Happy Thanksgiving!
November 20, 2003 11:04 AM   Subscribe

Happy Thanksgiving! A friend told me the story of Corn Hill the other day (the house he grew up in is right across the street), so I decided to check out what the internet has to say about the situation. Not much apparently. This ugly website is the only other one I found that didn't say that the pilgrims "borrowed" from a "cache" of corn that they "stumbled upon". What's really crazy is that the pilgrims had never seen corn, nor native americans. This means that they either started digging for fun, or found out about the Wampanoag burial traditions and decided it was a good idea. Either way, happy Grave Robbing Day!
posted by magikeye (27 comments total)
The honkies from Europe found it because they had God to direct them, something we seem to not have these days.
posted by Postroad at 11:14 AM on November 20, 2003

Don't worry Postroad, our (U.S.) fearless leader has a direct line to God these days. Now pardon me, God told me I need to go kill some folks.
posted by 2sheets at 11:19 AM on November 20, 2003

Why do you hate America?
I'm being serious this time.
posted by keswick at 11:23 AM on November 20, 2003

Thanksgiving is next Thursday.
posted by mildred-pitt at 11:31 AM on November 20, 2003

Yeah, those Pilgrims were barbarians. Most of the people of the 17th century were much more enlightened and respectful. I spit on the Pilgrims! If only they could have seen how we live today. Everyone is so respectful of other cultures that it's like an episode of "Star Trek" shot through gauze.

(Thanksgiving is about not working and getting drunk enough to tolerate your relatives. New England's Native Americans now have it pretty sweet if you ask me.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:01 PM on November 20, 2003

Is it possible to have any credibility when you spell America with three Ks?
posted by rushmc at 12:05 PM on November 20, 2003

If you want more in this vein, James Loewen's book, Lies my teacher told me, has plenty. I think it's fair to generalise that people who go off to found colonies don't want religious freedom at all - they want somewhere to indulge in politico-religious belief systems more restrictive than those on offer where they left.
posted by raygirvan at 12:05 PM on November 20, 2003

they want somewhere to indulge in politico-religious belief systems more restrictive than those on offer where they left.

Either that, or they just want to be allowed to marry their cousins.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:21 PM on November 20, 2003

I understand the necessity of attacking the mythos sometimes, or at least the urge to do it, but if you want to actually change things you have to be careful about how you do it. Taking a holiday that's largely come to have the meaning of a time to reunite with family and count your blessings and attacking it on the given basis is going to be roughly as effective and illuminating as the Jehovah's witnesses complaints about holidays based on Pagan rituals (some of them occasionally bloody and offensive to modern society as well). The current meaning matters more to most people -- and celebrating the current meaning isn't a bad thing.

American history has had and still has some truly ugly aspects to it, and I'm sure there's a case to be made that true pennance hasn't been done yet. And I'm sure that there are myths aplenty about Plymouth Rock, the founding fathers, Francis Scott Key, Betsy Ross, etc. And we know that brutalization and genocide of the native population of colonies was a part of early american life.

America isn't unique in these vices, but more fortunately and importantly, isn't unique in recognizing the horror of them and trying to make a better society -- which it's done, and will continue to with any luck. *That's* something to be thankful -- that America has grown into a society which is better about the values which it professed at its incipience.
posted by namespan at 12:36 PM on November 20, 2003

I am currently reading Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me, and just finished the chapter on Thanksgiving (you beat me to it, raygirvan!).

The authors of the web site linked in the FPP raise valid points, but do so in a not particularly effective way. Loewen does a very nice job of explaining the mythos of Thanksgiving and other aspects of American history.

I disagree with you, namespan: we've done an awful job of acknowledging the seamier side of our national history and of creating myths, like the first Thanksgiving, that support certain points of view. I think learning more about our national failures as well as our alleged successes would make us all better people by helping us to see the bias present in dominant points of view.
posted by tippiedog at 1:01 PM on November 20, 2003

The misanthrope in me hates you.
posted by rocketman at 1:13 PM on November 20, 2003

posted by car_bomb at 1:22 PM on November 20, 2003

The, uh, me in me loves Thanksgiving. Best meal of the year. I have some damn good cooks in my family.
posted by tomorama at 1:30 PM on November 20, 2003

