News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thank God, it's over: that travesty we call Thanksgiving

Hell, yes, the survivors were thankful.  Of the 102 English people who embarked on the Mayflower for America, only 53 were alive for what has been termed the first thanksgiving.  That number included only four women.  The reason for a harvest festival in 1621 was because they had a very successful growing year under the tutelage of the Indian Squanto. The many deaths during that first winter were from disease, scurvy being a leading cause.  The people were forced to live on the Mayflower because they had arrived in the winter and did not have time to build shelters and find a source of more nutritious food.   Scurvy was a common illness among sailors and other people who lived on ship for months at a time and  did not have access to fruits and vegetables.  They lived largely on dried and salted meat and suffered from the lack of vitamin C, which is what scurvy is. 

Rations were tight.  The pilgrims plundered an Indian village of its stored corn and other food supplies.  The place they settled for their village was an abandoned Indian village where the people had died off from the plague brought over from Europe.  The first colonists did not see much of the Indians that winter.  Because of their past experience with Europeans--they killed Indians and sold captives as slaves--the Indians stayed away from them.  In March, an Indian named Samoset showed up and welcomed them in English.  He, in turn, introduced them to Squanto, who had been taken captive, sent to Europe as a slave, where he learned English, and found his way back to America. Squanto taught the pilgrims  the Indian techniques for growing corn, but as importantly he taught them which berries were edible as a source for vitamin C  and where to find them.

When the people at Plymouth Plantation harvested their first crop which included 20 acres of corn, they found, according to their accounts, that they had enough to provide each person with a peck a week to last until the next harvest.  With their prospects so improved, the governor ordered a harvest celebration.  This included a  feast and the discharge of firearms in salute.  Historians surmise that the sound of gun fire caused some alarm among the neighboring Wampanoag people, which dispatched 90 men to see what was going on.  When they found it to be a celebration,  they joined in.   William Bradford's account tells of preparing for the feast by sending out a hunting party to obtain some fowl, fish, and other food stuffs.  He does mention turkeys specifically, but not as the main item on their three-day menu.  The Wampanoags sent out a hunting party, also, which came back with five deer, which they presented to the leaders. 

Herein lies a source of misunderstanding that defines our Thanksgiving holiday.  The Plymouth pilgrims were there on behalf of a company.  Their purpose was to make a profit for the investors of that company.  While they also hoped to find religious freedom and prospects for decent lives, their controlling purpose was to generate profits.  Their idea of engaging in trade was defined by those profits.  Just as their predecessors had taken Indians as captives and sold them as slaves at twenty dollars a head, the pilgrims saw their economic duty as exploiting and plundering, if necessary, their new land.  To them, trade was taking advantage.  In Lakota, the term wasichu, refers to this concept.  It means the greedy or avaricious ones. 

The Indians, on the other hand, were an exchange culture.  When they traded gifts and ideas, their motive was to produce mutual benefit.  Their concept is expressed in providing the pilgrims with five deer after sharing their harvest feast.  They also shared means of survival by having Squanto teach the pilgrims how to plant and harvest the natural bounty from the American landscape.  Trade to them was to exchange goods and ideas for mutual benefit.  It was the operative concept throughout the nations that peopled North American before the Europeans moved in. 

During that first harvest celebration, two different and opposing concepts of human organization were present.  The pilgrims represented a culture that was based on avarice and a corporate mode of social organization for which avarice was the operating principle.  The Indians represented a culture based upon sharing and mutual benefit.  In their value system, the concept was not to gain wealth, but to create sustaining relationships.  When native nations found themselves in competition with each other,  they tried to establish agreements or treaties to make an exchange relationship.  When, for some reason, that did not work, they went to war.  Domination and exploitation of other people was not their purpose.  Their purpose was to avoid exploitation and depletion of the land. 

When it comes to the concept of Thanksgiving, Indian people have consistently made the point throughout history that in their culture, every day is a thanksgiving.  Acknowledgment and appreciation for the benefits that nature provides forms the dominant aspect of their culture.  Consequently, they resist the exploitive and predatory aspects of the white culture.  The white culture considers them backward and indolent because they do not embrace avarice as a controlling motve around which to build enterprises and culture. 

Both native American and Euro-American cultures  have strong traditions of hospitality.  Warring tribes are recorded as giving food and shelter to even their enemies.  Turning down a request for hospitality brought shame and stigma on a nation.  The settling of the American frontier was made possibWhenle by the custom of hospitality.  As people ventured into the wilderness, they had to depend upon the hospitality of those who preceded them to provide food and shelter.  In popular culture, it was called the Cowboy Code:  you invited people in to your campsite to rest and refresh, and they were welcome as long as they asked no nosy, probing questions. 

When the Wampanoags  became convinced that the pilgrims had not come to kill them or take them captive and sell them as slaves, they offered hospitality to them.  They helped them plant the abandoned village that they renamed Plimouth Plantation, and they signed a treaty with them.  The first Thanksgiving was both an acknowledgment of the bounty the land produced and of the rule of hospitality through which the Indians accommodated the pilgrims. The pilgrims seemed to suspend their profit motives and participated in the exchange culture.  That seemed to be the prevailing way of observing Thanksgiving as it was made a national holiday and an acknowledgment of sharing. 

However, the corporate mentality has changed Thanksgiving to be something quite other.  The Friday after Thanksgiving for decades was a day when people had time off and were thinking of the Christmas and New Years holidays a month away.  It was a time to begin buying Christmas gifts.  As corporations realized it was a big shopping day, they seized upon the idea of Black Friday.  And now Black Friday has crept into Thanksgiving, grey Thursday, if you will.

The culture has changed largely through the corporate mentality which has seized control of the media and other influences on popular culture and conditioned the nation into a competitive frenzy to buy. 

The Black Friday ritual of degradation.
The U.S. has been brainwashed to the point that it is a contender to being one of the stupidest, meanest nations on the planet.  Black Friday has become a ritual of human degradation, of frenzied greed, as people have been gulled into behaving like dogs in a pack fighting over a bone.   

It struck our family.  When the Congresswoman my wife worked for lost an election, my wife, of course, lost a job.  While the search continues, she took a part-time job in a department store, which became fulltime.  On Thanksgiving, she went to work at 7 p.m. and got off at 4 a.m. Friday, on which she reported for work again at 1 p.m.   The corporate mentality has affected our household and the way we schedule family gatherings.

My wife recounted a woman customer who could not resist spreading some holiday good wishes.  After completing her purchase, the woman said she could not leave without spreading the word about how bad Obamacare is.  She brought this up out of the blue.  It is just one symptom of how the media has conditioned a segment of the population to recite political slogans, like Pavlov's dog salivating at the ding of a bell. 

Thanksgiving was once a day of sharing.  Christmas was once a time, whether people were Christian or not, for extolling peace on earth and good will toward all people.  New Years a point in the cycle of human affairs of assessing and making the new year better than the old. 

South Dakota is undergoing the revelation of corruption in its governments economic dealings. In the name of bolstering the economy for the people, we discovered some bad schemes and the exploitation and devastation that accompanies them.  It was hard to think of Thanksgiving without thinking of the man who died in a shelterbelt, ostensibly by his own hand, of the many people throughout the world and the country who were bilked out of millions of dollars, and of the hundreds of people who lost jobs.  The state shared a terrible sickness of the soul, not the fruits of productivity and the extension of hospitality.

And we anticipate what plans the corporate mentality has for Christmas this year and the New Year.   For many people, "merry" and "happy" will not be in their vocabulary.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States