Happy Thanksgiving, all y’all. I am here in Utah where the snow is coming down heavily, a snow bomb, apparently. We made it here on Tuesday when it was just spitting a few flakes, and my daughter and son-in-law came in at midnight last night, via Denver!, just before the dump started. We are visiting my son who is posted to the university here.
The snow is lovely and we rented a four wheel drive vehicle, so getting around is easy.
Growing up in Plymouth, I have always felt this particular holiday is special. During the writing of my new novel, The Last Pilgrim – the story of the longest living passenger on the Mayflower – I got to read a lot about how the native populations were treated by the settlers from England, the Netherlands and other European nations. At that time and with their customs, these immigrants did not see how devastating their settlement would become to the tribes of New England.
John Carver, the first governor of the Plymouth Colony, made a treaty with the sachem of the Wampanoags, Massasoit, of mutual defense for both the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags – which last fifty years. But during that time, many offenses against the natives occurred both in the expanding Plymouth Colony and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Eventually, this resulted in King Philip’s War, begun by Metacomet, Massasoit’s younger son. So writing this book gave me a somewhat different view of the time – through my modern eyes.
History is what it is – you cannot change it, only understand it. The Pilgrims were helped in many ways by the Wampanoags during their first year on the New England coast, and a feast of thanksgiving was celebrated by both groups. Governor William Bradford gave thanks to God for their survival and for the many gifts the Pilgrims were given by the Wampanoags.
So that is how I see Thanksgiving today. A time to celebrate, give thanks to whatever Supreme Being a person worships for the life and gifts they have been given. Being an American, I realize those gifts are many, deriving from the doughty group of men and women who came here on the Mayflower but also from those people who already lived here.
Jean Leon Gerome Ferris’s 1912 illustration, The First Thanksgiving, 1621