As we all know, today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States of America. No surprise, right?
Well, in my not-so-humble opinion, a lot of you reading this would be surprised to find out how many people living in this country view Thanksgiving, myself included. You see, today is one single day that has been appointed as something special by a people that didn’t seem to have understood the very simplest thing about being Thankful. To even think that one, single day has to be appointed in order to remind folks that we should be thankful is, to me at least, an insult.
It all began, in this country, a very long time ago. It all began with one race of people thinking they were superior to another. It all began with a group of people giving thanks in a way that I will never understand.
When the Pilgrims came aground in the “New Land” in 1620 they seemed to have overlooked the fact that the land on which they wanted to settle was already inhabited. But never the less, these men, women and children stayed in makeshift shelters that they hastily built to protect themselves from the harsh winter in what is now New England.
In order to survive the first few weeks, they explored and found “artificial mounds” in which they began to dig. You would think that once they discovered these “mounds” were actually graves of the Native People of the area they would have stopped, but the Pilgrims continued to dig and finally exhumed the offerings of Maize (corn) that had been left behind. They also found several Native built structures from which the inhabitants had run away; from those houses they STOLE more corn and various types of beans.
Then they gave thanks to God for the food that they had "found". (To me this is hypocrisy. To steal from others, be they dead or alive, and then give thanks to God for "blessing" you with the very things that you stole is beyond my comprehension.)
Thus it all began. The White People stepped foot on this land and one of the very first things they did was steal from the Peoples that were already here, both the living and the dead. Do I see a theme developing??
Anyway, shortly thereafter the Pilgrims became ill and more than half of them died that first winter. There were several encounters with Native Peoples during this time. Several times the Pilgrims were fired upon by Natives who had already had some bad experiences with the White People.
(History fact unknown to many: The local people were already familiar with the English, who had intermittently visited the area for fishing and trade before the Mayflower arrived. In the Cape Cod area, relations were poor following a visit several years earlier by Thomas Hunt. Hunt kidnapped twenty people from Patuxet (the place that would become New Plymouth) and another seven from Nausett, and he attempted to sell them as slaves in Europe. Source : Wikipedia)
An ally among the Native People came forward. A Patuxet Native by the name of Tisquantum, now known as Squanto, helped the Pilgrims recover from the bitter and deadly winter they had just survived. Although Tisquantum had been kidnapped by Thomas Hunt for the purpose of being sold into slavery, then rescued by the Monks, thus learning the English language, and had, upon his return to his homeland, found that his People had been wiped out by disease that had been spread by the English, he still found it in his heart to help the settlers. (This very fact makes him a better person than I will ever be.)
Because of his assistance, the Pilgrims were able to not only survive, but to prosper. In 1621 the Pilgrims held a three day feast to celebrate their first successful harvest in the “New World” and to give thanks to God for all of their blessings.
Without the help of Tisquantum, who became the guide and translator for the settlers, the Pilgrims would never have survived. Tisquantum helped them not only learn how to plant, fertilize and harvest the foods that allowed to to feed themselves, but he was also the main reason for the peace between the settlers and the Wampanoag People that lasted for 50 years after his death.
Now, the fact that there was, historically, peace between the two groups for 50 or so years does NOT mean that there were no problems between the settlers and the Native Peoples of the “New World.” There were.
Now that I have given you a brief (or maybe not so brief) history lesson, let me point out a few things.
In return for the assistance the Pilgrims received from the Peoples of this land, their descendants gave assistance in return. They assisted the Peoples by giving them blankets that had been used by victims of smallpox, thus “assisting” the Natives in decreasing their population. They assisted by taking “unsettled” land, thus forcing the Native Peoples to either flee or fight. They assisted by destroying, raping and burning. They assisted by lying, stealing, cheating and murdering. They assisted by destroying the very land they “settled”. All the while, they observed a “day” of Thanksgiving each year.
For the Native Peoples of this land, Thanksgiving is not a noun. It is a verb. Thanksgiving is not a day, it is a concept. The Peoples of this land hold the idea of giving Thanks as a sacred ideal. Every day is a reason for Thanksgiving.
So, as you enjoy your football games, as you complain about how stuffed you are from the turkey, stuffing and gravy, as you enjoy the warmth and comfort of your family and friends, please find time to try one new thing. Try to realize that today is nothing special. It is a LEGAL Holiday, it is a day off of work, a day for friends and family. Thanksgiving, however, is what each and every one of us should do as soon as we wake in the morning. It is something that we should do whenever we see our children, our friends, our family.
Thanksgiving is a way of life. It is NOT a single day to stuff our faces with food and our heads with some mindless game.
Have a blessed day. And remember, I am thankful for each one of you. I am thankful that you allow me to share my opinions with you, that you allow me to rant and rave. I am especially thankful that each and every one of you are alive and well on this not-so-special holiday.
Dodadagohvi (Cherokee (when speaking to many) meaning "Let's see one another again, soon")