This harvest season, as we celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 26th, we are reminded of the “happy feast” between the Pilgrims and the Indians, according to some stories which apparently happened only “once.”
The background story on Thanksgiving, according to author Susan Bates, “began in 1614 when a band of English explorers sailed home to England with a ship full of Pawtuxet Indians bound for slavery. They left behind diseases such as smallpox which virtually wiped out those who had escaped. And, by the time the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts Bay, they found only one living Pawtuxet Indian, named Squanto who had survived slavery in England, and understood their language.
Knowledgeable as he was, Squanto taught them how to grow corn and fish, and he negotiated a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Nation. Thus, at the end of their first year, the Pilgrims held a great feast, honoring Squanto and the Wampanoags.”
However, as the word spread out in England about this so-called paradise in the “new world,” religious zealots called “Puritans began arriving by the bus load and finding no fences around, the land they considered it a public domain, so they seized land, capturing young natives for slavery and killing the rest of the Pequot tribe.
In 1637, near present day Groton, Connecticut, over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival to celebrate Thanksgiving, but they were all murdered by the English and Dutch mercenaries, so the next day, the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared a “day of Thanksgiving,” for their victory over the Pequot Tribe.
Though this grizzly story didn’t play out with the more peaceful feast where the Pilgrims and the Indians sat together in celebration, we still need to accept that it was part of the history of Thanksgiving until Abraham Lincoln declared “Thanksgiving Day” as a legal national holiday during the Civil War years.
As Christians, we celebrate “Thanksgiving” not only to give thanks to our loved ones or those who have been kind and generous to us, but to thank Him for making each moment we’re privileged to have in this challenging world, as meaningful and significant, particularly by praying for those who have health challenges, as well as extend our compassion and respect to the rest of our underprivileged fellowmen. Wishing you all a bountiful and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!