Since 1970, a group of people of the First Nation and their supporters has gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving Day and honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. This is a day of remembrance, spiritual connection, and protest against the racism and oppression Indigenous people have suffered and continue to experience today. The only truth we tell about the settling of the U.S. is that a group of 100 Natives and 50 settlers gathered for a three-day feast. The rest of the story is a lie.
The first settlers to “North America” arrived between 26,000 and 19,000 years ago. The early nomads, during the Ice Age, crossed from Asia into modern-day Alaska over the land bridge called Beringia. The theory is that they followed the animal herds and settled in new environments.
Around 500 A.D., a band of Irish monks led by St. Brendan sailed in an ox-hide boat westward, according to ancient manuscripts. They returned home after seven years and reported that they “discovered” land covered with luxuriant vegetation. Most people believe that it was Newfoundland, Canada.
Five hundred years later, around 1000 A.D. Leif Erickson, the son of Erik the Red, sailed to a place he called “Vinland” or Newfoundland. He returned with grapes, learned to make wine, and named it “wine land.” The Vikings only stayed for a few years before returning to Greenland because the relations with Native North Americans were “hostile.” He was the problem.
The first encounter was when the Vikings came across ten Natives taking naps under their overturned canoes – and the Vikings killed them. All subsequent attempts to establish regular trading were not successful. The Natives did not appreciate the Vikings’ presence and the Vikings, in turn, felt they were outnumbered. Essentially the Vikings could not be trusted.
There is also credible evidence that in the early 15th century, a Chinese fleet under the command of the explorer Zheng He traveled to the coasts of Africa and sailed across the Atlantic to what is now South America. While the evidence is scant, this would mean Zheng He arrived in South America about 75 years before Columbus arrived in 1492.
In 1513 Juan Ponce De Leon landed in Florida but could not establish a settlement until 1565 when St. Augustine was created. Spain immediately sent explorers, Conquistadors, who were motivated by ‘gold, God, and glory, and quickly enslaved tribes in the area that would become Latin America.
The first English settlement in the Native People’s land was Jamestown by the Virginia Company of London in 1607. Their mission: to make profits for the shareholders of the Virginia Company. Utilizing the natural resources of the land’s fertility, the settlers were to engage in glass manufacturing, pitch and tar production, and beer and wine making to ship back to England for profit. Still, because the people were so busy just trying to survive, they never made money for the company. The Colony survived because of the generosity of Powhatans, who taught them how to produce food on the land. The Colony did not make money until 1614, when John Rolfe introduced tobacco as a cash crop.
It was not until 1620 when Mayflower arrived. The saddest part of the history of settling the Americas became possible when 90% of all First Peoples were killed by the diseases brought over by the settlers.
Let us remember that Thanksgiving is a Day of Mourning for many.