11/27/2010

What thanksgiving means to me!


4. The Wampanoag Indians were not the "friendly savages"
      some of us were told about when we were in the primary
      grades. Nor were they invited out of the goodness of the
      Pilgrims' hearts to share the fruits of the Pilgrims'
      harvest in a demonstration of Christian charity and
      interracial brotherhood. The Wampanoag were members of a
      widespread confederacy of Algonkian-speaking peoples
      known as the League of the Delaware. For six hundred
      years they had been defending themselves from my other
      ancestors, the Iroquois, and for the last hundred years
      they had also had encounters with European fishermen and
      explorers but especially with European slavers, who had
      been raiding their coastal villages.(6) They knew
      something of the power of the white people, and they did
      not fully trust them. But their religion taught that
      they were to give charity to the helpless and
      hospitality to anyone who came to them with empty
      hands.(7) Also, Squanto, the Indian hero of the
      Thanksgiving story, had a very real love for a British
      explorer named John Weymouth, who had become a second
      father to him several years before the Pilgrims arrived
      at Plymouth. Clearly, Squanto saw these Pilgrims as
      Weymouth's people.(8) To the Pilgrims the Indians were
      heathens and, therefore, the natural instruments of the
      Devil. Squanto, as the only educated and baptized
      Christian among the Wampanoag, was seen as merely an
      instrument of God, set in the wilderness to provide for
      the survival of His chosen people, the Pilgrims. The
      Indians were comparatively powerful and, therefore,
      dangerous; and they were to be courted until the next
      ships arrived with more Pilgrim colonists and the
      balance of power shifted. The Wampanoag were actually
      invited to that Thanksgiving feast for the purpose of
      negotiating a treaty that would secure the lands of the
      Plymouth Plantation for the Pilgrims. It should also be
      noted that the INDIANS, possibly out of a sense of
      charity toward their hosts, ended up bringing the
      majority of the food for the feast.(9)

   5. A generation later, after the balance of power had
      indeed shifted, the Indian and White children of that
      Thanksgiving were striving to kill each other in the
      genocidal conflict known as King Philip's War. At the
      end of that conflict most of the New England Indians
      were either exterminated or refugees among the French in
      Canada, or they were sold into slavery in the Carolinas
      by the Puritans. So successful was this early trade in
      Indian slaves that several Puritan ship owners in Boston
      began the practice of raiding the Ivory Coast of Africa
      for black slaves to sell to the proprietary colonies of
      the South, thus founding the American-based slave
      trade.(10) 
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