November 13, 2006

The first Thanksgiving myth

First feast more fiction than fact?

Author says Thanksgiving tale invented by tradition, not supported by historyIndeed, the famous Mayflower Compact was written and signed to help unify the Pilgrims and the "strangers," and it should not be viewed as the founding document of American democracy, according to Hodgson. When they landed, the Pilgrims found a land bereft of people, and they took this as a divine sanction for their settlement. While this was a convenient belief, the truth is that diseases brought to the New World by Europeans, especially smallpox, had already devastated indigenous populations. The local Indians who allied themselves with the Pilgrims had been overwhelmed by disease in the decades before the Mayflower landed.

The Pilgrims had their own troubles. Of the 100 original settlers, half died in the first three months. When Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag, signed his alliance with the Pilgrims, he did so because his tribe was weak and because he hoped to use the alliance against rival tribes. The Pilgrims, equally weak, needed infusions of Indian agricultural products and techniques--and a trading partner. For a while, this need-based alliance held.

But within half a century, the English settlers and the region's Indian tribes were engaged in an all-out war for survival, known as King Philip's War.

No comments: