Thursday, November 22, 2012

Roast Turkey, Pumpkin Pie and Other Thanksgiving Traditons I Rejected back in the Late 1960s

This is merely a commentary on a personal decision I made back in 1969 after reviewing some historical truths about the American traditional holiday which had always been a time of warmth and fond memories. This is also not a judgement on others who choose to celebrate. Frankly it's none of my business what others do or don't do. But if you actually study it's origins it is an eye opening revelation of information tutitorial of sorts and something I was reminded of after reading a piece this morning from Allen Juell's blog "Horsetronics"  
', let's rephrase that.......'

Kids Reenacting the First Thanksgiving

Of course if you look at the theme photo above, growing up this was the common story theme I experienced at Pepper Drive Elementary School as to the history of the Thanksgiving Celebration. Never once was there any admission or revealing of the truth that mattered that ultimately followed this neighbourly dinner event between different cultures. Of course as the official historical narrative tell us, the first Pilgrims to arrive in New Plymouth and conclude a mutual peace agreement treaty with Chief Massasoit, the paramount chief of the local Wampanoag Indian tribe. In the treaty the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag promised not to harm one another, and they formed a mutual alliance for each others protection in case of war with outsiders. Without Chief Massasoit’s friendship, it is highly unlikely that any of the Pilgrims would have survived. These Indians (Native Americans) gave the first settlers native corn to eat and to plant, and the alliance with them helped to prevent the Pilgrims’ perishing at the hands of other tribes.

In the early days, the colonists received much help from the Indians. In the words of then Governor William Bradford, an Indian named Tisquantum taught the colonists:
 “how to set their corne, wher to take fish, and to procure other comodities, and was also their pilott to bring them to unknowne places for their profitt.” 
(the spelling as in original document - American Colonial Prose: John Smith to Thomas Jefferson (1607 - 1865) by Mary Ann Radzinowicz 

The first harvest of Indian corn was good, and the Pilgrims had success in hunting game birds. They (Puritans) were grateful to their God and decided to hold a three-day harvest festival. Massasoit and 90 of his braves came, bringing along five deer to add to the banquet. This is the most common historical version and this part is true. Unfortunately, these previously persecuted Pilgrims (Puritans) from Europe had mistakenly believed that it was their God had given destiny and God-given right to take over and occupy these lands in this New World. This same justification of course was played out over the next few centuries by Europeans seeking fame, fortune and looking to provide ligitmacy of the most horrific actions taken against other human beings during the height of Imperial Colonialism across the planet. Even Darwin provided a twisted version of scientific justification behind the white European foreign land aquisition and occuptation. Seems there is enough inconvenient truth to go around for both sides.

Like the colony itself, the celebration had strong religious overtones. Although the Pilgrims did not hold the festival the next year because of poor crops, Thanksgiving Day later became an annual national and religious holiday in the United States, Canada, and a few other countries. Today, Thanksgiving Day in North America is typically an occasion for a family banquet of turkey, potaties and gravy, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, but in principle, it remains “a time for serious religious thinking, church services, and prayer.”The World Book Encyclopedia, 1994. Interestingly, Thanksgiving is actually rooted in ancient pagan (not Christian) harvest celebrations that honored various gods. Over time, “these ancient folk traditions were taken over by the Christian church.”​ >>> says, "A Great and Godly Adventure​—The Pilgrims and the Myth of the First Thanksgiving.#
(see also: An American Thanksgiving)

