The Plymouth Thanksgiving Story

When the Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1620
They landed on the rocky shores of a territory
That was inhabited by the Wampanoag "Wam Pa No Ag" Indians
The Wampanoags were part of the Algonkian-speaking peoples
A large group that was part of the Woodland Culture area
These Indians lived in villages along the coast
Of what is now Massachusetts and Rhode Island
They lived in round roofed houses called wigwams
These were made of poles covered with flat sheets of elm or birch bark
Wigwams differ in construction from tipis that were used by Indians of the Great Plains

The Wampanoags moved several times during each year in order to get food
In the spring they would fish in the rivers for salmon and herring
In the planting season they moved to the forest to hunt deer and other animals

After the end of the hunting season
The people moved inland where there was greater protection from the weather
From December to April they lived on food that they stored during the earlier months

The basic dress for men was the breech clout
A length of deerskin looped over a belt in back and in front
Women wore deerskin wrap around skirts
Deerskin leggings and fur capes made from
Deer
Beaver
Otter
And Bear Skins
This gave them protection during the colder seasons
Deerskin moccasins were worn on the feet

Both men and women usually braided their hair
A single feather was often worn in the back of the hair by men
They did not have the large feathered headdresses
Worn by people in the Plains Culture area

There were two language groups of Indians in New England at this time
The Iroquois were neighbors to the Algonkian-speaking people
Leaders of the Algonquin and Iroquois people were called "sachems" say chems

Each village had its own sachem and tribal council
Political power flowed upward from the people
Any individual man or woman could participate
But among the Algonquins more political power was held by men

Among the Iroquois however
Women held the deciding vote in the final selection of who would represent the group
Both men and women enforced the laws of the village and helped solve problems
The details of their democratic system were so impressive
That about 150 years later Benjamin Franklin invited the Iroquois to Albany, New York
To explain their system to a delegation who then developed the "Albany Plan of Union"
This document later served as a model for the Articles Of Confederation
And the Constitution of the United States

These Indians of the Eastern woodlands called
The Turtle
The Deer
And The Fish Their Brothers

They respected the forest and everything in it as equals
Whenever a hunter made a kill
He was careful to leave behind some bones or meat as a spiritual offering
This was done to help other animals survive
Not to do so would be considered greedy

The Wampanoags also treated each other with respect
Any visitor to a Wampanoag home
Was provided with a share of whatever food the family had
This was done even if the supply was low
This same courtesy was extended to the Pilgrims when they met them

We can only guess what the Wampanoags must have thought
When they first saw the strange ships of the Pilgrims arriving on their shores
But their custom was to help visitors
They treated the newcomers with courtesy
It was mainly because of their kindness that the Pilgrims survived at all

The wheat the Pilgrims had brought with them to plant would not grow in the rocky soil
They needed to learn new ways for a new world
The man who came to help them was called "Tisquantum" Tis Skwan Tum
Or "Squanto" Skwan Toe
Squanto was originally from the village of "Patuxet" Pa Tuk et
He was a member of the Pokanokit Wampanoag nation
Patuxet once stood on the exact site where the Pilgrims built Plymouth

In 1605 fifteen years before the Pilgrims came
Squanto went to England with a friendly English explorer named John Weymouth
He had many adventures and learned to speak English
Squanto came back to New England with Captain Weymouth
Later Squanto was captured by a British slaver who raided the village
He sold Squanto to the Spanish in the Caribbean Islands
A Spanish Franciscan priest befriended Squanto
He helped him to get to Spain and later on a ship to England
Squanto then found Captain Weymouth
Who paid his way back to his homeland

In England Squanto met Samoset of the Wabanake, Wab Nah Key, Tribe
Samoset had also left his native home with an English explorer
They both returned together to Patuxet in 1620
When they arrived
The village was deserted and there were skeletons everywhere
Everyone in the village had died from an illness the English slavers had left behind
Squanto and Samoset went to stay with a neighboring village of Wampanoags

One year later in the spring
Squanto and Samoset were hunting along the beach near Patuxet
They were startled to see people from England in their deserted village
For several days they stayed nearby observing the newcomers
Finally they decided to approach them
Samoset walked into the village and said "Welcome"
Squanto soon joined him

The Pilgrims were very surprised to meet two Indians who spoke English
The Pilgrims were not in good condition
They were living in dirt covered shelters
There was a shortage of food
Nearly half of them had died during the winter
They obviously needed help and the two men were a welcome sight

Squanto
Who probably knew more English than any other Indian in North America
At that time
Decided to stay with the Pilgrims for the next few months
He wanted to teach them how to survive in this new place

He brought them deer meat and beaver skins
He taught them how to cultivate corn and other new vegetables
He taught them how to build Indian-style houses
He pointed out poisonous plants
He showed how other plants could be used as medicine

He explained how to dig and cook clams
How to get sap from the maple trees
Use fish for fertilizer
And dozens of other skills needed for their survival

