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Thanksgiving at Second Baptist Church by Milton Horne

In these days, I'm finding myself surrounded by such different attitudes toward indigenous peoples of North America. One view of the "gift-giving Indian," which contributes to the American myth of the first Plymouth Thanksgiving, is stated as follows in D.B Heath, Ed., Edward Winslow, Mourt's Relation (1986):

At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others (82)

In her book, An indigenous peoples' history of the United States (Revisioning American history [2014]), Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz writes these words about the "settler parasites" who created the Virginia colony:

The first Jamestown settlers lacked a supply line and proved unable or unwilling to grow crops or hunt for their sustenance. They decided that they would force the farmers of the Powhatan Confederacy—some thirty polities—to provide them with food. Jamestown military leader John Smith threatened to kill all the women and children if the Powhatan leaders would not feed and clothe the settlers as well as provide them with land and labor (60).

Again, there are such different attitudes toward the indigenous peoples who were on this land before Europeans came here. But consider this: long before there was an American story of "the first Thanksgiving," there was the teaching of a humble, Palestinian-Jewish peasant, Jesus, who taught by example to live simply, share what you had, be mindful of others' needs, and above all let one's life be lived in thanksgiving for the "daily bread" that came from the earth. His lifestyle was not one of accumulation of wealth, property or nation-building, but of sacrificial giving to others.

Instead of telling the patriotic version of Thanksgiving, that legitimizes the colonization of peoples, we should rather tell the one that founds our faith in the Creator of the universe and calls us to live a life of self-emptying rather than self-gain.

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