Thanksgiving and the Abandonment of Life as We Know it

Avatar Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
Thanksgiving and the Abandonment of Life as We Know it

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pilgrimsThanksgiving is an American celebration – a national holiday honoring the early settlers and their bountiful harvest.  And equally important, it is a celebration of the friendship between these same settlers and the Native Americans.

A lot has happened between then and now. The history of these early Americans and the Native Americans was not always rosy.  And, in many ways, it was not only tragic but a disgrace to the humanity for which we are so proud.  As you will learn, the Native Americans were run off their land, had their possessions confiscated and were forced to abandon life as they knew it.

Sound familiar? I will say it again: forced to abandon life as they knew it.  Are we on the brink of seeing the same thing happen again only this time to middle class American Joe’s and Jane’s?

As we approach this fourth Thursday of November, as families join together for a feast and a day of abundance, I would like to briefly step though history and suggest that the Americans of today are precariously poised for defeat in the same manner as our Native Americans so many years ago.

It started with the Native Americans

Long before settlers came to the east coast of the United States, the area now known as southeastern Massachusetts and eastern Rhode Island was inhabited by many Native American tribes.  Most notably the Wampanoag, these native Americans fished, hunted, farmed and harvested the land for thousands of generations.  This was their home and their land,  It was all they knew.

And then came the Settlers

One hundred and one men, women and children traveled from Europe to settle in the Plymouth Colony know as Plymouth Rock,  These settlers were a group of English Protestants who wanted to break away from the Church of England.  Their destination was the area that is now New York City but they actually ended up in the area now knows as Cape Cod.  These were independent and brave souls, seeking a better life away from the tyranny of the King.

The original intent of the settlers was to fend for themselves and become self-sufficient.  Alas, with winter coming supplies were scarce and history tells us they stole from the Native Americans in order to insure that their own provisions were adequate.  Now the Wampanoag were not completely oblivious.  They knew what was going on and decided the best thing to do would be to join up so to speak and help the settlers learn to fend for themselves.

The result is that the Wampanoag taught the settlers how to grow corn, fertilize their crops, and generally survive on the lad.  Eventually they formed a partnership – really a friendship – where they each watched out for each other and provided protection from other, less friendly peoples and tribes.

Factoid:  It is important to note that these English settlers did not call themselves Pilgrims. That term was only applied to them after a few years, and even then didn’t really become popular until 200 years later, when Daniel Webster used it in a speech extolling “Our Pilgrim Fathers” on the bicentennial of their arrival.

The Feast of Friendship and Bounty

In the Fall of 1621, the settlers decided to have a celebration of honor the harvest.  While hunting for food, shots were fired and the Wampanoag came running.  Long story short, they learned the shots were peaceful in nature and decided to join in the celebration themselves.

And the rest, to use a cliché, is history.  Supposedly, the feast lasted for three days.  The men, women, and children of both the settlers and the tribe ate together, played games, danced and participated in other frivolities.  It was quite the bash with a meal that consisted of deer, corn, shellfish, and roasted meat.

It is unknown whether there were any prayers at this first harvest celebration and, as a matter of fact, historians claim it was not until centuries later that these few days of celebration in 1621 were referred to as the “first Thanksgiving”.

So What Happened?

The peace and friendship between the Native Americans and settlers lasted for only a generation. Land disputes erupted as more settlers arrived from Europe and as native tribes were forced to relocate to other areas.  Basically, they were forced out – kicked out – of their centuries old home.

These days – in modern times – a gathering of Native Americans congregates in a vigil at Plymouth Rock on Thanksgiving Day  to condemn continuing violence and discrimination against Native American people. And, as a matter of record, some Native Americans do not celebrate Thanksgiving at all.

Why Some Natives Don’t Celebrate Thanksgiving

According to the Pilgrim Hall Museum:

“On Thanksgiving Day, many Native Americans and their supporters gather at the top of Coles Hill, overlooking Plymouth Rock, for the “National Day of Mourning.”

The first National Day of Mourning was held in 1970. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts invited Wampanoag leader Frank James to deliver a speech. When the text of Mr. James’ speech, a powerful statement of anger at the history of oppression of the Native people of America, became known before the event, the Commonwealth “disinvited” him. That silencing of a strong and honest Native voice led to the convening of the National Day of Mourning.”

You can read the full text of Frank James 1970 speech here.

Another reason some Native American’s do not celebrate Thanksgiving as a holiday is that in their culture, giving thanks is a year-round process, done as part of their spiritual heritage on a daily basis.

Thanksgiving 2011

How many Americans, as adults, recall the true story of Thanksgiving, starting with the settlers landing at Plymouth Rock, through their beneficial relationship with the Wampanoag, and the eventual falling out with the Native Americans ten or so years later?

And how many know – or care – that the original caretakers of our land were either booted out, killed or imprisoned by a culture utterly foreign and unacceptable to their way of life?

In researching this article, I was reminded of some old truths and learned some new ones.  In my own mind, for better or for worse, I liken the plight of our nation’s 21st century citizens to the Native Americans in the late 1600s and beyond.  We are at risk of having our own middle class culture decimated and in fact, for many, their land or homes have already been taken away (stolen?) by the malfeasance of the banking system, Wall Street, the Fed, and big corporate America.

