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Turkey Day Truths!

"Young children's conceptions of Native Americans often develop out of media portrayals and classroom role playing of the events of the First Thanksgiving. That conception of Native Americans gained from such early exposure is both inaccurate and potentially damaging to others," says Debbie Reese in "Teaching Young Children About Native Americans,"  

(May 1996).

 

[excerpts from the Hidden History of Massachusetts]

 

What Really Happened in Plymouth in 1621?

 

According to a single-paragraph account in the writings of one Pilgrim, a harvest feast did take place in Plymouth in 1621, probably in mid-October, but the Indians who attended were not even invited. Though it later became known as "Thanksgiving," the Pilgrims never called it that. And amidst the imagery of a picnic of interracial harmony is some of the most terrifying bloodshed in New World history.

The Pilgrim crop had failed miserably that year, but the agricultural expertise of the Indians had produced twenty acres of corn, without which the Pilgrims would have surely perished. The Indians often brought food to the Pilgrims, who came from England ridiculously unprepared to survive and hence relied almost exclusively on handouts from the overly generous Indians-thus making the Pilgrims the western hemisphere's first class of welfare recipients. The Pilgrims invited the Indian sachem Massasoit to their feast, and it was Massasoit, engaging in the tribal tradition of equal sharing, who then invited ninety or more of his Indian brothers and sisters-to the annoyance of the 50 or so ungrateful Europeans. No turkey, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie was served; they likely ate duck or geese and the venison from the 5 deer brought by Massasoit. In fact, most, if notall, of the food was most likely brought and prepared by the Indians, whose 10,000-year familiarity with the cuisine of the region had kept the whites alive up to that point.

The Pilgrims wore no black hats or buckled shoes-these were the silly inventions of artists hundreds of years since that time. These lower-class Englishmen wore brightly colored clothing, with one of their church leaders recording among his possessions "1 paire of greene drawers." Contrary to the fabricated lore of storytellers generations since, no Pilgrims prayed at the meal, and the supposed good cheer and fellowship must have dissipated quickly once the Pilgrims brandished their weaponry in a primitive display of intimidation. What's more, the Pilgrims consumed a good deal of home brew. In fact, each Pilgrim drank at least a half gallon of beer a day, which they preferred even to water. This daily inebriation led their governor, William Bradford, to comment on his people's "notorious sin," which included their "drunkenness and uncleanliness" and rampant "sodomy"...

The Pilgrims of Plymouth, The Original Scalpers

Contrary to popular mythology the Pilgrims were no friends to the local Indians. They were engaged in a ruthless war of extermination against their hosts, even as they falsely posed as friends. Just days before the alleged Thanksgiving love-fest, a company of Pilgrims led by Myles Standish actively sought to chop off the head of a local chief. They deliberately caused a rivalry between two friendly Indians, pitting one against the other in an attempt to obtain "better intelligence and make them both more diligent." An 11-foot-high wall was erected around the entire settlement for the purpose of keeping the Indians out.

Any Indian who came within the vicinity of the Pilgrim settlement was subject to robbery, enslavement, or even murder. The Pilgrims further advertised their evil intentions and white racial hostility, when they mounted five cannons on a hill around their settlement, constructed a platform for artillery, and then organized their soldiers into four companies-all in preparation for the military destruction of their friends the Indians.

Pilgrim Myles Standish eventually got his bloody prize. He went to the Indians, pretended to be a trader, then beheaded an Indian man named Wituwamat. He brought the head to Plymouth, where it was displayed on a wooden spike for many years, according to Gary B. Nash, "as a symbol of white power." Standish had the Indian man's young brother hanged from the rafters for good measure. From that time on, the whites were known to the Indians of Massachusetts by the name "Wotowquenange," which in their tongue meant cutthroats and stabbers.

Who Were the "Savages"?

The myth of the fierce, ruthless Indian savage lusting after the blood of innocent Europeans must be vigorously dispelled at this point. In actuality, the historical record shows that the very opposite was true.