I hope the God in me likes turkey, because that's what he's getting.
posted by Cyrano at 2:11 PM on November 20, 2003

i'm convinced the only reason why americans are still fatter than canadians is because y'all hold thanksgiving and christmas too close to eachother. too much tasty overdoing it without a good long break in between to take the holiday poundage off.

btw, the first thanksgiving celebration was held in newfoundland in 1578
posted by t r a c y at 2:40 PM on November 20, 2003

The epicure in me hates the notion that we should only eat well one day a year.
posted by rushmc at 2:51 PM on November 20, 2003

I think we can agree on that rushmc!
posted by tr33hggr at 3:23 PM on November 20, 2003

there's these lyrics from ras kass "nature of the threat"... i'm too lazy to investigate their accuracy but perhaps some mefite will know?

In the eight century muslims conquered
Spain, portugal and france and controlled it for 700 years
They never mention this in history class
Cause o’fays are threatened when you get the real lesson
Moors from baghdad, turkey threatened european christians
Meaning, the white way of life; hence the crusades for christ
On november 25th, 1491
Santiago defeats the last muslim stronghold, grenada
King ferdinand gave thanks to God for victory
And the pope of rome and declared this date to forever be
A day of "thanksgiving" for all european christians

.. now listen, when you celebrate "thanksgiving"
What you are actually celebratin
Is the proclamation of the pope of rome
Who later, in league with queen isabella
Sent cardinal ximenos to spain
To murder any blacks that resisted christianity
These moors, these black men and women
Were from baghdad, turkey
And today, you eat the turkey, for your "thanksgiving" day
As the european powers destroyed the turkeys
Who were the forefathers of your mothers and fathers
Now fight the power, you bitch-ass n****az!

posted by jcruelty at 3:39 PM on November 20, 2003

where's that tryptophan-5 dude? I bet he has something to say about this. And Mayor Curley, enough with the moral equivalence. You liberals lack moral clarity.
posted by cell divide at 4:10 PM on November 20, 2003

You liberals lack moral clarity.

Yes, I know the conservative position. Moral relativism is bad unless it's concerning something like apartheid.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:48 PM on November 20, 2003

. . . and you conservatives lack moral relevance.

Seriously, I just want to make my glazed turkey with homemade bread stuffing w/garlic and rosemary without having to consider the political ramifications of any stripe.

Please, can I have just a few hours of cultural blindness, just once this year? It's been a heavy load lately . . .
posted by yesster at 4:50 PM on November 20, 2003

there's these lyrics from ras kass "nature of the threat"... i'm too lazy to investigate their accuracy

It's mostly pulled straight out of someone's ass. But the date of the Inquisition is accurate and so are the names "Ferdinand" and "Jiminez."

Our Thanksgiving holiday really is about the Puritans surviving a string of setbacks, not the Inquisition. It's a North American holiday and it wasn't even official until 1941, so it's origins are pretty well documented.

Mr. Ras Kass is really, really ignorant of Middle Eastern ethnicities. The whole notion that Moors were blacks as we think of African blacks is wrong. They were Arabic speakers from North Africa. Arabic was unknown in sub-Saharan Africa except for a few isolated trade routes into the Kingdom of Ghana, so they probably physically resembled Berbers and other Semitic Family speakers.

Then to say that Moors were from Turkey is especially retarded. The Turks of the 15th century were Altaic people from central Asia (related to the Mongols) who spread down around the Black Sea and ended up sacking Constantinople. They intermarried with semitic people on the way, but they had no relation to Moors other than religion (Turkish is not related to Arabic at all except for borrowed words).

posted by Mayor Curley at 5:14 PM on November 20, 2003

::: offers yesster a pomegranate :::
posted by rushmc at 7:09 PM on November 20, 2003

wow. good history lessons here!
speaking of which, anyone who's criticizing my intentions of posting this ought to know that it was also just a history lesson. i'm not trying to change anything. i was under the impression that posting on metafilter was pretty much assumed to be a method of sharing knowledge and ideas. if i were trying to change anything this would probably be one of the least effective ways of doing it. further the post wasn't meant to point out the cruelty of the pilgrims on the native americans. we all know that. i mean come on, besides english protestants, who hasn't been oppressed in the u.s. at one time or another? even the germans had the names of their foods changed in the 40's. i just thought it was interesting, that's all. mostly the misinformation part though. that's totally fucked. anyway, sniff you jerks later.
posted by magikeye at 8:44 PM on November 20, 2003

