Posts tagged " first thanksgiving "


Thanksgiving And The Question Of National Identity

November 2nd, 2017 Posted by first thanksgiving, lies, thanksgiving, williamsburg No Comment yet

There is an old saying, history is written by the victors. If you ever read a native American account of what American Thanksgiving is, you will understand what I mean. Thirty or forty years ago it felt like there was little unrest about what seemed like historical norms. Concerning Thanksgiving:

The Indians in Massachusetts had a friendly harvest meal fostered by the Native Americans helping the colonists

This truth has been carved and etched in commercialized American folklore. As I have written before, Peanuts specials, textbooks, documentaries, and countless Thanksgiving feasts have been built upon this quiet truth. A truth that, as we moved into the late 20th Century.. appeared to be be built on total lies, deception, and murder. Everything about it is nothing more than a commercialized fable culminating with a cartoon turkey and a happy pilgrim. In fact just about everything we took as solid red, white, and blue bedrock has turned to crap. Think about it.

I don’t know when it started but at one point in my youth I heard that Columbus Day was a joke. Columbus was a rapist and murderer that perpetuated a genocide that led to scores more in North America and ended with a nation prospering over a bed of injustice. Wait a minute, Columbus was a hero right? He sailed the sea to discover America and blaze a path that led to the great crimson, blue, and white superpower we are today. Columbus day may have been one of those unfruitful minor holidays that only bankers got off but how could a man we awarded with his own day be this evil? Where did we go wrong in our thinking and make such a tragic mistake? How could we not see that Columbus was nothing more than a Nazi sailing the seas to doom the EXISTING residents of North America? And this shock has followed as one historical event or trusted institution comes under scrutiny as a lie. It seems to be one  thing after another. Conspiracy movies, Presidential wiretaps, the reality that our country was built on oppression and slavery and the sad reminders of a decimated Native American nation who live in the shadow of an extermination program our country fostered…

Flash forward to 2017

Following a brutal election season, we were reminded that America is not a coherent symbiosis of Freedom. It is not even a melting pot. It is a mess of lies, mistruths and angry minority groups looking to rewrite a new history challenging the heavily propagandized version we were fed. Maybe a better image would be a melting pot full of things that don’t mix. I picture masses of different material boiling over, cackling,  and exploding, with deplorables crawling over the side, leaving the confines of what should be a peaceful creation.

From stories of groups, proclaiming life, then assassinating cops on site, to a struggle of whether to partition a border, we are reminded that our history is a fabric of deleted truths and selfish ambition. We are reminded that no choice really sounds good and no piece of history is really clean. I mean were they founding fathers or slave owners? Are we a prosperous nation, or benefactors of slavery?

Back to Thanksgiving

So I am preparing for Thanksgiving in 2017, light years from an elementary school where I made pilgrim and 1622_massacre_jamestown_de_Brysimplified native American costumes to celebrate this happy holiday. I will prepare a traditional meal full of things that weren’t even at the first Thanksgiving. Not little things like the wrong kind of corn, but big things like turkey (yes, there was probably no turkey at the first Thanksgiving). I am thankful for food, shelter, and clothing, but in the back of my mind I am reminded of a Native American population that views Thanksgiving with resentment and anger, watching the descendants of a group of invaders prospering from their genocide. We are a long way from Charlie Brown Thanksgiving specials now. In fact the first Thanksgiving was not even in Massachusetts in 1621, but in Virginia in 1619, celebrated by a group who would later be slaughtered by the original settlers of the land, the Native Americans. My guess is this Native American group did not view the Colonists arrival and future conquest with “Thanksgiving.” This Thanksgiving story would not have a made a good kids special. Can you imagine a cartoon where we show the colonists lying in a pool of blood while the Native Americans celebrated their freedom from the invaders from Europe, followed by a feast with song and dancing.

Think for yourself

So how do you reconcile all this? I wish I had an answer. I will take the high road and say two things:

  1. Get the facts..all the facts
  2. Think for yourself

Look for multiple opinions and versions of history. Study both and think critically. You will have to learn to live in the ambiguity of knowing that human nature didn’t fade away when Columbus stepped foot into the “new world”. History is messy, bloody, unsatisfying, and often cruel. You will have to write your own conclusions and carefully see different viewpoints, not the easy acceptance of what is fed to you by historical marketers.

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Williamsburg Thanksgiving?

The First Thanksgiving In Williamsburg, Virginia

November 16th, 2016 Posted by thanksgiving, williamsburg No Comment yet

Are you ready to take your Williamsburg historical Thanksgiving quiz?

Which one of these two statements is historically true?

  1. The pilgrims in Massachusetts and the Wampanoag Indians came together for the first Thanksgiving.
  2. The Virginia settlers got together at the Berkeley plantation, in Williamsburg in early December, to commemorate their arrival in the New World with a ceremony that was the first American Thanksgiving, years before the Pilgrims had what many consider the first Thanksgiving.

If you’re a believer in the first one I have a shock for you. The right answer is number #2, first Thanksgiving was in Williamsburg Virginia

Thanksgiving Shock

For some of you I’m guessing there’s a little bit of shock associated with that statement. Maybe even denial. I mean this is the stuff of fairytales in American historical folklore. Everything from the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special ,to about 1 billion different items with orange brown and red turkeys on them, attest to the American Thanksgiving being in Massachusetts with the Pilgrims. Just the possibility of this could nullify decades of macaroni turkey art, Pilgrim costumes, and elementary school plays re enacting these events. And on top of that, no one wants to think they are living a lie.

Even the history channel has gone into the actual historical account of the Wampanoag Indians and the Pilgrims from England, telling the story of how they barely survived on what they had, coming together for the first Thanksgiving in the building of this new grand free world…in the North.

But the evidence against the Pilgrim Thanksgiving is both extensive and authoritative. I pulled some information from a Washingtonian article. Here are some of the indisputable facts:

  • The Berkeley company gave a written mandate to the Virginia Settlers that their arrival day be celebrated as a day of Thanksgiving in 1619, two years before the Pilgrim Thanksgiving.
  • Retired William and Mary President D Lyon Tyler found documented written records about this first Thanksgiving that were originally published in New York in the late 1800s.
  • President Kennedy had Arthur Schlesinger send a telegram to Virginia State Senator John Wicker claiming it was true in 1962.
  • President George W. Bush also publicly acknowledged this fact.

kennedy thanksgivingBut I don’t see the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special being banned or pulled from television. My children have no clue of this new revelation. And while there are people who have celebrated this American History Alternative Festival for decades, most Americans are not going to abandon this tradition of a Pilgrim Thanksgiving.

Is a Williamsburg Virginia Thanksgiving really worth considering?

American history is filled with accounts of at least two versions. One version of American history seems to be a homogenized ultra kind cartoon style version where we are always right and no “real” harm is done to anyone. It kind of leaves you with that feeling for those who weren’t allowed to celebrate at either Thanksgiving, or be free, really did not have it all that bad.

The Williamsburg version comes from the tradition of alternate history..

This version attests that the facts aren’t that accurate and America was really not that nice. I mean, younger people must have always been suspicious that the Pilgrims feasted with a Native American group, but future settlers would turn on the Native American groups that helped the first settlers to survive. Definitely not a great historical example of gratitude. And rather than hide this fact, the country does not deny this incredible contribution by Native Americans or the brutal treatment of them in the decades after the First Thanksgiving.

Stuck Between A (Plymouth) Rock And A Hard Place Named Williamsburg

We sit in an ambiguous situation. We still hold to the Pilgrim Thanksgiving myth but know that there was another earlier Thanksgiving in Williamsburg. Maybe it is foreshadowing of the competitive conflict that would emerge between Northern and Southern Americans as time went on, going from small Colonial roots, to a nation divided on Southern and Northern cultural lines in the 1860s, each vying to create an America based on what they wanted.

But why not have both versions?

Why can’t we just celebrate both. Why not have the original Thanksgiving and maybe a Thanksgiving Harvest Festival Meal on the date of the historical first Williamsburg Thanksgiving. Even better yet why not just give both colonies credit and write a history where both colonies quickly came to a tradition of a feast of gratitude in the hostile new world. A few years difference is not that big a deal. In fact, it would be great to reconcile both groups of colonists, though different and in opposite locations, which would form an America we live in today. An America where we need to accept the differences and historical mistakes that haunt our past.

I think in general we need to revisit the past and make sure our accounts are accurate. Maybe even commission a second Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special where the Peanuts gang learns of the true first Thanksgiving and comes to accept it. Maybe they could call it ‘there are 2 versions of Thanksgiving Charlie Brown.”Not sure if there are any takers for that idea but..

Happy Thanksgiving (whichever version you celebrate)

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