In 1620, religious nerds with no seagoing or survival skills fled England as religious refugees, seeking to settle in land just north of the English colony in Virginia. Blown off course, these incompetents arrived in what is now Massachusetts just as a harsh northeastern winter was settling in. With no survival skills and no familiarity with the flora and fauna of this new land, they would have all quickly died out if the local indigenous people, the Wampanoag, had not fed them, kept them alive, and taught them where to find food, how to grow corn (a crop unknown in England), and how to hunt game. Even with all the help, half of them nevertheless perished.
The following autumn, 1621 — exactly FOUR HUNDRED YEARS ago — the Pilgrims decided to celebrate their survival, not by thanking those who had kept them alive, but by thanking an invisible sky god who did nothing to save them and would have been glad to let the rest of them starve.
They tried to gather and hunt for food, and had put together enough for a meager feast, when some Wampanoag tribesmen saw them in the forest with their guns, asked what they were doing, were shocked at the pittance that was supposed to pass for a feast, and decided to help them by bringing them a repast of salmon, venison, lobster and some unspecified game fowl that have, by tradition, come to be seen as turkeys.
They celebrated together for several days and would live together in peace for several years, until a few decades later when the Pilgrims were joined by the Puritans, and detente was replaced with genocide.
May 31, 2016
May 24, 2016