Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday.
I love Christmas too, but that holiday is filled with so much stress with worrying about getting things done “on time” and having the perfect present for someone that I don’t enjoy it like I did when I was little. No duh, right?
But I love Thanksgiving because it is Christmas in it’s simplest form; family and friends, good food and plenty of it, and feeling the spirit of the day. Sounds like Christmas without the presents, doesn’t it?
This year, was one of the best Thanksgivings my family has ever had. Everything was perfect. The house looked nice, every item that we had for dinner was cooked to perfection, we shared our dinner with dear friends, played fun games and were just plain happy.
Thanksgiving was a little more meaningful this year for me; at least I was more aware in a different way than I have been in the past. Let me explain. One of the things that I love about Thanksgiving is the idea of giving thanks. Setting aside that one day of the year to count my blessings and pay gratitude to God. In the past, I have made lists (I love lists!). One Thanksgiving before I was married, I took the advice of a radio DJ and had my entire family write down wishes and predictions to be read the following year. It was really cool, as all of my wishes and predictions came true.
So I started this season with overflowing gratitude in my heart. LIfe is good.
So how was this one different and in what way? Ryan’s girlfriend got us hooked on the PBS “House” reality series. First, we watched “Manor House” which was about Georgian England — not something that directly influenced me, as my paternal ancestors were already in the States at the time, and my maternal ancestors were in Portugal and Italy. It was fun to watch and sparked our interest about the other PBS series.
Guy found “Colonial House” at the library and we spent the week before Thanksgiving watching it. It is about a 1628 colony and how they tried to flourish to become a good investment for their backers. This show was the real “Survivor”. Looking at what our ancestors had to accomplish on an every day basis was really eye-opening. The hardest part for all of the people involved was to keep their 2003 opinions and lifestyles out of what they were doing, during the four month period that they were on the project.
But here is the part that got me the most:
The project was done with absolute realism. The settlers met with Indians. Not one tribe from the area, but two. The first were the Passamaquoddy and were mainly interested in trading. The Indians were descendants, not actors, and they spoke about their heritage and the things that are still earnestly meaningful to them. They approached the settlers with friendship and sought to make a bond with them.
The next ones that the settlers encountered towards the end of the project were descendants of the Wampanoag tribe. This group shed a much different light, as they weren’t warm and friendly. In fact, they stole into the village undetected while the settlers were at Sabbath service and stole a chicken! The one who stole the chicken was filled with anger about the settlers, voiced it, and was roundly put in his place by the Matriarch of the tribe. This tribe was outspoken about their view of their relationship with the settlers; they were guarded, didn’t want to have a friendly relationship with them, didn’t want food from them (which is key) and wanted a business-only relationship. In 1628, there would have been unrest between the two.
The Wampanoag said that in their history there was no “Thanksgiving” — no meeting of the Indians and settlers to have a great feast in peace and brotherhood. What we “whitemen” think Thanksgiving is, is just from our history books. According to them, what really happened is that the Indians heard guns shooting and hubbub going on, and decided to investigate. They came upon the settlers and were invited to join them and eat with them. In the Wampanoag’s view, that was the first mistake – that the Indians didn’t need the Whiteman’s food to survive; they were capable of feeding themselves and that Thanksgiving was the beginning of the end for them. The narrator of the show went on to say since 1970 Indians gather on Thanksgiving day at Plimouth for a day of mourning.
So here is the bottom line for me: I am a descendant of colonists and one-eighth Cherokee. I understand both sides and am sympathetic to both sides. I am also the daughter of people who made decisions generations and centuries ago that effect my life today. Watching “Colonial House” was a profound experience for me.
I understand the Indians’ plight from a different perspective, though. It was prophesied centuries before the Colonists that the Indians would be driven; just as the children of Israel have been driven from place and to place. Does knowing that make it easier for me to dismiss what happened to them? Nope. I don’t dismiss it at all because I know my family’s story and it was a hard one. What it does is bring understanding.
For that, I am most thankful.