posted by quonsar at 11:04 PM on November 20, 2003

From thence we went on, and found much plain ground, about fifty acres, fit for plow, and some signs where the Indians had formerly planted their corn. After this ... we struck into the land again, where we found a little path to certain heaps of sand, one whereof was covered with old mats, and had a wooding thing like a mortar whelmed on the top of it, and an earthen pot laid in a little hole at the end thereof. We, musing what it might be, digged and found a bow, and, as we thought, arrows, but they were rotten. We supposed there were many other things, but because we deemed them graves, we put in the bow again and made it up as it was, and left the rest untouched, because we thought it would be odious unto them to ransack their sepulchers. We went on further and found new stubble, of which they had gotten corn this year ...

[Elsewhere] there was a heap of sand, made like the former—but it was newly done, we might see how they had paddled it with their hands—which we digged up, and in it we found a little old basket full of fair Indian corn, and digged further and found a fine great new basket full of very fair corn of this year, with some thirty-six goodly ears of corn, some yellow, some red, and others mixed with blue, which was a very goodly sight. The basket was round, and narrow at the top; it held about three or four bushels, which was as much as two of us could lift up from the ground, and was very handsomely and cunningly made.... We were in suspense what to do with it and the kettle, and at length, after much consultation, we concluded to take the kettle and as much of the corn as we could carry away with us; and when our shallop came, if we could find any of the people, and come to parley with them, we would give them the kettle again, and satisfy them for their corn. So we took all the ears, and put a good deal of the loose corn in the kettle for two men to bring away on a staff; besides, they that could put any into their pockets filled the same. The rest we buried again, for we were so laden with armor that we could carry no more....

[Later] This done, we marched to the place where we had the corn formerly, which place we called Cornhill, and digged and found the rest, of which we were very glad. We also digged in a place a little further off, and found a bottle of oil. We went to another place which we had seen before, and digged, and found more corn, viz. Two or three baskets full of Indian wheat, and a bag of beans, with a good many of fair wheat ears. Whilst some of us were digging up this, some others found another heap of corn, which they digged up also, so as we had in all about ten bushels, which will serve us sufficiently for seed. And sure it was God's good providence that we found this corn, for else we know not how we should have done, for we knew not how we should find or meet with any Indians, except it be to do us a mischief. Also, we had never in all likelihood seen a grain of it if we had not made our first journey, for the ground was now covered with snow, and so hard frozen that we were fain with our cutlasses and short swords to hew and carve the ground a foot deep, and then wrest it up with levers, for we had forgot to bring other tools.

-- A Relation or Journal of the Proceedings of the Plantation settled at Plymouth in New England, Edward Winslow (or William Bradford), 1622 [part 1]

The colonists would not have direct contact with the natives until the middle of March the next year, when an Massasoit named Samoset (who had learned broken English from fishermen and traders) approached them, leading to a series of meetings including trinket and food exchanges and finally a peace treaty, after which the Massasoits took up residence across the creek from the colony. Considering a neighboring tribe had been ransacked for slaves by an earlier expedition, they were quite generous, though bow vs. musket was also a consideration. (They also hoped to trade for muskets to defend themselves against the Narragansett tribe.) Their numbers, like those of many coastal tribes, had been depleted by contact with European diseases, explaining the empty villages, the large number of gravesites, and the relative abundance of foodstuffs.

We gave them entertainment as we thought was fitting them; they did eat liberally of our English victuals. They made semblance unto us of friendship and amity; they sang and danced after their manner, like antics. They brought with them in a thing like a bow-case (which the principal of them had about his waist) a little of their corn pounded to powder, which, put to a little water, they eat.

The First Thanksgiving:
We set the last spring some twenty acres of Indian corn, and sowed some six acres of barley and peas, and according to the manner of the Indians, we manured our ground with herrings or rather shads, which we have in great abundance, and take with great ease at our doors. Our corn did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn ... Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after have a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the company almost a week, at which time amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.
posted by dhartung at 12:34 AM on November 21, 2003

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