Thanksgiving: food for thought

Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.”

Majority of Canadians and Americans alike are taught the story of Thanksgiving early on in kindergarten; the happy pilgrims feasted alongside the “friendly indians.”

The American version suggests that this feast was to celebrate the Patuxet native named Squanto and the Wampanaog Nation, who taught the pilgrims how to grow corn and catch fish efficiently so they could survive the winter after fleeing Europe in fear of religious persecution. At the end of their first year under a treaty negotiated by Squanto, the pilgrims held a great feast to honour the treaty with the Wampanaog Nation.

And for the most part, that’s where the history lesson ends; two happy peoples eating to celebrate teamwork and friendship. The problem with this story is that although it begins in the 1600s, there’s much more to it.

Historians suggest that it wasn’t mutual friendship that brought the two communities of pilgrims and natives together, but need and necessity. Meaning that the two were wary allies against other nations and tribes to protect themselves. However, there are manifestations of the different visions of what took place nearly four hundred years ago.

Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts will provide you two public commemorations; the official parade of pilgrims to Plymouth Rock, and the indigenous people and supporters fasting on top of Cole’s Hill in remembrance of the destruction of culture and people.

So, what happened to make indigenous people call Thanksgiving “a national day of mourning,” in America?

Several years prior to the pilgrims’ arrival, British slaving crews introduced smallpox to the population of Massachusetts indigenous by infected cattle. This killed more than 90 per cent of the total population, but the decimated Wampanaog still helped the pilgrims survive their first harrowing winter.

This resulted in the “starving” pilgrims allegedly stealing corn from the Wampanaog, and then celebrating their own ample harvest with a three-day feast. Some historians now suggest that the Wampanaog came to the feast after hearing a commotion of gunfire in the Pilgrim village; but it is uncertain whether or not the Wampanaog were actually invited.

Around the same time, the Pequot Tribe celebrated its own Thanksgiving for the green corn. In the pre-dawn hours settlers — puritans, not pilgrims — descended upon the Pequot and destroyed their village with fire and guns; killing more than 700 men, women and children. The massacre of the Pequot Tribe “in the name of God” is dubbed the real origin of Thanksgiving in the U.S.. Thereafter, “massacres of the indians” were terribly followed by days of thanksgiving.

However, the Canadian version suggests that Thanksgiving is simply a festival of plentiful harvest that was celebrated by English Explorer Martin Frobisher to celebrate his safe arrival in what is now Canada, 43 years before the pilgrims in Plymouth.

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