Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving in the Midst of the Fall

 From Beyond These Stone Walls:

Ten years ago this week, I wrote a post that was to become one of the most read and cited from behind these stone walls. It was the story of the real unsung hero behind the account of the first Thanksgiving that you thought you knew. It is a story that was kept hidden in plain sight for centuries while the story of the bravery and resourcefulness of the Mayflower Pilgrims of 1620 prevailed. Don't miss, "The True Story of Thanksgiving: Squanto, the Pi1grims, and the Pope."

This story became a Thanksgiving tradition for our readers over the last decade. It is a remarkable story of human crisis and redemption told in the odyssey of Squanto, a Native American who, like our friend, Pornchai, was stolen from his home, taken to a foreign land, rescued from slavery by a Catholic priest, and then, in the end, restored to his homeland only to find it nearly devastated from a global pandemic. He arrived just before the Mayflower pilgrims did 400 years ago this week. Squanto became one of history's great emissaries of Divine Mercy.

My version of the story has appeared in numerous sources including a pair of history books. One of them is 1620: The True Story of Thanksgiving by Rick Gregory (2015) and an essay, "A Eucharistic Thanksgiving" by Adam N. Crawford.

I hope you will read and share that story anew to mark Thanksgiving 400 years later as the Pilgrims did, in uncertain times and surrounded in darkness. And please pray for us as we do for you. There is cause for Thanksgiving here! (Read more.)

About Squanto. From the Cape Cod Times:

His is such a seminal backstory to Plimoth Colony that the lack of historical reference to it is conspicuous. While Squanto avoided the Great Dying — an epidemic from 1616 to 1619 that wiped out tens of thousands of Natives from Maine to Cape Cod — his life was nonetheless tragic. 

As a young man he was among 20 unfortunate men of Patuxet lured aboard the ship of Thomas Hunt in 1614 to be sold into slavery in Spain. He spent at least six weeks in the dank, dark belly of a ship, chained to his brothers, given just enough fresh water, raw fish and stale bread to keep them alive. 

In Malaga, Spain, Hunt attempted to unload his cargo of stunned and bewildered Wampanoag men in the slave market with little success, due to uninterested brokers and the intervention of a religious order of friars. Squanto ultimately made his way to London, where he found himself living with John Slaney, a man who had great potential to afford him passage home. He likely did all he could to appease Slaney, who was a merchant and shipbuilder and also a grantee of the land patent issued to the Newfoundland Company. Squanto bided his time, charming his host and earning celebrity as a novelty. The presence of a Native man fascinated Londoners. Not only were Native men set apart by their bronze skin, chiseled features and dark eyes, but they were virtual giants to the small-statured Englishmen. Squanto’s faithfulness paid off. Slaney allowed Squanto to travel as a guide to Newfoundland, where he met Thomas Dermer, an English explorer who brought him home in 1619.

Very few personal details of Squanto’s life are known, not even his age or if he had a wife or children, and with the exception of a brief remark in Dermer’s notes, nothing is said about his homecoming. However, as news of the Great Dying had reached England, he almost certainly had been forewarned. But could Squanto have possibly been prepared for the stark stillness to the hum of life overtaken by weeds, windswept by neglect, abandoned but for the bones and rotting flesh of the dead, his loved ones, left as they clung to their last breath in gruesome repose? This defining moment was described by Dermer in remarkably few words: “We arrived at my savage's native country (finding all dead).” 

If the reality of Patuxet was mortifying — and despite the lack of descriptive text on the occasion, there is little doubt of that — the welcome home, or lack thereof, must have been a crushing anticlimax after Squanto’s five-year absence. (Read more.)


1 comment:

julygirl said...

My ancestors arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in the 1700's to face unknown circumstances, so I applaud the courage of the people who boarded a ship to sail into the wild waves of the Atlantic Ocean not knowing for certain what awaited them when, if ever, they arrived at their destination. (I have experienced a storm at sea, but in a huge troop tanker that came within a few degrees of sinking, and I can tell you it was a frightening experience.) So may God Bless America during these times of upheaval. We still have much for which to be thankful.