Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving History Lesson Reset

Ever wondered about the "real" history of Thanksgiving? I broke it down last year, nothing like recycling a post - it's cut and paste below for your reading pleasure...

Somewhere along the way, Thanksgiving became a day to eat a lot, watch football, and try not to commit felonious assault against your relatives. Yes, this is what we have evolved Thanksgiving into, but let's talk about where it came from, shall we? From Wikipedia:
Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day, presently celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, has been an annual tradition in the United States since 1863. It did not become a federal holiday until 1941. Thanksgiving was historically a religious observation to give thanks to God, but is now primarily identified as a secular holiday.
The First Thanksgiving was celebrated to give thanks to God for helping the pilgrims survive the brutal winter. The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days providing enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Indians. The traditional Thanksgiving menu often features turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. Americans may eat these foods on modern day Thanksgiving, but the first feast did not consist of these items. On the first feast turkey was any type of fowl that the pilgrims hunted. Pumpkin pie wasn't on the menu because there were no ovens for baking, but they did have boiled pumpkin. Cranberries weren't introduced at this time. Due to the diminishing supply of flour there was no bread of any kind. The foods included in the first feast included duck, geese, venison, fish, lobster, clams, swan, berries, dried fruit, pumpkin, squash, and many more vegetables.
Pilgrims is a name commonly applied to early settlers of the Plymouth Colony in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts. Their leadership came from a religious congregation who had fled a volatile political environment in the East Midlands of England for the relative calm & tolerance of Holland in the Netherlands. Concerned with losing their cultural identity, the group later arranged with English investors to establish a new colony in North America. The colony, established in 1620, became the oldest continuously inhabited British settlement and the second successful English settlement (after the founding of Jamestown, Virginian 1607) in what was to become the United States of America. The Pilgrims' story of seeking religious freedom has become a central theme of the history and culture of the United States.
That all sounds well and good but as our dear, departed Malcolm X stated, "We didn't land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us." What a lot of these original (traditional) historic accounts fail to tell you is that the pilgrims were some grave-robbing, raping and killing, slave trading SOBs who were drop kicked out of their own countries. Smallpox was an Eurpoean disease until they wrapped it up in a blanket (literally) and delivered it to Native Americans like a Trojan Horse. Here's some interesting history from the United Native American Bureau:

The year was 1637.....700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe, gathered for their "Annual Green Corn Dance" in the area that is now known as Groton, Conn. While they were gathered in this place of meeting, they were surrounded and attacked by mercenaries of the English and Dutch. The Indians were ordered from the building and as they came forth, they were shot down. The rest were burned alive in the building. 
The next day, the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared: "A day of Thanksgiving, thanking God that they had eliminated over 700 men, women and children. For the next 100 years, every "Thanksgiving Day" ordained by a Governor or President was to honor that victory, thanking God that the battle had been won. 
The Pilgrims of New England, who came to this country in 1620, were not simple refugees from England fighting against oppression and religious discrimination. They were political revolutionaries and part of the Puritan movement, which was considered objectionable and unorthodox by the King of the Church of England. They were outcasts in their own country, plotting to take over the government, causing some of the settlers to become fugitives in their own country. 
These Puritan Pilgrims saw themselves as the "chosen elect", from the Bibles' Book of Revelations and traveled to America to build "The Kingdom of God", also from Revelations. Strict with the scripture, they considered an enemy of anyone who did not follow suit. These beliefs were eventually transmitted to the other colonists, and the Puritan belief system quickly spread across the New England area. 
Source: Documents of Holland, 13 Volume Colonial Documentary History, letters and reports form colonial officials to their superiors and the King in England and the private papers of Sir William Johnson, British Indian agent for the New York colony for 30 years. Researched by William B. Newell (Penobscot Tribe) Former Chairman of the University of Connecticut Anthropology Department.
Yes, the Pilgrims were some Original Gangstas, ya'll. I'm giving all of them the side-eye for the whole "manifest destiny" ideology. After reviewing the overwhelming evidence on the web about the history of Thanksgiving, I'm just going to go ahead and hate on the Pilgrims.
What do you think? Should children be taught the REAL story of Plymouth Rock or is it better to just leave well enough alone?


  1. PBS did an excellent documentary on this, the first part of 'We shall Remain". Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates is also a great account of the "real Thanksgiving".

  2. If I had children I would tell the real story. As a matter of fact, I would make sure that when my kid brought his pr her history book home I would "enhance" the learning experience by making sure they knew about the intentional infections of small pox, the infusion of alcohol to the vulnerable Native Americans, the criminal nature of those who chose to "Colonize" us, and the overall rape, pillage, and plunder of Europeans throughout history. I will let them know about the exploitation of immigrants of any other descent other than Europeans, and all this "America belongs to us!" crap should go right out the window. Because America really belongs to those who actually broke their backs and sacrificed their health, wealth, and well-being to be here.

    Start them out with truth along with the ability to research and present facts, and intelligent knowledgeable children will be the bane of existence to anyone who counts on the dumbing down of Americans and general laziness to succeed.

    I will now enjoy my Thanksgiving feast with the knowledge of what is actually behind it all.

  3. Love it! Thanks for telling it like it is.

  4. i would tell them what i know, point them in the way to find more info...with the small hope that with the knowledge, that they do not become cynical about this and other holidays (since 98% of holidays are 'bad' in origin/nature, it seems like); i hope that they can appreciate the point of the day, and come up with their reason to celebrate.

  5. it has to be the truth 500% - i speak as a south african, watching black teenagers today who have no idea what hell their own country was for black people 20 years ago, all because of our lack of commitment to tell the kids the stories of how we grew up - it was brutal, it was ugly, it was degrading - and in many respects, shaming. maybe that's why we don't wanna go there - but we MUST. otherwise our kids wonder why we make such a big deal about race issues, and that makes me wanna burst into the silent scream....

    suppression/whitewashing of our own history NEVER serves us. tell it like it is/was. it'll help kids understand why we are where we are today...

  6. In junior high school, in the early 1980's, we were taught this in school. Then again, I'm Canadian and our settlers had a very much different (though still not very fair, and actually quite subversive) relationships with the Native peoples. I believe truths should be told even if they're ugly. It would seem people would be treated better in the future if they knew how unfair people were treated in the past.

  7. Yep, someone once said "Those that don't know their history are doomed to repeat it"

  8. Wow thanks for the lesson Chele! I knew the Pilgrims were gangstas and originally were celebrating their victory over the Native Americans, but I didn't know all the details.

  9. Need to check with my daughter about this. *hangs head in shame*