Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, November 13, 2014



Ask any American about the Thanksgiving Holiday, and you'll hear the same story: It commemorates a feast between English Pilgrims and the Native Americans. Unfortunately, the real facts surrounding the first Thanksgiving are quite different than what Americans learn in Elementary School. Fortunately, we here at the DUNER BLOG are here to help you sort this mess out.

MYTH #1. The Pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock. Here's what actually happened. In 1741, construction of a wharf in Plymouth Harbor began. Suddenly, a 94-year old man named Thomas Faunce arrived and demanded all building be immediately halted. See, Faunce knew the precise boulder where the famed Pilgrims had landed 121 years prior. The new pier was being built directly on top of this sacred rock. Although many doubted the old man's memory, the wharf was moved 200 yards away to appease him.  NOTE: Plymouth Rock's geologic name is Dedham Granodiroite.

MYTH #2. Turkey was the main course of the feast. Sorry, but turkeys were not found on Cape Cod at the time. Likely, they ate waterfowl...like geese and duck...and perhaps venison. Sweet potatoes were also not yet found in North America. Cranberries are native to the region, but people don't normally eat them without sugar, which was not available. Pumpkins and squash, however, were on the table. Historians know for sure they were plentiful and were consumed daily.

MYTH #3. Thanksgiving is named after this event. Wrong! The term Thanksgiving was first used in 1637 by Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop. But it was not in reference to a feast in Plymouth years prior. Rather, it commemorated a gruesome pre-dawn raid of a Pequot village in Connecticut when defenseless people were shot, clubbed and burned alive. "A day of Thanksgiving, thanking God that they had eliminated over 700 men, women and children." Gov. Winthrop declared. "This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots."

MYTH #4. Abraham Lincoln officially decreed a peaceful holiday in 1864. Sure, Lincoln did push the legislation through Congress, but it was hardly peaceful. The next day, he also signed legislation to exterminate a Sioux colony in Minnesota. At least George Washington got it correct...kinda.  His Thanksgiving Day Proclamation in 1789 officially set aside only one day a year for the holiday. This was because Americans were having Thanksgiving feasts after every slaughter, and this meant dozens of frenzied feasts every year.

MYTH #5. After the first Thanksgiving, Pilgrims and Indians lived happily ever after. The truce did not last long. War erupted two years later and the natives lost. The chief was decapitated. His head decomposed on a pole in Plymouth for the next 24 years. Smallpox from English cattle decimated 90% of the Wampanoag population, which was almost extinct by 1632. Since then, the Wampanoag have lived a marginalized existence in the shadows of prosperous New England. 2,000 of them can be found on a reservation today.

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