Once the European settlements stabilized, the whites turned on their hosts in a brutal way. The once amicable relationship was breeched again and again by the whites, who lusted over the riches of Indian land. A combination of the Pilgrims' demonization of the Indians, the concocted mythology of Eurocentric historians, and standard Hollywood propaganda has served to paint the gentle Indian as a tomahawk-swinging savage endlessly on the warpath, lusting for the blood of the God-fearing whites.

But the Pilgrims' own testimony obliterates that fallacy. The Indians engaged each other in military contests from time to time, but the causes of "war," the methods, and the resulting damage differed profoundly from the European variety:

o Indian "wars" were largely symbolic and were about honor, not about territory or extermination.

o "Wars" were fought as domestic correction for a specific act and were ended when correction was achieved. Such action might better be described as internal policing. The conquest or destruction of whole territories was a European concept.

o Indian "wars" were often engaged in by family groups, not by whole tribal groups, and would involve only the family members.

o A lengthy negotiation was engaged in between the aggrieved parties before escalation to physical confrontation would be sanctioned. Surprise attacks were unknown to the Indians.

o It was regarded as evidence of bravery for a man to go into "battle" carrying no weapon that would do any harm at a distance-not even bows and arrows. The bravest act in war in some Indian cultures was to touch their adversary and escape before he could do physical harm.

o The targeting of non-combatants like women, children, and the elderly was never contemplated. Indians expressed shock and repugnance when the Europeans told, and then showed, them that they considered women and children fair game in their style of warfare.

o A major Indian "war" might end with less than a dozen casualties on both sides. Often, when the arrows had been expended the "war" would be halted. The European practice of wiping out whole nations in bloody massacres was incomprehensible to the Indian.

According to one scholar, "The most notable feature of Indian warfare was its relative innocuity." European observers of Indian wars often expressed surprise at how little harm they actually inflicted. "Their wars are far less bloody and devouring than the cruel wars of Europe," commented settler Roger Williams in 1643. Even Puritan warmonger and professional soldier Capt. John Mason scoffed at Indian warfare: "[Their] feeble manner...did hardly deserve the name of fighting." Fellow warmonger John Underhill spoke of the Narragansetts, after having spent a day "burning and spoiling" their country: "no Indians would come near us, but run from us, as the deer from the dogs." He concluded that the Indians might fight seven years and not kill seven men. Their fighting style, he wrote, "is more for pastime, than to conquer and subdue enemies."

All this describes a people for whom war is a deeply regrettable last resort. An agrarian people, the American Indians had devised a civilization that provided dozens of options all designed to avoid conflict--the very opposite of Europeans, for whom all-out war, a ferocious bloodlust, and systematic genocide are their apparent life force. Thomas Jefferson--who himself advocated the physical extermination of the American Indian--said of Europe, "They [Europeans] are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of labor, property and lives of their people."

Puritan Holocaust

By the mid 1630s, a new group of 700 even holier Europeans calling themselves Puritans had arrived on 11 ships and settled in Boston-which only served to accelerate the brutality against the Indians.

In one incident around 1637, a force of whites trapped some seven hundred Pequot Indians, mostly women, children, and the elderly, near the mouth of the Mystic River. Englishman John Mason attacked the Indian camp with "fire, sword, blunderbuss, and tomahawk." Only a handful escaped and few prisoners were taken-to the apparent delight of the Europeans:

To see them frying in the fire, and the streams of their blood quenching the same, and the stench was horrible; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave praise thereof to God.

This event marked the first actual Thanksgiving. In just 10 years 12,000 whites had invaded New England, and as their numbers grew they pressed for all-out extermination of the Indian. Euro-diseases had reduced the population of the Massachusett nation from over 24,000 to less than 750; meanwhile, the number of European settlers in Massachusetts rose to more than 20,000 by 1646.

By 1675, the Massachusetts Englishmen were in a full-scale war with the great Indian chief of the Wampanoags, Metacomet. Renamed "King Philip" by the white man, Metacomet watched the steady erosion of the lifestyle and culture of his people as European-imposed laws and values engulfed them.

