Modern Day Pilgrims

“I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.” – Jon Stewart

The history of Thanksgiving we’ve come to know growing up in American public schools is little more than a fairy tale. The true history is muddled in uncertainty, contradiction, controversy and outright lies.

While I’m certainly not a historian and therefore not qualified to delve into this with any voice of authority, I can say one thing for certain – If it weren’t for the kindness and generosity of the Native Americans to the new immigrants to this land, they would not have survived.

Many tribes reached out to these new people and taught them how to fertilize, grow, harvest and preserve crops. They showed them which foods were safe to eat, instructed them on methods of hunting and fishing, and gave them many gifts.

What did they receive in return? Lies. Broken promises. Treaties that could never be trusted. Being forced into small parcels of land. Loss of their freedom, culture, language, way of life… Death.

Even today the indigenous people who cared for this land, in a way we do not today, are suffering the consequences of past generations.

This isn’t a guilt trip for white people, or others who were born here in the United States. Is it your fault? Did you personally steal, rape and pillage? No. And I don’t think we can hold people accountable for the sins of their ancestors. We’re all individuals responsible for our own behavior. But there is a lesson to be learned.

What we can do, is to live in harmony with those around us and teach our children to do the same – To be thankful for what we have and to share with others, including new immigrants from all over the world that come here to the U.S. – To live the example of those tribes who reached out to a people from an entirely different culture, race and language – To be thankful for what we have, and when we have an abundance, give to those who are not as fortunate.

After all, today’s “undocumented immigrants” are just modern day Pilgrims.

Happy Thanksgiving.

“Great spirit, grant me vision
that I may not go wrong
and find myself in prison
of things I have not done

Teach me the secret
that I might see
fill my heart with compassion
to love my enemy.”

-Robby Romero/Prayer Song

(image source)

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  1. I am so embarassed by my English heritage sometimes. My family has never been signifigant in anything political nor industrial, nor capitalistic, so I suppose my family isn’t as embarassing as some (and I am only second generation Canadian, so my family had NOTHING to do with the sloppy, cruel indiginous peoples issues). But still…. what a mess.

    • Pol, as I said, this is not a guilt trip for white people. No one should be embarrassed of where they come from, where their roots are, the color of their skin, and any number of things that are beyond their control. If people must be judged, let it be based on things they do control – their own actions, the amount of good they do in their life, (and I know you have plenty to be proud of.)

  2. “After all, today’s “undocumented immigrants” are just modern day Pilgrims.”

    My favorite line! And so true! But people forget, and they just rather think about Thanksgiving in the terms that have been handed down to them for generations: huge meal and football!

    I’ve always been very careful with the way I express myself about Thanksgiving. For some reason – or for many reasons – it’s one of those “American” holidays I haven’t been able to fully adopt – even after 23 years in this country…. There’s just something about the “real” history behind it that makes me shiver… Jon Stewart is a genius :)

  3. as a modern day pilgrim myself and planning to start my ‘personal pilgrimage of trust’
    ( i was truely inspired by this post :-D



  4. With the exception of the Plymouth Colony – and only for a short period of time – the English settlers in the New World were legal immigrants. They all had royal charters to establish their colonies. They were not undocumented. The Spanish, however, did not establish their colonies in the New World by charter, but by force. One could argue that their settlements in the New World were illegal.

    • I’m not sure the indigenous people of the Americas would agree. By what authority were royal charters given?

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