Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Complex Politics of the First Thanksgiving


Charles C. Mann has an excellent article in this month's Smithsonian magazine about the Patuxet native we've all come to know as Squanto, friendly helper when the Pilgrims were struggling to survive:
More than likely Tisquantum was not the name he was given at birth. In that part of the Northeast, tisquantum referred to rage, especially the rage of manitou, the world-suffusing spiritual power at the heart of coastal Indians’ religious beliefs. When Tisquantum approached the Pilgrims and identified himself by that sobriquet, it was as if he had stuck out his hand and
said, Hello, I’m the Wrath of God.
. . . .
Recognizing that the colonists would be unlikely to keep him around forever, Tisquantum decided to gather together the few Native survivors of Patuxet and reconstitute the old community at a site near Plymouth. More ambitious still, he hoped to use his influence on the English to make this new Patuxet the center of the Wampanoag confederation, thereby stripping the sachemship from Massasoit. To accomplish these goals, as Governor Bradford later recounted, he intended to play the Indians and English against each other.
. . . .
By fall the settlers’ situation was secure enough that they held a feast of thanksgiving. Massasoit showed up with “some ninety men,” Winslow later recalled, most of them with weapons. The Pilgrim militia responded by marching around and firing their guns in the air in a manner intended to convey menace. Gratified, both sides sat down, ate a lot of food and complained about the Narragansett. Ecce Thanksgiving.

Link. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone on what has turned into, oddly enough, America's most pious and communal national holiday.

Indexed by tags , , , , , , .

Image credits: The Treaty of Penn with the Indians, Benjamin West, America, 1771-72.


Blogger David Reke said...

Its amazing how many different stories of the original Thanksgiving there are. I've never heard that version before.

7:43 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home