In 1671, the white man had ordered Metacomet to come to Plymouth to enforce upon him a new treaty, which included the humiliating rule that he could no longer sell his own land without prior approval from whites. They also demanded that he turn in his community's firearms. Marked for extermination by the merciless power of a distant king and his ruthless subjects, Metacomet retaliated in 1675 with raids on several isolated frontier towns. Eventually, the Indians attacked 52 of the 90 New England towns, destroying 13 of them. The Englishmen ultimately regrouped, and after much bloodletting defeated the great Indian nation, just half a century after their arrival on Massachusetts soil. Historian Douglas Edward Leach describes the bitter end:

The ruthless executions, the cruel sentences...were all aimed at the same goal-unchallengeable white supremacy in southern New England. That the program succeeded is convincingly demonstrated by the almost complete docility of the local native ever since.

When Captain Benjamin Church tracked down and murdered Metacomet in 1676, his body was quartered and parts were "left for the wolves." The great Indian chief's hands were cut off and sent to Boston and his head went to Plymouth, where it was set upon a pole on the real first "day of public Thanksgiving for the beginning of revenge upon the enemy." Metacomet's nine-year-old son was destined for execution because, the whites reasoned, the offspring of the devil must pay for the sins of their father. The child was instead shipped to the Caribbean to spend his life in slavery.

As the Holocaust continued, several official Thanksgiving Days were proclaimed. Governor Joseph Dudley declared in 1704 a "General Thanksgiving"-not in celebration of the brotherhood of man-but for [God's] infinite Goodness to extend His Favors...In defeating and disappointing... the Expeditions of the Enemy [Indians] against us, And the good Success given us against them, by delivering so many of them into our hands...

Just two years later one could reap a ££50 reward in Massachusetts for the scalp of an Indian-demonstrating that the practice of scalping was a European tradition. According to one scholar, "Hunting redskins became...a popular sport in New England, especially since prisoners were worth good money..."

 

[End Excerpt]

Further Reading:

Founding of New England, The by Adams, J. T., (1921; repr. 1963)
Bradford, William, Of Plymouth Plantation: 1620-1647, ed. by Samuel E.
Morison (1952)
Mayflower, The (1974) by Caffrey, Kate
Mayflower Pilgrims, The by Colloms, Brenda (1977)
Land Ho!--1620 by Nickerson, W. S. (1931).
A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony by Demos, John (1988)
Pilgrims, The by Dillon, Francis (1975)
Mayflower Remembered: A History of the Plymouth Pilgrims by Gill, Crispin (1970)
Saga of the Pilgrims by Harris, J.(1990)
Pilgrim's Own Story, The by Notson, A.W., and R.C., eds., Stepping Stones: (1987)
Pilgrim Fathers from a Dutch Point of View by Plooij, D.(1932; repr. 1970)
Bradford of Plymouth by Smith, Bradford (1951)
Pilgrims and Their History by Usher, R. G. (1918)
Pilgrim Reader (1953) and Saints and Strangers: Pilgrim Fathers, The by
Willison, G. F. rev. ed. (1965).
Pilgrim Colony: A History of New Plymouth, 1620-1691 by Langdon, G. D., Jr. (1966)
Story of the Old Colony of New Plymouth, The by Morison, S. E. (1956);
Plymouth Colony: Its History and People by Stratton, E.A. (1987)

Coming from Mass myself, I can say... There are tons of convoluted 'real' histories revealed in the area.   Let's face it, the colony settlement reaps tons of nefarious histories all the while creating a nice little commodity of tourism.  

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts still teaches the same disinfo passed off as History in the Basic Education system.  This is why so many people feel cheated when faced with the flip-side to the coin coming from Native Tribes from the area, but even those are filled with legends and lore re-told around fires by the older generations that got those stories from oral traditions.

So what really happened?  Why do people still celebrate the hallmark holiday of 'Thanksgiving'????

Tags: Cape, Cod, Colonists, Commonwealth, Hallmark-Holidays, Immigration, Jones, Massachusetts, Natives, Plymouth, More…Puritans, Settlers, Sin, Thanksgiving, Tourism

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I don't know about other people but for me it's a just day off of work and an excuse to gorge myself not that I really need an excuse. 

