Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Thanksgiving Myth

1621 Harvest Fest
By LibraryDragon | View this Toon at ToonDoo | Create your own Toon

This is a re-post from a post on

Today's Thanksgiving has been a series of myths and successful public relation moves. Somewhere a long the way it was dubbed the "first" thanksgiving.  The colonists had celebrated many "thanksgivings" in their homeland.  These celebrations usually consisted of prayer and fasting.  The Wampanoag Indians and other Native American Tribes had feasts of thanksgiving through out the year.
Part of the myth around our national holiday involves the colonists inviting the Indians to this feast.  When you read the surviving letter from Edward Winslow and listen to the re-tellings of the oral traditions of the Wampanoag you see this gathering in a different perspective.  The Wampanoag were not sure of their new neighbors and kept an eye on them.
During that first year many of the new colonists died.  They were buried at night to try and prevent the Indians from knowing the true number and strength of the colonists.  In March Somoset and Squanto pay the colonists a visit.
The autumn festival is surrounded by controversy about what really happened.  Did the colonists invite their new allies or did the Wampanoag invite themselves for some reason.  After reading the research and oral histories of the time I believe that autumn, the colonists chose to celebrate their survival and were shooting off muskets.  The Wampanoag were quick to respond.  Massasoit arrived with 90 men to see what all the shooting was about - figuring the newcomers were going to war.  When they arrive they realize they are not going to war but are having a party.  Massasoit sends out men to bring back food.  They stay for three days, during that time they feast and negotiate a military alliance.

Related Links for further investigation:
Oyate - Deconstructing the Myths of the "First Thanksgiving"
Plimoth Plantation

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