In December of 1620 Pilgrims from England (by way of Holland) settled in the wilderness of Plymouth Harbor seeking a place they could worship as they chose and be free from the religious persecution of their homeland. They were ill-equipped to survive the harsh New England winter, and were rescued by friendly Indians who shared their food with them, and when the weather turned warm, taught them to grow corn. After the following harvest, the Pilgrims invited the Indians for a feast, and thus was the first Thanksgiving born.
What a load of crap.
While the Native Americans who first settled here some 30,000 years before Christianity was invented might have been surprised to learn that they didn’t count because they weren’t European enough, the African slaves left behind in South Carolina by the Spanish to create their own settlement in 1526 probably wouldn’t have been. The French Protestants in St. Augustine certainly seemed surprised when the Spanish massacred them in 1565, although that paved the way for America’s first wave of Pilgrims seeking freedom from religious persecution… all of whom were Spanish. And Jewish. In fact, roughly a third of America was Spanish for about twice as long as it has been American. If not for the Spanish and our original Pilgrims, we would have had no cows, pigs, sheep, horses, and accordingly, no cowboys. Those Spanish soldiers who wiped out the French in St. Augustine celebrated the first known holiday called Thanksgiving, though they were probably just being thankful that French monks were such pussies.
In 1607 the London Company created Jamestown in Virginia, and there was a Dutch settlement in Albany by 1614, all before the much-vaunted English Pilgrims showed up to let everyone know it was okay for white guys to live here.
Back in Europe, the bubonic plague had wiped out close to 30% of the population. Even today, historians call it the worst disaster to have befallen mankind. Yet it pales in comparison to what happened to the Native Americans. European settlers wrote that god was clearly on their side, erasing the native population before them, but the truth was simply that the Europeans were dirty. (Squanto reportedly tried to teach the Pilgrims how to bathe themselves, but to no avail.)
Population estimates in 1492 put Europe at around 70 million, and the Americas at 100 million. By 1840 the Native American population had fallen to 2 million. In 1880 that number was 250,000. Go god.
So how does this affect our Thanksgiving? Heading back to our Pilgrims… when Plymouth Harbor was “settled” by the Pilgrims, it was hardly a wilderness. It was in fact the Wampanoag village of Patuxet, led by Squanto. French and British cod fisherman had been in the area for decades, occasionally stopping by to enslave a native or two for a little extra pocket money back home, and as a result by the time the Pilgrims (let’s just call them the Grims) showed, the village had just been ravaged… nearly annihilated in fact, by sickness. The Grims walked out into the fields and plucked the Wampanoags’ corn directly from the villagers fields, abandoned because there were too few people left alive to harvest. Squanto saw the gun-totin’ Grims on one side, and hostile tribes waiting to pounce on his prime real estate on the other, and decided appeasement was the better policy. He instructed the fifty or so remaining Wampanoags (out of over 2,000 just a few years before) to befriend the Grims, and let them take whatever they wanted. Which they did.
The first “American” Thanksgiving was therefore sharing the Natives own stolen food back with them, and being Thankful that they had almost entirely died out and left a really great (and already well settled) place for the Grims to take over.
Amen. Please pass the pie.