Generosity then and now




At this time of Thanksgiving as America debates whether to embrace Syrian refugees, perhaps we should consider how the Wampanoag, who earlier suffered brutal treatment at the at the hands of the Spanish, reacted to the arrival of the Pilgrims. The following summary may be found in its original form at the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of New Mexico,

… (T)he Wampanoag and Pilgrims did not sit down for a big turkey dinner, and it was not an event that the Wampanoag knew about or were invited to in advance. In September/October 1621, the Pilgrims had just harvested their first crops, and they had a good yield. They “sent four men on fowling,” which comes from the one paragraph account by Pilgrim Edward Winslow, one of only two historical sources of this famous harvest feast. Winslow also stated, “we exercised our arms.”

“Most historians believe what happened was Massasoit got word that there was a tremendous amount of gun fire coming from the Pilgrim village,” (according to Tim) Turner, (manager of Plimoth Plantation’s Wampanoag Homesite and co-owner of Native Plymouth Tours). “So he thought they (the Pilgrims) were being attacked and he was going to bear aid.”

When the Wampanoag showed up, they were invited to join the Pilgrims in their feast, but there was not enough food to feed the chief and his 90 warriors. “He [Massasoit] sends his men out, and they bring back five deer, which they present to the chief of the English town [William Bradford],” (according to Kathleen Wall, a Colonial Foodways Culinarian at Plimoth Plantation. “So, there is this whole ceremonial gift-giving, as well. When you give it as a gift, it is more than just food.”

Perhaps today Wall’s philosophy could be applied to the giving of shelter, as well.


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