … well … fiction based on fact. Most I know have come to the realization that the Pilgrims did not feed the Indians, the Indians fed the Pilgrims. There is likely a mishmash of information from diaries from the settlers here that comes from both a hunting party in 1621 where the Pilgrims hunted for three days with the local Indians and a feast followed, as would any hunting trip, but no mention of thanksgiving. And 1623 when there was a drought that threatened to wipe out much of the crops but in the end, some were saved when rains finally came.
The earliest mention of a day of Thanksgiving in this settlement is in Governor Bradford’s Diary as a form of thanks to God for the rain that saved some of the crops to be held on November 29th, 1623 a day of Thanksgiving. The day itself is only relevant due to this being the date of which the Pilgrims sat down with the local Native tribes Wompenoag primarily as part of the Algonkian Nation of Indians, to negotiate a peace treaty.
The Iroquois and the Algonkian Nations were later, the ones still alive, interviewed by Ben Franklin to learn about their form of Government which led to the form we have in the Constitution.
Oh and, yes Squanto was there at the negotiation of the treaty. He spoke English and was previously baptized as a Christian. He had first traveled back to England with a wealthy Englishman. Then returned to the colonies and captured and sold into slavery in Spain. Then managed to escape back to England and again back to America. To this negotiation the Indians brought most of the food, due to the poor crop turn out due to the drought then rain.
The puritans later revoked that treaty and killed off most of the New England Indians or sold them into slavery. Boston was the hub for this slave trade. The Puritans felt they were on a holy mission and thus the Indians and their extermination was a holy war. This is expressed in the diaries and the historical accounts of that era.
To be fair, many connected with Plimoth [original spelling] Plantation, the society in charge of the diaries, interpret these rather liberally from what I can see. Simultaneously recognizing that there were Thanksgivings long before the one in New England, but that none of them are relevant cause they do not contribute to the story of Thanksgiving. They also interpret the Indians as the aggressors in spite of the diaries describing the planned raids prior to the attacks on the Indians. Ok …. Facts be damned! Full speed ahead.
Now, lets jump ahead to 1898. Why then? Because that is when Thanksgiving as we know it was formed but not official. It had had informal and unofficial forms prior to this but it was not till 1941that FDR proclaimed a national Holiday to fall on the 4th Thursday of the month of November. It started in this form in 1898 as part of the “Unification of America” movement after the Civil War to helps build a national identity. It was established permanently in 1941 to supposedly extend the Christmas shopping season. [not kidding, more than one source at that time reports that’s as FDR’s reason]
Many Native American tribes mark Thanksgiving as their National Day of Mourning. The intentional [wars] and unintentional [small pox] acts related to the settlers from Europe killed Millions of Natives. Not to mention the ones sold into slavery in Europe.
Here is the story we could and should adopt in my opinion. Thanksgiving is nothing new or unique to us. Agrarian cultures around the world dating back 10,000 years have had communal feasts where a community or group comes together to celebrate the bounty of a season. Some Indian tribes had as many as six thanksgivings a year. This is usually done with friends and family as a community essentially becomes family.
This is what Thanksgiving is to me. It is my favorite holiday. Mostly for the food. But also, as I have experienced in different forms, the coming together of our extended families to find in common our love and respect for those we depend upon as part of our common culture. With food. And possibly solve crimes … [TV reference few will get] Hat buckles optional.