Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving: Thoughts from Dr. Walker Blanton

In July, JU History Professor, Dr. Walker Blanton shared a couple stanzas with the Dolphin Network on some unique aspects of Independence Day history. It was a very popular post, so this week, as we celebrate Thanksgiving in this country, we asked Dr. Blanton to yet again share his thoughts:

With Thanksgiving upon us, I find it interesting to reflect back on stories we have heard throughout our lifetime about the history of this holiday.

For example, many of us have heard various versions of the first Thanksgiving, and while the Pilgrims are rightfully credited with being the hosts, if it weren’t for the Patuxet Tribe’s Tisquantum (also known throughout history as Squanto) the event would have never happened.

In the early 1600's, Tisquantum’s was kidnapped and taken from North America to Europe to be sold as a slave. However, he instead fell in with different individuals who taught him English and the Christian faith, which enabled him to eventually return to America as part of an expedition. Upon returning to the home of his tribe in 1619 - which was now named Plymouth – he worked with the Pilgrims that now called this land home. His assistance was critical to the Pilgrims surviving and also established a relationship between the two cultures, which two years later, led to what many attribute as the first Thanksgiving.

This 1621 event in Plymouth also has a number of variations so some may be surprised by the truth. For example:

The event happened during an autumn harvest moon….in October:
  • It was not until the New Deal era under President Franklin Roosevelt that the present date of Thanksgiving was installed. Additionally, it was not until this time that the holiday was even officially named a holiday. Presidents up until this time appreciated this event in history, but never established it as an event worthy of a national holiday.
The event began as a regular dinner…but it turned into a potluck supper:
  • As the story goes, the Pilgrims invited the local tribes to this meal and the menu primarily consisted of shell fish and other food they had with them and knew how to obtain. However, after seeing this spread, it is said that the local tribes left to hunt for some wild game (including wild turkey....the animal, not the beverage) and bring that back for all to eat. This is where the tradition of the main Thanksgiving course arose from.
No matter which versions you have heard of these stories though, the end is usually the same, which is that this week, we collectively as a nation are asked to reflect on those things worth giving thanks for.

On behalf of all those at the Dolphin Network, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

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