By the time fall arrived things were going much better for the Pilgrims
Thanks to the help that they had received
The corn they planted had grown well
There was enough food to last the winter
They were living comfortably in their Indian style wigwams
They had also managed to build one European-style building out of squared logs
This was their church
They were now in better health
They knew more about surviving in this new land

The Pilgrims decided to have a thanksgiving feast to celebrate their good fortune
They had observed thanksgiving feasts in November
As religious obligations in England for many years before coming to the New World

The Algonkian tribes held six thanksgiving festivals during the year
The beginning of the Algonkian year was marked by the Maple Dance
Which gave thanks to the Creator for the maple tree and its syrup
This ceremony occurred when the weather was warm enough
For the sap to run in the maple trees
This happened sometimes as early as February

Second was the planting feast where the seeds were blessed

The strawberry festival was next
Celebrating the first fruits of the season

Summer brought the green corn festival to give thanks for the ripening corn
In late fall, the harvest festival gave thanks for the food they had grown

Mid-winter was the last ceremony of the old year

When the Indians sat down to the "First Thanksgiving" with the Pilgrims
It was really the fifth thanksgiving of the year for them

Captain Miles Standish the leader of the Pilgrims
Invited Squanto
Samoset
Massasoit the leader of the Wampanoags
And their immediate families to join them for a celebration
But they had no idea how big Indian families could be

As the Thanksgiving feast began
The Pilgrims were overwhelmed at the large turnout of ninety relatives
That Squanto and Samoset brought with them
The Pilgrims were not prepared to feed a gathering of people that large for three days
Seeing this
Massasoit gave orders to his men within the first hour of his arrival
To go home and get more food
Thus it happened that the Indians supplied the majority of the food
Five Deer
Many Wild Turkeys
Fish
Beans
Squash
Corn Soup
Corn Bread
And Berries

Captain Standish sat at one end of a long table
The Clan Chief Massasoit sat at the other end
For the first time the Wampanoag people were sitting at a table to eat
Instead of on mats or furs spread on the ground
The Indian women sat together with the Indian men to eat

The Pilgrim women however stood quietly behind the table
They waited until after their men had eaten
That was their custom

For three days the Wampanoags feasted with the Pilgrims
It was a special time of friendship between two very different groups of people
A peace and friendship agreement was made between Massasoit and Miles Standish
This gave the Pilgrims clearing the forest where the old Patuxet village once stood
Time to build their new town of Plymouth

It would be very good to say that this friendship lasted a long time
But unfortunately that was not to be
More English people came to America
They were not in need of help from the Indians as were the original Pilgrims
Many of the newcomers forgot the help the Indians had given them
Mistrust started to grow and the friendship weakened

The Pilgrims started telling their Indian neighbors
That their Indian religion and Indian customs were wrong
The Pilgrims displayed an intolerance toward the Indian religion
Similar to the intolerance displayed toward the less popular religions in Europe

The relationship deteriorated
Within a few years the children of the people who ate together at the first Thanksgiving
Were killing one another in what came to be called King Phillip's War

It is sad to think that this happened

Today the town of Plymouth Rock
Has a Thanksgiving ceremony each year in remembrance of the first Thanksgiving
There are still Wampanoag people living in Massachusetts
In 1970 they asked one of them to speak at the ceremony
To mark the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrim's arrival


Here Is Part Of What Was Said

"Today Is A Time Of Celebrating For You
A Time Of Looking Back To The First Days Of The White People In America
But It Is Not A Time Of Celebrating For Me
It Is With A Heavy Heart That I Look Back Upon What Happened To My People

When The Pilgrims Arrived
We The Wampanoags Welcomed Them With Open Arms
Little Knowing That It Was The Beginning Of The End
That Before 50 Years Were To Pass
The Wampanoag Would No Longer Be A Tribe
That We And Other Indians Living Near The Settlers
Would Be Killed By Their Guns Or Dead From Diseases That We Caught From Them

Let Us Always Remember
The Indian Is And Was Just As Human As The White People
Although Our Way Of Life Is Almost Gone
We
The Wampanoags
Still Walk The Lands Of Massachusetts
What Has Happened Cannot Be Changed
But Today We Work Toward A Better America
A More Indian America
Where People And Nature Once Again Are Important"


A Thanksgiving Prayer From The Iroquois
Seneca People

Gwa! Gwa! Gwa!
Now the time has come!
Hear us Lord of the Sky!

We are here to speak the truth, for you do not hear lies
We are your children Lord of the Sky

Now begins the Gayant' gogwus
This sacred fire and sacred tobacco and through this smoke
We offer our prayers
We are your children Lord of the Sky
Now in the beginning of all things
You provided that we inherit your creation

You said
I shall make the earth on which people shall live
They shall look to the earth as their mother and they shall say
"It is she who supports us"
You said that we should always be thankful For our earth and for each other
So it is that we are gathered here
We are your children Lord of the Sky

Now again the smoke rises and again we offer prayers
You said that food should be placed beside us
It should be ours in exchange for our labor
You thought that ours should be a world
Where green grass of many kinds should grow

