Friday, November 21, 2008


For me, Thanksgiving has always been kind of a special holiday. Farm children can easily relate to celebrating, and giving thanks for, a bountiful harvest or a successful hunt. And I always have loved food.

One year, Gloria and I celebrated Thanksgiving in the Boston area with our son Mick. I thought it was great to be able to celebrate right in the area of the very first Thanksgiving. But I found that there are some mixed feelings about the great day.

Each year, hundreds and even thousands of members of the United American Indians of New England, along with many of their friends and supporters, gather on Cole’s Hill, an area that overlooks Plymouth Rock, to observe their “National Day of Mourning.” A sad occasion brought about by the survival of the Pilgrim colonies and the colonization of America. The day is devoted to prayers and speeches.

One of their elders, Mahtowin Munro informed the crowd, “As Native Americans, we have no reason to give thanks for the European invasion of our land, and the genocide of our people. We are also here to talk about the continuing racism and oppression that we still face today.”

“We celebrated the first Thanksgiving with the settlers, and after that they took the land of the Native Americans,” said Edwin W. Morse, “Chief Wise Owl,” leader of the Chaubunagungamaug band of the Nipmuc tribe. “Indians saved the settlers and taught them how to survive – fed them and kept them alive. Every day is a feast day for Indians. Each day when we have dinner we thank the Creator.”

This autumn congregation of the Native Americans has not always been welcomed with open arms. In 1997, violence broke out. Twenty-five Indians were arrested. After the dust had settled, the town of Plymouth agreed to dismiss all charges if the protesters promised not to pursue misconduct charges against the police. It also agreed to put $100,000 into an education fund that would focus on American Indian history, to pay for the legal fees of the protesters, and to spend $15,000 for a plaque that will explain history from the point of view of native peoples. Its message will be a reminder of the genocide of millions of people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their culture.

We celebrated our Thanksgiving in the East much as we always have here at home, with turkey, dressing, and all the “fixin’s.” We really enjoyed our first trip to New England with its “stern and rock-bound coast.” I’m sure there will never be a shortage of rocks and boulders out there. We loved visiting the smaller villages. Each had a “common.” In early days these park-like, grassy areas were used as meeting places in the time of emergencies. Many now have plaques and statues to honor their founders and heroes. And tell of important happenings of bygone days.

New England architecture has its own style. And it appears great efforts are made to adhere to this. Almost no glitz or golden arches. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish a fast food restaurant or a filling station from establishments that are centuries old. I had only a few complaints with the area. There seemed to be a decided shortage of public restrooms. And those found in the places of business are there strictly for the use of customers only!

We really enjoyed a parade in Douglas, Mass. Riding a trolley, we wound up right in the parade itself, waving to the crowds gathered along the streets, just as if we belonged there. Then we watched a long line of parents with small children wait for as long as two hours just to visit with Santa Claus. As the dark of night descended, we witnessed the “lighting of the common.” The mayor threw a giant (dummy) switch and all of the trees were simultaneously lighted with myriads of colored Christmas lights. Then followed a period of carol singing. It was a Thanksgiving week we will long remember.


In the kitchen, women’s faces

Glowed from heat and pride and sweat,

Putting our noon meal on, knowing

It was their best effort yet.

Big old gobbler from the farmyard

Filled the roaster to the brim.

He steamed real good on the platter;

We sure did our best on him.

Our meal was a feast, the biggest

And best I have yet to taste.

And there’s lots of good leftovers,

I know none will go to waste.

As we sat down at the table,

Grandpa Lowther said a prayer.

He talked of that first Thanksgiving

Just as if he had been there.

Uncle Lige Craig said, “We like to

Hear about those days of old,

But pass down them mashed p’taters

Before they start getting cold.”

It’s been dark for several hours now.

The sun’s slipped behind the hills,

But I’m not ready for supper,

I’m still filled up to my gills

With too much Thanksgiving turkey,

‘Taters, pumpkin pie, and squash,

But I’ll give it my best effort.

I’ll be no quitter, by gosh!

I’ve never been strong on history,

But there’s no way I can see

That the Pilgrims and the Indians

Had as good a day as me.

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