Thinking of Thanksgiving

Sharing of my genealogy journey needs a short break. In my next post, I  resume telling the stories of 4 blended families- James T.L. Powell and his 1st wife, Deborah Daniel; James T.L. Powell and his 2nd wife, Catherine Brown; Catherine Brown Powell and her 2nd husband, Elias Barker; Elias Barker and his 1st wife, Euna Barber. 

Thanksgiving in America is generally viewed as a time for family. Many have Pilgrim and /or Native American ancestors in their family trees. Our American holiday originated with a specific event – English immigrants in Massachusetts sharing a harvest celebration with Native Americans. However, one part of the story is often forgotten. The Native Americans taught the  newcomers basic survival skills such as planting crops, caring for plants and eventually, harvesting food. 

The Puritan/ Pilgrim settlement in Massachusetts was not the first European settlement on the North American continent.  Jamestown, Virginia was founded in 1607, thirteen years before the Pilgrims landed.  Early settlements included, but were not limited to:

1565: Saint Augustine, Florida, founded by the Spanish

1608: Quebec, Canada, founded by the French

1615:  Fort Nassau (New York), founded by the Dutch

Some Native Americans do not view our American Thanksgiving Day favorably. Since Europeans first landed here, we pushed Native Americans from their traditional homes. Some Native American tribes were decimated by illnesses brought by the Europeans. Other tribes were removed to make way for growing numbers of white settlers. Native American rights were largely ignored in treaties.

So, on this day, enjoy time with your family and celebrate the harvest. Give thanks for the sacrifices of all. Oh, yes, one more thing. These holidays are great for seeking help to answer those burning genealogy questions you’ve discovered.  Share your findings.  Print a 1 or 2-page summary for people to take home. Ask if anyone has great-grandma’s death certificate or obituary. Who has the oldest family Bible? Take notes when your uncle tells about an ancestor, especially if he heard the story from one of his grandparents or one of his grandpa’s brothers or  an elderly aunt.  You may be pleasantly surprised by what you learn! Remember, too, every family has saints and sinners, scoundrels and heroes.   

To read more about Native American views of Thanksgiving, start with these articles:

“Do Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?” Powwows.com, 19 November2019 (https://www.powwows.com/do-native-americans-celebrate-thanksgiving/    : accessed 27 November 2019).

Kisha James.  “For me, Thanksgiving is a ‘Day of  Mourning’” Refinery29, 21 November 2016 (https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2016/11/130572/day-of-mourning-thanksgiving-protest-native-americans    : accessed 21 November 2019.

Nadra Kareem Nittle, “Should we celebrate thanksgiving and the Pilgrims?”.  ThoughtCo, updated 29 July 2019  (https://www.thoughtco.com/do-native-americans-celebrate-thanksgiving-2834597  : accessed 23 November 2019).

“What does Thanksgiving mean to Native Americans?” Native Hope (https://blog.nativehope.org/what-does-thanksgiving-mean-to-native-americans    : accessed 22 November 2019). Blog post, undated.

Have a blessed and happy day!

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