My Take — 06

Thanksgiving is an American Holiday

Richard Crim


The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, oil on canvas 1914. Jennie Brownscombe

It should be an International Day of Remembrance

A day to think about what was lost.

Thanksgiving is a quintessential American holiday. Like the Fourth of July it is unique to America. Like the Fourth of July, it is built on a pastiche of fact, fantasy, historical revisionism, and a complete misunderstanding of the historical context that the actual event was embedded in.

The Pilgrims didn’t discover “America”, or North America, or New England. They didn’t discover anything. They weren’t explorers, they were a religious cult looking for a home.

Jamestown in Virginia was already thriving by this time. Tobacco was being grown to ship back to England. Slaves had been imported to work in the nascent plantations, with the first arriving in 1619. The poisonous legacy of that, shapes our nation to this day.

The Spanish had been in the Caribbean since 1500. In Mexico since 1520. Peru and South America since 1532. The French explorer Jacques Cartier had mapped the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in 1534. The French had outposts and small bases in Canada.

The Dutch traded along the Hudson River as early as 1611 and established Fort Amsterdam on the southern tip of Manhattan island in 1625. Four decades later, New Amsterdam, the capital of New Netherlands, had grown into a lively port of 1,500.

In 1630, the English started their own outpost further north and called it Boston. Where BTW, they were still hanging Quakers for their religious beliefs as late as 1650.

So, in 1620 the Pilgrims weren’t making a leap into the unknown.

Here’s something else that gets left out of the story. Perhaps the most important thing. The thing we almost never think about.

The Pilgrims settled at what is now known as Plymouth Massachusetts, on Cape Cod near the abandoned village of Pahtuksut. Three years earlier, the Wampanoag had left after a smallpox outbreak…



Richard Crim

My entire life can be described in one sentence: Things didn’t go as planned, and I’m OK with that.