I’m the new arrival to this blog group. I sold a Western romance to The Wild Rose Press in October and I’ve been trying to play catch-up since then. Not that I didn’t know what selling entails. This is actually my second book, but in the years between sales I’ve been focused on the writing, and not so much on the marketing.
So, I have to re-design my website, update the personal MySpace page, actually start blogging on my blog and now I’m invited to join an awesome group of writers. Did I mention the more than full-time job? I know, poor me, I sold a book. But, I was unprepared.
Which leads me right into the topic of this post, because tomorrow is Thanksgiving, our traditional day to pause, join with loved ones and eat a dinner with about 5000 calories. Of course, we think about the origins of this holiday as we watch parades and football games. After, all we learned everything we’d ever need to know about Thanksgiving in third grade, right? It involves Pilgrims with weird clothes who invited Indians wearing buckskins with feathers in their hair to dinner. The Pilgrims gathered to pray and thank God for getting them through the worst year of their lives. Got it.
Except, if you do a bit of research, you’ll discover that isn’t really the whole story. First of all, it wasn’t even a day for prayers of thanks. Those folks were Puritans, and if you remember your English history, they captured the government and executed the King of England, (Charles I). When the king’s son returned to claim the throne, some of the revolutionaries plotted against him. They were invited to leave. They headed to the New World. If you’re a Puritan, I don’t mean to insult you, but those folks were not noted for their sense of humor. They were pious, and we’d probably call them religious fanatics today.
So off to the New World they sailed, landing on Plymouth Rock. They were heading for the Catskill area of New York, but with stormy weather and not so great navigation, they went a bit off course. It was November and the place they landed looked pretty good after sixty-six days at sea. They found an Indian community that had been decimated by disease, (brought to them by Europeans) and settled in for the winter. Things did not go well. Ah, to the message of the post: They Were Not Prepared.
Without enough food or medicine, nearly a third of the group died. By the spring, they were in bad shape, but a local man, Squanto, who happened to speak English decided to help them. They worked hard through the season. They learned some valuable lessons. (I can relate). By the harvest, things were going better and they decided to host a traditional Harvest Festival, but not a Thanksgiving. For a Pilgrim, that would have involved a long day of prayer and fasting. This was a celebration.
They invited the neighbors, who had been kind to the Pilgrims despite their ignorance of living on land that actually belonged to them. Squanto, his friend Massasoit who was the sachem for the Wampanoag tribe he lived with, and about ninety of their relatives arrived. Once again, the Pilgrims were unprepared. They didn’t have enough food for the celebration and the Indians recognized the situation immediately. The guests went hunting, fishing and back to their wigwams. They returned with enough food for everyone and the three day party began.
They feasted, told stories and played games. Maybe this is where the idea of having football games on Thanksgiving started. I wish I could say it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but most of us know it didn’t turn out all that well for the Indians. Many people of the tribe died from disease, and those left a generation later were attacked by the same Pilgrims they shared the meal with on that first Thanksgiving Day. When it comes to Native people, our history is dark and disturbing. The descendants of the original tribes have a lot to be angry about, and have a different perspective of our national holiday.
Did you know that November is Native American Heritage Month? As part of my job, I create programs for one of the busiest library systems in the US. I decided to give the Indians some equal time, and we offered several programs to educate the community about Native American culture and heritage. By the way, before I wrote this I asked my friends about what to call them, Indians? Native Americans? Aborigines or First Nation? They said all the titles work, if you are speaking with respect. The photo at the top of this post is of two of my favorite Native American performers, Peter Ali playing the flute and Gene Tagaban who is a Raven Dancer.
So, I invite you to think about the other part of Thanksgiving this year and consider the folks who actually pretty much made it happen, but don’t get much credit. We should all thank the Creator that they were there, and as we count our blessings remember to add special thanks for the kindness of strangers.
Happy Harvest Festival,