Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I wonder what Jacoby Ellsbury makes of Thanksgiving.

For my Irish readers and those who don't know what Thanksgiving is about, it stems from as far back as 1621. Back then, the European settlers of Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts were particularly grateful to the Wampanoag people, without whom they might not have survived the harsh winter conditions in the brand new world. The Wampanoag taught the Europeans to catch food, like fish and deer, and grow corn. They may have even taught them lacrosse, who knows. Point is, they were pretty helpful.

Those Plymouth settlers (who became known as the "Pilgrims") set apart a holiday immediately after their first harvest in 1621. They held an autumn celebration of food, feasting, and praising God. Lions v Packers was also part of the entertainment, in high definition, of course. To thank them for their help, the Governor of Plymouth invited Grand Sachem Massasoit and the Wampanoag people to join them in the feast. The settlers fed and entertained the Native Americans for three days, at which point some of the Native Americans went into the forest, killed 5 deer, and gave them to the Governor as a gift. As you do.

That, my friends, was the first Thanksgiving.

Of course, things didn't work out so well for the Indians after 1621. After being thanked for helping the well intentioned settlers make it through the first winters in the new world, the Native Americans spent the next few centuries being pushed to the side, bought out and killed en masse as the white man basically stomped them out of existence.

The Native American now takes up 1% of the population of the United States.

Before I sound like I am eulogising, I am as bad as you. Thanksgiving? A lovely family meal, with some great NFL games, booze, great food and trying to get all three games right for a big profit on whatever

The great leader of the Nez Perce, Chief Joseph, probably not a huge fan of Thanksgiving

I guess what I am saying, clumsily, is while you are digging into your Turkey and praying for a backdoor cover with your team down by ten and driving, with the ball, and two minutes left, spare a thought for the hundreds of Wiyot Indians, mostly women and children, slaughtered by white settlers in Humboldt County, California, in the Gunther Island Massacre of 1860.

As you (and I) sit there (and here) thinking 'Man I ate way too much', spare a thought for the hundreds of members of the Yahi tribe murdered in the Kingsley Cave/Morgan Camp massacre in 1871.

As you watch yet another Peyton Manning ad on TV, spare a thought for Black Kettle's Cheyenne tribe of Native Americans. On Nov 27th, 1868, Lt.Col. G.A.Custer's 7th cavalry attacked them as they slept, killing 156 men, women and children.

Finally, as you lay there in bed thinking, 'That was a great Thanksgiving', try and spare a thought for those Native Americans slaughtered December 29th 1890, at the Wounded Knee Massacre, where 300 Sioux men, women and children were massacred by US soldiers at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

That's just touching the tip of the iceberg. The Native American helped the Pilgrim survive the new world, and the Pilgrim said thanks, resulting in Thanksgiving. The Native American, over the next couple of centuries, then proceeded to slowly vanish off the face of the earth. Some would call that genocide.

So yeah, happy Thanksgiving!! Yay.



Jimmy Chowda said...

Yer killing me, Cormac. The world was a brutal place back then. If the Spanish, Chinese, or Romans had gotten there first, the Native Americans in North America would be completely extinct now. Ever run into an Incan or a Pagan community? Me neither.

The Kansas-Missouri border wars of the 1830's showed there was a lot of white on white brutality back in the day, too. The Native Americans were the first, and only, lesser civilization to run into another and survive to some extent.

The true lesson of Thanksgiving has a lot more to do with capitalism as a superior economic model to communism:

Are Americans ashamed of what happened to the Indians? Sure. However, that's not what Thanksgiving is all about. It began when people started migrating west and then heading back East to see family during the holidays. It wasn't a national holiday until after the Civil War. So, it was essentially started as a way to thank God for their families and what they had, even after the deadliest years in American history.

Cormac said...

Totally disagree Jimmy, hence the article!

I don't see this 'angst' over the demise of the American Indian, don't see it at all.

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