The story of the First Thanksgiving has become very special to me. I am in awe of how the Native peoples of this great land found a place in their hearts for strangers. These strangers were unpredictable and could be hostile. They came from far away and spoke another language. They took over land that was only available because of the suffering and death brought over by foreigners.
I’m not sure how the Native peoples managed it. I look at our modern attitudes and honestly I can’t fathom such a thing ever happening again. The newcomers would be surrounded and pushed back onto their boats before they even pitched a tent. Previous foreigners were to blame for the numerous epidemics that swept through and swept off entire tribes. Some came and kidnapped their people. How were these foreigners any different? Best not wait around to find out.
No, I think under the current conditions our nation is not set to repeat this particular story in history. With the amount of focus on the negative elements of our past, I wouldn’t fault anyone who would be glad to avoid this First Thanksgiving.
I have spent most of my life wanting to know more about my heritage. I mean, society easily places me in the “white” category, but when I look in the mirror I see more. So when my in-laws gifted me the opportunity to get my genetic profile, I was thrilled. I, in turn, gifted the opportunity to my parents who shared their genetic profile with me. These provided me with more pieces of my genetic puzzle of what various combinations went into making someone like me.
For example, on my father’s side I receive both Native American and West African heritage. The percentage of African puts it generationally in the same timeframe as slavery. While some could argue that my African heritage might come from the forced mixing of Black and White, I feel it more accurately points to an often overlooked part of our nation’s history. Many Native Americans provided refuge for runaway slaves. Those slaves naturally assimilated into the tribe and mixed in with the people. The presence of my African heritage is a testament of yet another beautiful story of the Native Americans welcoming strangers who needed their help to survive.
I also have Irish ancestry. Some might dismiss the hardships of these immigrants, but I heard stories that my great-great-grandmother wouldn’t let any “English” step foot in her house. She had her reasons. Over time those reasons have been forgotten, the scars healed over, and we move on. But I marvel at the history that led her and many others to seek the freedoms our American soil offered. How are they similar to the Pilgrims? Did they sacrifice everything to come here?
I have so many more ethnic layers, each telling different stories of histories around the world. These are histories I can’t change, but I am eager to learn from.
And so that First Thanksgiving, the stories of the Pilgrims, the stories of the Native peoples are ones I take the time to study frequently. What can I learn from them? What attitudes and choices might guide me in the struggles and challenges I currently face. Whether genetically connected or not, their story is part of my American heritage. Their choices, and the choices of many others, shaped this country.
I look with more scrutiny at my choices, because they can have a huge impact on our shared future heritage.