It's just dinner.  A day off and Turkey at .49 lb, FTW.

In other news...

Despite Kevin Clash having just resignedfrom his role as the voice of Elmo on"Sesame Street," the furry red monster will still take his rightful place aboard a float in the 2012 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday (Nov. 22).

Clash of the Morals, tonight at 9.

LOL, Elmo. 

Clash of the Morals. xD That is the funniest thing I've heard this morning. I personally detest the history of Thanksgiving; but call me selfish if you will, I have yet to be beheaded at the dinner table and yeah, no work plus turkey equals winsauce.

Seems to be the theme this morning, food and a day off.  lol

Interesting.

I thought the Pilgrims were the Puritans.  They did dress very simply, did not get drunk and spent a lot of time in prayer and in church.

I think those who did get drunk were those people who came with them, and not the Puritans themselves.

The group among the 'Pilgrims' were just immigrants, and not necessarily Puritans.  You may be thinking of the immigration that occurred  much later.

Technically speaking, the first group to leave England were just considered Separatists.  According to their own record keeping, they called themselves the 'First Comers'.  There were a handful of groups that traveled during the early 1620's, some of them were just sympathizers.

There were two ships heading towards the Cape, they eventually worked out all their disputes and joined together on a single ship (The Mayflower) but it wasn't just full of 'Puritanical Christians' seeking to leave the Church of England.

They started off heading to South Hampton, there they picked up a second group of travelers seeking to leave England.  According to the ships logs, there were 102 passengers, less than half came from Leiden.   Bradford was the first to use the term 'Pilgrim' to describe those defecting from Holland.   By the time the ship hit the shore, there were a mere 37 left from Leiden. 

According to William Bradford's account:

 The Mayflower turned back, however, and dropped anchor at Provincetown on November 21. That day 41 men signed the so-called Mayflower Compact, a "plantation covenant" modeled after a Separatist church covenant, by which they agreed to establish a "Civil Body Politic" (a temporary government) and to be bound by its laws. This agreement was thought necessary because there were rumors that some of the non-Separatists, called "Strangers," among the passengers would defy the Pilgrims if they landed in a place other than that specified in the land grant they had received from the London Company. The compact became the basis of government in the Plymouth Colony. After it was signed, the Pilgrims elected John Carver their first governor, with Stephen Hopkins as Assistant governor.

Suffice to say, these 'Strangers' included many people that didn't follow the religious beliefs or practices of what is known today as 'Puritans'. 

   

Suffice to say, these 'Strangers' included many people that didn't follow the religious beliefs or practices of what is known today as 'Puritans'. 

 

Which is pretty much what I said.  It wasn't the Puritans partying down, it was the others with them.

Not exactly, what you are calling 'Partying down' was partaken by the religious group among them.

 In 1628 a party of Puritans led by John Endecott settled at Salem under the auspices of the New England Company. The following year the Massachusetts Bay Company was chartered as a successor to the New England Company; its first large group of Puritan settlers arrived in 1630 under the leadership of John Winthrop (see Winthrop family). Winthrop established Boston as the capital of the colony and, together with cleric John Cotton, dominated its affairs for the next two decades.

Puritanism was the overriding religiopolitical force in the Bay Colony, whose leaders sought to establish a Bible commonwealth. Citizenship (called freemanship) was restricted (until 1664) to church members. Religious dissenters, most notably Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams, were banished from the colony. Within the framework of religious restriction, however, the colony early developed representative institutions. In 1632 the freemen gained the right to elect the governor directly, and in 1634 the freemen of each town won the right to send deputies to the General Court.

[William Bradford]

Now on to the matter of 'Beer'.

You have to remember the era we are speaking of.  Beer was a mainstay.  The beverage wasn't very alcoholic in those days, it fact it was very weak. What was referred to as 'Ship's Beer' was a concoction drunk every day. A typical ration was a quart a day.  Beer was boiled and would keep far better than even water that would grow mold in shotty containers.  

Most of the illnesses were from eating bad foods laced with bacteria and often times that bacteria came in what they were drinking.  Beer was a staple for survival on long voyages.

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