Thanksgiving

Praise God From Whom All Blessings F!ow

George Washington University was promoting one of its professor’s new books just ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. The book, by professor David Silverman, pushes the narrative that Thanksgiving is a “myth,” and should be considered a “day of mourning” spent reflecting on “genocide.” The professor added that “white America’s triumphs have been borne on native peoples’ backs.”

In his new book, entitled, This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving, professor David Silverman explains why he believes the First Thanksgiving is a “myth” that should actually be a “National Day of Mourning.”

“These native men and women are hurt by the way we celebrate this national holiday,” explained Silverman. “It makes them feel like second class citizens in their own country.”

What a depressing view of this traditional American holiday!

I will not debate with professor Silverman about the first Thanksgiving.  There have been many different interpretations of that day’s significance.  I was not there, and neither was Silverman.  Nevertheless, I will say this.  It was a peaceful event during which American Indians and English colonists co-mingled, and the colonists had an opportunity to thank God and their native friends for helping them produce the first harvest in the New World.  We might also note that it was not a unique event.  European settlers had held thanksgiving services in other colonies, and other, larger Thanksgiving events were held later in Massachusetts.  However, it was the first  American Thanksgiving for which we have a reliable account.

The contacts between English and natives on that first Thanksgiving Day were benign.  Unfortunately, they were not always that way.  In the following years the American Indian tribes suffered terribly.  European diseases were even more destructive than white men’s guns, and the native tribes were eventually dispossessed and overwhelmed by the flood of settlers from over the Atlantic. 

Genocide refers to a deliberate attempt to destroy another race or people, but this was certainly not true of what happened in America.  Unless threatened, most whites bore no deep seated hostility toward the native population, and men like Washington and Jefferson tried to protect the Indians from white depredations; but it was like trying to hold back the rising tide.  Organized campaigns of extermination were rare, but the flow of settlers pushing ever westward could not be stopped; and considering the disparity in numbers and technology between whites and natives, the eventual outcome was inevitable. 

Nevertheless, none of this has anything to do with Thanksgiving.

It is good that we set aside one day every year to celebrate God’s bounty and the blessings of family.  I’m certain that most native Americans also celebrate Thanksgiving Day.

Praise the Lord!  

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