November 27, 2010

First Thanksgiving in 1609?

Chief Rodney Randy Joseph cites 1609 for first Thanksgiving

By Emily ClarkFederation of Old Plimoth Indian Tribes Chief Rodney Randy Joseph, who has researched Native American history exhaustively, says he’s discovered that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in Plymouth in 1609, not in 1621.

According to the Sons of Liberty’s History of New England, originally printed in 1721, the Pawtuxet tribe performed a celebratory dance, known as the Nickommo dance, in 1609 in what later became Plymouth, as part of a celebration of gratitude, and to commemorate a friendship with a Dutchman by the name of Pring. This European traveler and trader had, apparently, arrived in the area in 1609, and crafted a block print of this event that showed a performance of this dance.

To Joseph, this is definitive proof that Native Americans began a tradition that blended with European Christian values of gratitude when the Pilgrims arrived in 1620. For Wampanoags, expressing gratitude is an exuberant, joyous and boisterous affair, filled with song and dance, he added. For the Pilgrims, it was solemn. These different approaches united in that so-called first Thanksgiving Americans have come to define between these two cultures, he said.
Comment:  It's good to recall that the Pilgrims weren't the first Europeans to colonize New England. Wikipedia gives us some of the pre-Pilgrim history:

New England ColoniesThere were several attempts early in the 17th century to colonize New England by France, England and other countries who were in often in contention for lands in the New World. French nobleman Pierre Dugua de Monts (Sieur de Monts) established a settlement on Saint Croix Island, Maine in June 1604 under the authority of the King of France. The small St. Croiz River Island is located on the northern boundary of present-day Maine. After nearly half the settlers perished due to a harsh winter and scurvy, they moved out of New England north to Port-Royal of Nova Scotia in the spring of 1605.

King James I of England recognizing the need for a permanent mother in New England, granted competing royal charters to the Plymouth Company and the London Company. The Plymouth Company ships arrived at the mouth of the Kennebec River (then called the Sagadahoc River) in August 1607 where they established a settlement named Sagadahoc Colony or more well known as Popham Colony to honor financial backer Sir John Popham. The colonists faced a harsh winter, the loss of supplies following a storehouse fire and mixed relations with the indigenous tribes.

After the death of colony leader Captain George Popham and a decision by a second leader, Raleigh Gilbert, to return to England to take up an inheritance left by the death of an older brother, all of the colonists decided to return to England. It was around August 1607, when they left on two ships, the Mary and John and a new ship built by the colony named Virginia of Sagadahoc. The 30-ton Virginia was the first English-built ship in North America.

Conflict over land rights continued through the early 17th century, with the French constructing Fort Petagouet near present day Castine, Maine in 1613. The fort protecting a trading post and a fishing station was considered the first longer term settlement in New England. The fort traded hands multiple times throughout the 17th century between the English, French and Dutch colonists.

In 1614, the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block sailed along the coast of Long Island Sound, and then up the Connecticut River to site of present day Hartford, Connecticut. By 1623, the new Dutch West India Company regularly traded for furs there and ten years later they fortified it for protection from the Pequot Indians as well as from the expanding English colonies. They fortified the site, which was named "House of Hope" (also identified as "Fort Hoop", "Good Hope" and "Hope"), but encroaching English colonization made them agree to withdraw in the Treaty of Hartford, and by 1654 they were gone.
Why don't we remember any of these early colonies? Because the colonies weren't rousing successes and the colonists weren't Anglo-Saxon Protestants like "us." These events didn't contribute to the narrative of God-given triumphalism, so they had to go.

For more claimants to the first Thanksgiving, see Indians at St. Augustine Anniversary and Texas Held the First Thanksgiving?

P.S. Whatever the Federation of Old Plimoth Indian Tribes is, it isn't a real tribe.

Below:  "Federation of Old Plimoth Indian Tribes Chief Rodney Randy Joseph points to a map of the area highlighting Wampanoag sites and places of worship." (Wicked Local photo/Emily Clark)

1 comment:

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