Author Topic: STORY OF THANKSGIVING  (Read 4865 times)

Offline Paul123

  • Posts: 148
« on: November 28, 2009, 02:03:51 pm »
 Would you all be so kind as to read and comment on this story I paste below.
How does this register on the "Truth-o-meter" ???

by Susan Bates
Most of us associate the holiday with happy Pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a big feast.  And that did happen - once.  
The story began in 1614 when a band of English explorers sailed home to  England with a ship full of Patuxet Indians bound for slavery. They left behind smallpox which virtually wiped out those who had escaped.  By the time the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts Bay they found only one living Patuxet Indian, a man named Squanto who had survived slavery in England and knew their language.  He taught them to grow corn and to fish, and negotiated a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Nation. At the end of their first year, the Pilgrims held a great feast honoring Squanto and the Wampanoags.  
But as word spread in England about the paradise to be found in the new world, religious zealots called Puritans began arriving by the boat load. Finding no fences around the land, they considered it to be in the public domain. Joined by other British settlers, they seized land, capturing strong young Natives for slaves and killing the rest.  But the Pequot Nation had not agreed to the peace treaty Squanto had negotiated and they fought back. The Pequot War was one of the bloodiest Indian wars ever fought.  
In 1637 near present day  Groton, Connecticut, over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival which is our Thanksgiving celebration. In the predawn hours the sleeping Indians were surrounded by English and Dutch mercenaries who ordered them to come outside.  Those who came out were shot or clubbed to death while the terrified women and children who huddled inside the longhouse were burned alive. The next day the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared "A Day Of Thanksgiving" because 700 unarmed men, women and children had been murdered.
Cheered by their "victory", the brave colonists and their Indian allies attacked village after village. Women and children over 14 were sold into slavery while the rest were murdered.  Boats loaded with a many as 500 slaves regularly left the ports of New England. Bounties were paid for Indian scalps to encourage as many deaths as possible.    
Following an especially successful raid against the Pequot in what is now  Stamford, Connecticut, the churches announced a second day of "thanksgiving" to celebrate victory over the heathen savages.  During the feasting, the hacked off heads of Natives were kicked through the streets like soccer balls.  Even the friendly Wampanoag did not escape the madness. Their chief was beheaded, and his head impaled on a pole in Plymouth, Massachusetts -- where it remained on display for 24 years.    
The killings became more and more frenzied, with days of thanksgiving feasts being held after each successful massacre. George Washington finally suggested that only one day of Thanksgiving per year be set aside instead of celebrating each and every massacre. Later Abraham Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving Day to be a legal national holiday during the Civil War -- on the same day he ordered troops to march against the starving Sioux in Minnesota.
This story doesn't have quite the same fuzzy feelings associated with it as the one where the Indians and Pilgrims are all sitting down together at the big feast.  But we need to learn our true history so it won't ever be repeated.  Next  Thanksgiving, when you gather with your loved ones to Thank God for all your blessings, think about those people who only wanted to live their lives and raise their families.  They, also took time out to say "thank you" to Creator for all their blessings.

Offline uktena

  • Posts: 37
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2009, 03:36:10 pm »
It rates about a 8 (out of 10) on the baloney meter.  The feast in the fall of 1621 is what everybody  means by "the first Thanksgiving".  There was no formal holiday, which is largely an 19-20th century product.  The Puritans had "days of thanksgiving" at irregular times and for special reasons ("victory over the heathens" would certain be a reason, but it was far from the only one; more usually, they were to celebrate of the mere fact of surviving a particularly bad time.).  To say that the accidental spread of smallpox to the Native Americans, or the events of the Pequot War have anything to do with "the first Thanksgiving" is simply false to facts.

The historical facts given are broadly correct, though hardly given in what you would call an unbiased, scholarly way. For instance, it doesn't tell you that the Narragansett and  Mohegans sided with the colonists against  the Pequots. The whole thing was a mess, and trying to make it us vs. them is simplistic.

 I live near the sites of most of these events and we know it was all pretty tragic.  The Patuxet were indeed wiped out by smallpox, and the Pequots almost eliminated in the conflicts with their enemies, both European and Native (I'm not at all sure about that thing with the soccer balls, :o)  Most of the details given here, though,  are incorrect.  The "unarmed" Pequots were in a pallisade, not a longhouse, and cannot have been celebrating the Corn Dance, because the battle took place in May.  The reason the fort was undefended, is that  the Pequot warriors were off attacking Hartford.  The force that attacked Mystic (not Groton) included Narragansett, Mohegan, and Niantic allies of the colonists, although they were horrified by the brutality of the white soldiers and wouldn't aid them again afterwards.  The fighting went on for a while longer, from Long Island to New York, and finally ended when the Mohawks, knowing which side their bread was buttered on, killed the Pequot leader and his followers, who had come to them for refuge, to appease the colonists.  Again, it was hardly an "us vs. them" scenario, although the colonists, all in all, do come out looking the worst.

The idea that George Washington established a single "Thanksgiving Day" to celebrate all the massacres of Indians, instead of celebrating them individually, pretty much speaks for itself, and it says "don't know what I'm talking about".  The exact words of his proclamation is well-known and strangely lacks any reference at all to the Indians; it does in fact offer " our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions".

The so-called Great Sioux Uprising began in 1862, with the Sioux rising up against the Army and white settlers in an act which was, in their own view, a matter of survival--starvation was definitely a possibility for them, but to call them "starving Indians", implying some kind of helplessness, is both condescending and prejudicial.  The Army fought back, as a matter of course; Lincoln himself had no part in the matter, other than that, of course, he was technically commander-in-chief of the Army.  This account confuses the Army marching on the Sioux during the uprising, with Lincoln's involvement in the execution of 300 prisoners of war.  They had been condemned in a kangaroo court, but had to right to appeal to the President for clemency.  Lincoln considered it a difficult decision, but ultimately upheld the conviction of 38 of them, two for "violation of women" and the rest for being " proven to have participated in massacres, as distinguished from participation in battles".  This decision came on December 6, 1862; his proclamation of Thanksgiving Day was given on October 3, 1863.  If there's a connection here, I certainly don't see it.

Thanksgiving Day as we know it was established in 1941, deliberately tied into the Christmas shopping season (which, hard as it is to believe today, was usually between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve :D) It's a secular celebration of family values and all the important food products which were previously unknown in Europe (turkey, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, etc.)  It has nothing to do directly with Indians at all--the symbolism has to do with uniting European and Native American cultures to produce a uniquely American one.  Far from celebrating massacres or victories over the Natives, it commemorates one of the very few times that everyone in colonial times cooperated and shared with each other, which is probably why we only have one day of thanksgiving these days.  ;D  

So, all in all, I would definitely label this account as "propaganda" rather than "information"

Here are a few links for more information:

Full text of George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving proclamation, from the Library of Congress:

Timeline of the Pequot War, from Columbia University:

An account of the Great Sioux Uprising, and Lincoln's involvement in it, from History Net:

« Last Edit: November 30, 2009, 07:50:15 am by uktena »

Offline Paul123

  • Posts: 148
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2009, 01:14:27 pm »
Thanks, Very informative.