You said that some should be medicines
And that one should be Ona'o the sacred food, our sister corn
You gave to her two clinging sisters, beautiful Oa'geta, our sister beans
And bountiful Nyo'sowane, our sister squash
The three sacred sisters, they who sustain us
This is what you thought Lord of the Sky

Thus did you think to provide for us
You ordered that when the warm season comes
That we should see the return of life
We should remember you
And be thankful
And gather here by the sacred fire

So now again the smoke arises
We the people offer our prayers
We speak to you through the rising smoke
We are thankful
Lord of the Sky


Liberally TRANSLATED
Chuck Larsen
Seneca


Indian Corn

Corn was a very important crop for the people of the northeast woodlands
It was the main food and was eaten at every meal
There were many varieties of corn
White
Blue
Yellow
And Red

Some of the corn was dried to preserve and keep it for food throughout the winter months
Dried corn could be made into a food called hominy
To make hominy
The dried corn was soaked in a mixture of water and ashed for two days
When the kernels had puffed up and split open
They were drained and rinsed in cold water
Then the hominy was stir fried over a fire
You can buy canned hominy in most grocery stores

Corn was often ground into corn meal using wooden mortars and pestles
The mortars were made of short logs
Which were turned upright and hollowed out on the top end
The corn was put in the hollow part and ground by pounding up and down
With a long piece of wood which was rounded on both ends
This was called a pestle

Corn meal could be used to make
Cornbread
Corn Pudding
Corn Syrup

It could be mixed with beans to make succotash
A special dessert was made by boiling corn meal and maple syrup
All parts of the corn plant were used
Nothing was thrown away

The husks were braided and woven to make
Masks
Moccasins
Sleeping Mats
Baskets
And Cornhusk Dolls

Corncobs were used for fuel
To make darts for a game
And were tied onto a stick to make a rattle for ceremonies

Corn was unknown to the Europeans before they met the Indians
Indians gave them the seeds and taught them how to grow it

Today in the U.S.A.
More farm land is used to grow corn
60 million acres
Than any other grain

From
Woodland Culture Area
Ross/Fernandes
1979


Recipes From The Woodland Culture Area

Roast Corn Soup 'o' nanh-dah
By Miriam Lee--Seneca


12 Ears white corn in milky stage
1 Lb. Salt pork lean and fat
1 Lb. Pinto or kidney beans

Using low heat
Take corn and roast on top of range
Use griddle if your stove is equipped with one
Keep rotating corn until ears are a golden brown
After the corn is roasted
Take ears and put on foil covered cookie sheet until cool enough to handle
Scrape each ear once or twice with a sharp knife
Corn is ready for making soup

While the corn is being roasted
Fill a 5 qt. capacity kettle approximately 3/4 full with hot water
Bring to a boil along with the salt pork
Which has been diced in small pieces for more thorough cooking

The beans should be sorted for culls
Washed twice and parboiled for approximately 35-45 minutes
After parboiling beans rinse well in tepid water 2 or 3 times
Corn and beans should then be put in the kettle with the pork
Cook for about 1 hour

The beans can also be soaked overnight
Soaking overnight will cut the cooking time when preparing the soup


SUCCOTASH SENECA

Ingredients


Green corn with kernels removed
Fresh shelled beans
Enough water to cover
Salt and pepper to taste
Cubed salt pork

Mix the corn and beans and cover with water
Cook the mixture over medium heat for about a half an hour
Be sure to stir the mixture to avoid scorching
Add pepper and salt
Salt pork if desired

From
Our Mother Corn
Mather/Fernandes/Brescia
1981


Story Of The Corn Husk Doll

This Legend Is Told By Mrs. Snow
A Talented Seneca Craftswoman

Many
Many Years Ago
The Corn
One Of The Three Sisters
Wanted To Make Something Different

She Made The
Moccasin
The Salt Boxes
The Mats
And The Face
She Wanted To Do Something Different
So The Great Spirit Gave Her Permission

So She Made The Little People Out Of Corn Husk
They Were To Roam The Earth
They Would Bring Brotherhood And Contentment To The Iroquois Tribe

But She Made One That Was
Very Very Beautiful
This Beautiful Corn Person You Might Call Her
Went Into The Woods And Saw Herself In A Pool
She Saw How Beautiful She Was And She Became Very Vain And Naughty

That Began To Make The People Very Unhappy
The Great Spirit Decided That Wasn't What She Was To Do
She Didn't Pay Attention To His Warning
So The Messenger Came And Told Her That She Was Going To Have Her Punishment
Her Punishment Would Be That She Would Have No Face
She Would Not Converse With The Senecas Or The Birds Or The Animals
To Gain Her Face Back Again
She Would Roam The Earth Forever Looking For Something To Do
So That's Why Faces Are Not Put On Husk Dolls

From
Our Mother Corn
Mather/Fernandes/Bersica
1981



Reference
The Fourth World Documentation Project
A Service Provided By
The Center For World Indigenous Studies
The Fourth World Documentation Project Archives
http://www.halcyon.com/fwdp/fwdp.html

The Center For World Indigenous Studies
http://www.halcyon.com/wdp/cwisinfo.html


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