Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving....a little historical perspective

Marge Bruchac, is an Abanaki Indian and a professional museum consultant. A few months ago I received something she wrote in 1998 and posted to some kind of online community in 1999. She called it "Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks in New England" - a little historical perspective (I'll try to find a link so you can read the whole thing). Here's some of what she had to say:

For centuries, all the Algonquian Indian peoples of New England have practiced rituals of feasting and giving thanks throughout the year, in every season, for every harvest [including Maple sugar harvest, strawberry harvest, and squash harvest]. Native beliefs and customs of hospitality called for sharing with relatives and strangers including the Pilgrims.

Bruchac informs us that the people that we call "Pilgrims" actually referred to themselves as "saints," because they were Separatists (see my previous post for an explanation of Separatism). In fact, they didn't call any feast they enjoyed a "Thanksgiving." According to Bruchac, that term wasn't used by whites until the 1800's. Nevertheless, a feast shared by Pilgrims and Indians really did happen. Bruchac acknowledges that "Massasoit and 90 warriors showed up to eat and drink," and although she tells us that 19th century "romantics rescripted [sic] the past to suit their fantasies," I still think there must have been something special about what most Americans now refer to as "the first Thanksgiving."
Why else would we continue to celebrate it for so many years?

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