Tuesday, November 21, 2006


As readers of Pop may recall from last year, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

I love it because I get together with my family and enjoy some of my favorite foods and watch TV. The Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade is must see TV in my house.

But I also love it because the complexity of the history behind it. The story of the Mayflower and 1621 is not simple. Yes, it's a story of survival; but it's also a fascinating clash between cultures; and the end of a way of life and a way of being Native culture, even tho no one knew it then.

Anyway. I have to say that sometimes I forget that not everyone has read Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick and 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles Mann and other things like that. Which means, I have a hard time believing that people don't know that the settlers weren't always called pilgrims, that the colonists ripped off the corn for the first year, etc. And I have a hard time believing that the myths of Thanksgiving are still being taught; especially since the true story is so much more interesting and fascinating. But then, I'm the person who will buy the DVD version of Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower.

Have I got you worried that you may be perpetuating some of those myths? My current must read book for kids is 1621: A New Look At Thanksgiving by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac with Plimoth Plantation. It's very kid-friendly, in part because of the wonderful photographs. (Photographs, you say? In 1621?) Yeppers, photos, based on an October 2000 reenactment of the three day 1621 harvest gathering many call the First Thanksgiving. In addition to beautiful, colorful photos, there is just the right amount of history, including information about the Mayflower and the tragedy of King Philip's War. There are also recipes and other resources.

Other links: Oyate's Deconstructing Myths of the First Thanksgiving; long version of Deconstructing Myths; Plimoth Plantation; and Wampanoag Homesite .

Question: While Oyate has a list of children's books regarding Thanksgiving, what are the adult books (like Mayflower and 1621) written solely for adults from a Native perspective? Good quality historical fiction is also welcome; I'm also interested in any alternate history, where the events of the 17th century in America played out differently.

Updated to add: I corrected my mistake up above (hello, of course it didn't end a culture, it's still here. I was trying to say what Debbie gently points out I should have said -- it ended a way of living and a way of being.)

Debbie addresses Philbrick's Mayflower over at American Indians in Children's Literature, which links to a news article by Paula Peters that says while Philbrick's narrative is told through the colonial voice, he does expose the injustice toward the Wampanoag, which inspired the conflict. What he fails to do is portray the Wampanoag with the same human qualities as the Pilgrims or give them proper credit for defending their ancestral homeland of more than 10,000 years. I find it interesting that I (who am not Native and not of Native descent) saw this as well rounded; and the writer did not. I repeat my question about books from this era written from a Native perspective -- by which I mean, as is said by Peters: The answer is to have Native people write our history from our own true perspective. Also of interest at Debbie's blog are some of the posts about well meaning teachers and lessons that are, well, you have to read it for yourself.

Queen Lucy is in first grade. Tomorrow I'll be asking her what her school told her about Thanskgiving. Should be interesting.


christine M said...

Liz, like you I love the history behind Thanksgiving - I read the Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick - but not the other book you mentioned - interestingly I got 1621 A new Look at Thanksgiving from the Library yesterday - K wanted Thanksgiving books - Have you read The Name of War? It's a very good book about King Philip's War (I find that war fascinating for many reasons - not least of which is that I had many ancestors killed in it)
Have a great Thanksgiving.

Sean Carter said...

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday too...and yes there are lot of history behind it...there's more to Thanksgiving than just feasting and relaxing...and hey for some cool info and facts on Thanksgiving visit my Thanksgiving Blog sometime and find out all that's there....have a great Thanksgiving!!!!

Anonymous said...

I think "end of Native culture" doesn't capture what happened... It was certainly the end of a way of living, a way of being, but it wasn't the end of Native culture.

Also, over on my blog, I posted url's to articles at Indian Country Today that talk about the Philbrick book.



Liz B said...

ARGH. I'm sorry. Will fix and will add the link.

Anonymous said...

hey, Liz. I'm in the middle of 1621, too, and enjoying it. I would LOVE to return to Plimoth Plantation, where the photos were taken for the book; I haven't been in eons.

Liz B said...

Hey, maybe a Plimoth Plantation road trip is in our future!

Anonymous said...

That would be so fun. I think my effervescent Junior would love it, too.

What he learns about Thanksgiving at school pretty much repeats some of the same old myths. Alas.