The lessons of that first Thanksgiving and what happened to our Native Americans should not be forgotten.  It could happen again.  It could happen to us.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!


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7 Responses to “Thanksgiving and the Abandonment of Life as We Know it”

  1. I have made this connection many times…but I have more refined it to the massive illegal immigrants competing with the middle class and poor American citizens, native and otherwise….what we are seeing is a systematic destruction of our way of life with rampant illegal immigration, and all the ‘locals/natives’ set up to support them via tax dollars and other means so they can outproduce us, take and be given jobs the citizens should be doing and being supported by our corrupt government AND corporations/businesses that hire them, etc. So, yes, a new invasion is afoot and will result in a takeover of the citizens….from 1492 when Columbus supposedly discovered America until 1874 when the last Native American was rounded up to the reservation is 382 years….now we will have total takeover/change of our country occurring in 30 years or less. There are no battles between our government and Mexico – we have collusion at the top….the states closest along the borders are prevented from protecting their borders as the government looks the other way….other states are attacked by our government when trying to pass laws to prevent the drain of illegal immigration….the citizen natives are not fighting the illegals…yet…but the war is on, don’t kid yourselves…the battlefield is the freeway, the bars, the job front, the hospitals, the schools, the ‘hit 2 for Spanish’, the new Spanish only tv and radio stations and grocery stores cropping up ALL over the country, and the massive busing and transporting of illegals….the takeover is underway…so, yes, all American citizens will feel this pain…we can only hope that the ‘trail of tears’ is not on the agenda.

  2. I find the retelling of history just a wee bit simplified here. For one, American Indian tribes raided, killed, and tortured each other with reckless abandon. Do some research on exactly how the council of seven Nations came to be.
    Secondly, American Indians used the whites to rub out their enemies. There was no “Indian Identity”. Various tribes cultivated hatred and revenge with bloodlust that history only reserves for a few groups-such as the Huns. Andrew Jackson gained fame as an Indian fighter, but his greatest victory was assured by the painted warriors who fought with him.
    Were whites as nasty as they could be to various Indians? Yep, and this was a 2 way street folks.
    Now, we have all been fed the fable of dissident adventurers who sailed across the sea for religious freedom. A simple question-where did they get the enormous logistical backing to make this happen?
    Times up.
    They got it from the Crown. Colonies were funded with the expressed purpose of pillaging resources to send back to the Motherland for the fun and profit of their British corporate masters. What makes better history? The suggestion that your ancestors were hardy pioneers, or the reality that they were willing tools for exploitation? Can anyone see the parallel between the exploited and the exploiter?
    Its really too bad that history isn’t as rosy as we wish it is, but the heaping handful of guilt doled out here is in need of being accurately served out to many different plates.
    Finally, the meat and potatoes IS worthy of pondering, after all, we have plenty of current examples of deliberate, ruinous exploitation running roughshod all over the 99%.

  3. True for the first couple hundred years the immigrants killed Indians and Indians killed immigrants. By any meausre they each killed roughly the same numbers of the “enemy”. For the last hundred years or more the taxpayers have paid the Indians given them welfare provided free health care and education and built them homes and facilities and infratructure. No living Indian or living descendant of immigrants have been at war. The Indians have better health live longer eat better and have higher education thanks to the immigrants. So is the complaint that someone none of us know killed/hurt someone else none of us know and therefore there is some justification in one entire race being an “ass” to another entire race who had nothing to do with it?? Do I have that right? I am so tired of those who go to college to major in bitterness studies who then think they can act all offended by something that may or may not have happened to someone they may or may not know.

    • GWTW,
      I would suggest that you really take an honest look at what the Native mortality rate of native peoples is today. Now cancer and diabetes kills us, as does rampant alcoholism, poverty and poor living conditions. many live in such poverty that the houses are unlivable, the water too poor to drink and the environment kills so many that it’s not even reported. Higher education? Not likely. A college education does someone no good if they cannot use it to better their lives. I would suggest that you take an honest and extensive look at the lives of modern native people, and then stop comparing their living conditions of today to your standard of living.

  4. Great article; I had not considered this parallel before. The middle class is besieged and must fight for its very existence or will be booted out. All we can do is be aware of what’s going on, and make wise choices that would benefit us instead of bankers and large corporations: stay out of debt, avoid consumerism, prepare for harder times to come. I hope we can hold out.

  5. Great post! I’ve not seen anyone else draw parallels between the treatment of the Native people then and our middle and lower income groups today. You are spot on with your observations. I’m not sure what lessons we can take away from their experience to help us today. We are as outnumbered as they were, we are talked over, controlled and fed lies and bad food. Our lives are dictated, our finances controlled, our homes taken over, repossessed and we have become wage-slaves in order to try and keep up with them for even a smidge of “equality”

    Most native people today are still fighting for the very things they fought for then. Our fight promises to be just as long.

  6. The Native Americans trusted the new comers. Just like the people of today trusted the goverenment and the bankers. The new comers (some of them), government and the bankers took advantage of the people. It is called GREED.

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