Cowboys, Indians and the First Thanksgiving

November 23, 2017 — Leave a comment

Statue of Chief Massasoit on Coles Hill in Plymouth, MA

The first Pilgrims were tradesmen and hat-makers. They had never farmed. They brought no fishing line, no plow, no goats, no hens. The ship inventory log revealed drums and candles. They expected a warmer climate. In the harsh first winter in the new world, forty-five of the one hundred and two Pilgrims perished.

It was the tribe of the Wampanoag Indians and Chief Massasoit , specifically, who equipped the Pilgrims with skills. The Wampanoag taught the small band of settlers the vital aspects of farming, fishing, and hunting. The journals written of the first harvest indicate a great feast between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag. They had different means of dress and social coda. They worshipped distinct gods. Their skin color was dissimilar. Yet, they sat together in one circle.

I grew up watching cowboys and Indians. We were the white Christians. They were the red savages. In the years following that first Thanksgiving, the greatest genocide known on earth occurred as the cowboys proclaimed their right of Manifest Destiny over the great land that became known as the United States.

History and myth are written by the victors. But there is even more terrible beauty in knowing the truth. Today, may we recognize the commonality between us rather than the discords that divide us. Today, may we all know peace and express gratitude for the sheer miracle of being alive. Happy Thanksgiving to all my  brothers and sisters in the great and complicated family of man.


References: Nathaniel Philbrick, The Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War
Bill Bryson, Made in America: An Informal History of English Language in America
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