The Granger Collection, New York
For me however, probably the most shocking thing was what happened to these very same Native American Indians who participated in that original iconic feast and to their descendants some years later. The artwork to the right here is of Chief Metacom, (c. 1638 - 1676), sachem of the Wampanoag people in a coloured engraving by Paul Revere, 1772. This next link is from the Encyclopedia Britannica and is the historical account of what took place between Chief Massasoit's second eldest son and the white colonialists. 
(Source material below)
 Encyclopedia Britannica: Facts Matters = Metacom
Metacom, also called Metacomet, King Philip, or Philip of Pokanoket (born c. 1638, Massachusetts - died August 12, 1676, Rhode Island), sachem (intertribal leader) of a confederation of indigenous peoples that included the Wampanoag and Narraganset. Metacom led one of the most costly wars of resistance in New England history, known as King Philip's War (1675 - 1676).  
Metacom was the second eldest son of Massasoit, a Wampansoag sachem who had managed to keep peace with English colonizers of Massachusetts and Rhode Island for many decades. Upon Massasoit's death (1661) and that of his eldest son Wamsutta (English name Alexander), the following year, Metacom became sachem. He succeeded to the position during a period characterized by increasing exchanges of Indian land for English guns, ammunition, liquor, and blankets. He recognized that these sales threatened indigenous sovereignty and was further disconcerted by the humiliations to which he and his people were continually subjected by the colonizers. He was, for example, summoned to Taunton in 1671 and required to sign a new peace agreement that included the surrender of Indian guns. 
 Metacom's dignity and steadfastness both impressed and frightened the settlers, who eventually demonized him as a menace that could not be controlled. For 13 years he kept the region's towns and villages on edge with fear of an Indian uprising. Finally, in June 1675, violence erupted when three Wampanoag warriors were executed by Plymouth authorities for the murder of John Sassamon, a tribal informer. Metacom's coalition, comprising the Wampanoag, Narraganset, Aenaki, Nipmuck, and Mohawk, was at first victorious. However, after a year of savage fighting during which some 3,000 Indians and 600 colonists were killed, food became scarce, and the indigenous alliance began to disintegrate. Seeing that defeat was imminent, Metacom returned to his ancestral home at Mount Hope, where he was betrayed by an informer and killed in a final battle. He was beheaded and quartered and his head displayed on a pole for 25 years at Plymouth.
Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving Day Feast Painting

Photo: Eugene Bochkarev/123RF
Who could pass up family get-togethers with all that other great food that goes along with the main course of Roast Turkey ? Pumpkin Pie, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce, Green Beans, sweet corn and whatever endless list of food goodies the woman folk can think up. I actually love all those things during any time of the colder winter months. I'm not against any of those foods, trust me. I simply don't do them on that particular day for the principle of the thing. When I was a kid growing up, I always thought this holiday should be renamed "Men's Day" !!! Seriously, think for a moment, is there really ever a more perfect day for men in the world than this day in America ? Is this day not truly the real, "Father's Day." Most of the women get up very early in the morning (maybe 4:00am) and slave all day long over a hot stove and oven. Men on the other hand basically sit on their butts the entire day, drink lots of beer, watch three NFL Football Games and then finally as the ultimate insult at the end of that day there is an announcement that  Dinner is served and they then proceed to practically gorge themselves into a coma. So much for spiritual reflection and the giving of thanks to the good Lord.

Image . Landon Nordeman
Now once again, I have no problem with others doing what they wish and the reasons why on this particular day. Ultimately it is none of my business what other folks do, but my choice is a conscience matter. So normally during this time of year I basically leave well enough alone. I do definitely enjoy that food combo at other times throughout the cold winter months. Can we all agree there is no other better food combo during Winter ? Well, with the exception of Mexican food through out the rest of the year. Mexican familes are known for family get-togethers anytime of the year and that works better for me. I get together with family and friends regularly and not just one or two special days of the year. I'm thankful every day for the positives in life now and what will be, despite the negativity brought to us by this world's Media News Reports - 24/7. On a positive note, I do have something to say about Cranberries & Lingonberries and the identical environment and ecosystem from which both came from. I've also other things to say about the Native Americans way of life which first interested me as far as our natural world and living off the land. My facination with Native Plants of the Southwest can be attributed to learning much about how the indigenous peoples used them. But in so many ways (mostly negative), the early Americans were identical to those explorer Europeans in their treatment of one another. I am well aware of this romanticized notion of the Natives as being the ultimate in conservation and land stewardship, but there is actually more to that story which has been generally exaggerated and embellished by many environmental organizations who have found the Native Americans as nothing more than a useful tool in furthering their political and worldview agendas on the rest of mankind. Again, no offense, but that's just the way our world works and always has.
Stay tuned!
Dances With Myths: Indigenous Native Peoples and Fire Ecology 
Some Further Reference Reading of interest on Native Americans:
Q & A from website
"I Welcome Questions - I Hate Assumptions," by Chris Clarke - *cough-cough* - I mean by 'Red Haircrow'

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