Thanksgiving Day, four centuries later. We have been taught the myth since grade school that our first settlers were those 53 surviving settlers, of which 32 were Pilgrims, who landed at Plymouth, Mass., in 1620.
Thanksgiving Day, four centuries later. We have been taught the myth since grade school that our first settlers were those 53 surviving settlers, of which 32 were Pilgrims, who landed at Plymouth, Mass., in 1620. They first celebrated Thanksgiving sometime in early autumn, 1621. Actually, they were celebrating a successful harvest with Native America King Massasoit of the Wampanoags.
The Plymouth entourage was not the first white American settlers. That distinction belongs to those first pathfinders sent by the London Company to Jamestown, Va., in 1607. Further, renowned historian James W. Loewen reminds us in his writings, “Starting the story of America’s settlement with the Pilgrims leaves out not only American Indians but also the Spanish. The first non-Native settlers in the United States were African slaves left in South Carolina in 1526 by Spaniards who abandoned a settlement attempt. …. Few Americans know that one-third of the United States, from San Francisco to Arkansas to Natchez to Florida, has been Spanish longer than it has been “America.”
Beginning the story in 1620 also omits the Dutch, who were living in what is now Albany by 1614. Loewen, a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Vermont, has written several books exposing history myths in what he calls, “A combination of blind patriotism, mindless optimism, sheer misinformation and outright lies.”
Abraham Lincoln began the tradition of an annual national Thanksgiving in 1863, and despite our historical faux pas, it is a day for thankfulness.
I can’t help but wonder about our brave military fighting on foreign soil hoping for a hot, traditional Thanksgiving meal. I think of the homeless and destitute who have lost their worldly possessions and their homes and cry embarrassingly as they seek out any hot meal, let alone a bountiful traditional Thanksgiving feast. I think of the many churches and charities who no longer can afford to ladle a bowl of soup and a piece of bread to a hungry family. I think of heartless, greedy and insensitive politicians who spend millions of dollars on political ads but not one cent for food stamps and welfare assistance. I think of the children at Christmas time who will be denied a gift or a toy.
If you bear none of these stigmas of gloom and doom, then be thankful today and every day. I am.
I give you President John Adams’ toast: Independence forever.