There’s a reason Thanksgiving is the most boring holiday on the calendar — unless your family is the food fight variety, of course. We all know that the Pilgrims and Indians worked hard to produce a great harvest together then partied to enjoy the resulting feast — a longtime tradition among most Native American tribes. About a year later, Captain John Woodlief’s son decided to start warring with the Wampanoag. So much for peace and all that “getting along” stuff. Still, every year, we’re required to think up what to say to those annoying folks who inevitably ask, “So, what are YOU thankful for?”
Well, I’m thankful most of my known relatives didn’t grow up on a tiny bit of land with the government doing everything it could to pull bits of it away here and there until they’re sitting on a rock with a shotgun and a bottle of whiskey. But aside from that, Thanksgiving has pretty much lost all its luster, with the more recent acknowledgments that we white folks were very, very nasty to the natives — and that celebrating the one afternoon we were polite to them for saving our lives while ignoring the rest of history is just a tad condescending.
So I’m proposing that we replace Thanksgiving with the holiday that should have been celebrated in the first place — Squanto Day.
For those of you unfamiliar with Squanto, let me first say that he should have been an iconic figure and should be a household name. Few people in history have put up with so much crap for so long and been so devastated, and yet come out of the mess with a magnanimous spirit and generous heart, serving til the end.
Squanto was a strapping young Patuxet when he was kidnapped by the British and enslaved in Spain, and was rescued from this plight by a group of Spanish friars, who were disgusted by the institution of slavery, and Squanto found his way to England where he quickly got a job. He was sent by his boss on expeditions to the New World, and on his second trip he decided to go home. There he found his tribe had been mysteriously wiped out. He tried in vain to find survivors, but went back to help his boss who had been mortally injured by a hostile group of Wampanoag, who then took Squanto prisoner.
When some new white folks showed up, Squanto was sent to them to make sure they know no one wanted any trouble- and the new settlers liked him so much, they decided to keep him. He proved indispensable in knowledge of the land, planting crops, and pretty much everything they needed to know to survive — which was, pretty much everything. Remember, these are the same guys who stored their food in lead containers. They needed all the help they could get.
Now, Squanto was not perfect. Once he couldn’t be easily dismissed by the English, he did everything he could to annoy Massasiot, chief of the group of Wampanoag who had killed his boss and enslaved him, and he didn’t always make the wisest decisions. But he is probably the first and last Native American in history to willingly bequeath his small property to a white settlement, and did everything he could to help people. He contracted a fever of some sort while giving the white folks a tour of Manhattan, and died a few days later in 1623.
Now doesn’t this guy deserve a day on the calendar more than that genocidal maniac, Chrishtopher Columbus, who enslaved several tribes of Natives and managed to wipe one of them out completely? Shouldn’t he be on the $20 bill instead of that racist Andrew Jackson, who went against the order of the Supreme Court and rounded up thousands of Native Americans and forced them from their homes on the notorious Trail of Tears?
I’m celebrating Squanto Day. Thanksgiving is apparently for a lot of ill-fated birds.