AS we prepare for Thanksgiving by cleaning our homes, gathering up turkeys and potatoes and laying out tablecloths, it's instructive to think: We're no Pilgrims.
Or Indians for that matter.
I know this from reading a loaned copy of "Mayflower" by Nathaniel Philbrick, a 2006 "story of courage, community and war."
As the title suggests, there was more to the participants in the first Thanksgiving than just a bunch of peace-loving foodies who got together for a great meal. (Pilgrim Instagram: selfies and #yams.)
I hadn't given a lot of thought to the Pilgrims since some second grade history lessons.
Even aside from their perilous, slow and not-incredibly-accurately-aimed journey on the Mayflower, these travelers seeking their own religious community were marvels for their flexibility and ability to adapt.
They were also politically savvy — and, alternately, politically short-sighted.
That goes for the Indians too.
The cast of characters in this drama worthy of its own History miniseries includes:
Massasoit: In the wake of a plague, the Indian leader and his Pokanoket people are reeling. Their tribe is greatly diminished in comparison to their local rivals. And they have no reason to like the English after an earlier slaughter.
But Massasoit comes to see an alliance with the Pilgrims as the path to greater power. By the time of the first Thanksgiving, probably in late September or early October 1621, Massasoit and a hundred Pokanokets show up with five freshly killed deer for the feast. Everyone — enjoy!
Squanto: There's more to this guy than just helpful interpreter. Squanto is handy with the language, sure, but he also uses it to his advantage — trying to steer the Pilgrims against Massasoit so he can seize power for himself.
Once Squanto's scheme is uncovered, Massasoit insists the Pilgrims turn over Squanto's head and hands — separated from his body. Fortunately for Squanto, Pilgrim leader William Bradford insists the interpreter is too valuable and must be spared. Shwew!