By Martin | Friday, November 25, 2016 | 11:31 AM
To fully understand the first Thanksgiving Day in 1621 and its future impact on turkeys, we must go back to 1609 and a French explorer named Samuel de Champlain. Champlain discovered the St. Lawrence River and started a colony in Quebec. He almost had an expensive bubbly beverage named after him but his last named was spelled wrong. (He is not to be confused with the German explorer, Samuel de Budweiser, who discovered St. Louis.) Champlain wanted to make war on the Iroquois Indians. This was the most feared tribe in the American wilderness -- except for the Washington Redskins, feared most for their grisly habit of ticket scalping.
Champlain formed a bond with several tribes referred to as the Five Nations -- Cayuga (which, if you say it just right, sounds very much like an old car horn); Onondaga (named after an Indian footrace called the Onondaga 500; Mohawk (which in English means "more predatory bird, please!"; Oneida (feared because of their fine throwing knives); and Tupperware (the least feared Indians because they burped a lot and used plastic arrows.)
The difference between Champlain and the Pilgrims, who followed later, was that Champlain tried to befriend the Indians. The Pilgrims, being typical Americans, tried to use them for what they could get out of them. Does "Manhattan for $24.00" ring any bells? Oddly enough some of the Indians did not appreciate this new capitalistic approach and became extremely hostile -- killing, torturing, or enslaving their enemies. They eventually became politicians in both the blue and red states.
One of them, Samoset, befriended the Pilgrims and introduced them to the Wampanoag Indians. The Wampanoags showed them how to plant crops and play football against the Cowboys. These were not the Wampaneggnogs who showed them how to drink a lot. They had a big feast together celebrating the harvest. After the feast the Tupperwares came down from the north and showed them how to burp and preserve their leftovers.
When the first harvest came in that fall the Pilgrims were very thankful and celebrated with their Indian friends by sharing a feast. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday and we have celebrated ever since with various family traditions. When I was in high school we played our biggest football rival every Thanksgiving Day at 10:00 AM, the last game of the season. We still had time to eat a hearty afternoon feast of turkey, dressing, rolls, the horribly misnamed giblet gravy, and some green things.
I have discovered something about Thanksgiving. It is more than a meal. It is more than a holiday. By itself it doesn't even have to be a proper noun. Thanksgiving, for the Christian, is a verb. It is something we do. It is always appropriate to give thanks to God, but when was the last time we gave thanks to someone for what they have meant to us? Find some people this week and tell them, and don't wait until next November to do it again. Discover the beauty of Thanksgiving. Even if we haven't been thanksgiven we have an obligation to be thanksgiving.