This is Personal with an IT Connection
This is my annual ‘personal’ blog post, which I permit myself because I live near where the U.S. Thanksgiving tradition began. But if you make it to the end of this post, you will find there is an information technology (IT) connection.
The rock that five of my grandchildren are standing on (the other four can't stand yet) in this picture from last summer is not Plymouth Rock. But it is on a beach along which the first English colonists in this area sailed in 1620, according to their records, looking for the harbor they finally found in Plymouth.
(See mayflowerhistory.com for all the details--from the colonists' point of view--and more pictures like the above.)
The colonists possibly even walked along the above beach in 1620 but it wouldn’t have taken them long to realize that that big sand bar in the background behind the kids would make it hard to get from their ship, the Mayflower, to the shore.
Truth in advertising
In addition, I am definitely not a Mayflower descendant. Most of my ancestors were growing potatoes and stealing each others' cows in Ireland at the time of the first Thanksgiving. Because they are mostly “Western Irish,” unlike the Cape Cod Native Americans (called Indians by the politically and geographically incorrect), the colonization of my ancestors’ lands by the English had not yet officially begun at the time of the first Thanksgiving in 1621. The official colonization of Ireland by the English did not start until 1650 (although they and the Scots had been encroaching since the 1500s).
Meeting the Mashpee Indians
This week, because I was passing through and not because of any particular Irish-Indian anti-colonial affinity, I stopped for breakfast at a welcoming-looking “townie” breakfast place in Mashpee village/town, where many of the remaining Native Americans on Cape Cod proper still live. I thought I’d mingle in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday. I say Cape Cod proper because there is also a Native American village/town on the island of Martha’s Vineyard off Cape Cod’s south shore. Mashpee is on the south (that is, the ‘protected’) side of Cape Cod; the native Americans obviously knew something about which way the tides ran and the winds blew, and where the fish were. I live and fish on the north side; I think it’s my Irish ancestry.
For non-U.S. readers that don’t get the connection between all of this and the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, it was the Cape Cod Native Americans that ‘greeted’ the first European immigrants to land in this part of North America (if you want to call running away after being shot at a “greeting”). The colonists landed first on Cape Cod and shortly thereafter moved 30 miles across the bay to North America proper in what is now called Plymouth harbor, named in honor of the English town from which they—called (not sure by whom) Pilgrims—had sailed.
The first winter (December 1620-March 1621) was hell for the Europeans. About half of them died. But with the help of the Native Americans (also according to the Pilgrims records), the colonists planted in the spring, had a good harvest and celebrated by feasting with the Indians “to give Thanksgiving” sometime in September-October 1621 after the crops came in.
They certainly would not have feasted in late November. Although today is a typical late autumn day on Cape Cod with a skim of ice on the ponds to start with and a likely high temperature 3 (Celsius)/10 (Fahrenheit) degrees about freezing, I have dug my way out of two-feet of snow on Thanksgiving in order to get to grandmother’s house. (Of course, I’ve also played golf some Thanksgivings before going to grandmother’s house.)
As a sign of how things have changed on Cape Cod in the last almost 400 years since the "First Encounter," despite its outward appearance to me as I drove through Mashpee, the welcoming-looking breakfast place in the “Indian village” was a Dunkin Donuts. It was welcoming though.
The IT Connection
As I promised, there is a real information technology (IT) connection to this blog post. One of the Mashpee village/town/tribe’s ‘chiefs’ (actually called President) was the late Russ Peters, a marketing manager at Honeywell back when the idea of marketing IT had just begun. He left Honeywell(where he regularly beat me in the golf league) in 1974 to work on various Native American affairs full time.
Here are his bittersweet Thanksgiving comments from 1998 on what the Wampanoag call the National Day of Mourning (instead of Thanksgiving). I say bittersweet because Peters said in these comments that the original Thanksgiving did prove that everyone could get along for at least one generation.
The Wampanoag on Cape Cod Today
The ultimate irony is that because the U.S. Federal government recognized the Wampanoag as a tribe in 2006, 30 years after Peters began his effort to get the recognition (and after he passed away in 2002), everyone here on Cape Cod with the remotest DNA link to the tribe now wants to be considered a Native American. The tribe had 800 recognized members when he started working on Native American affairs in 1974; that number has grown to around 1500 by 2000 and another 2000 or so are on the waiting list to be “voted in.” That’s because—also for the benefit of our non-U.S. readers—with U.S. Federal tribal recognition comes ownership of legal gambling via casinos funded (to really close the circle of oppressed people) by South Africans.