Tag Archives: Pilgrims

Would the First American Thanksgiving have happened without Newfoundland support?

Archival Moment

November 23, 2017

first-thanksgivingWhen our American friends sit down for their Thanksgiving dinner it might be appropriate if they gave thanks to the early colonists of Newfoundland, in particular the colonists of Cuper’s Cove (now Cupids).

It could be argued that it was some of the early fishing and farming techniques that were practiced in Cupids, Newfoundland and  were later passed on to the  Mayflower Pilgrims  that helped them survive  their first winter  in the United States, allowing them to have their first Thanksgiving!

In late 1614, Squanto (also known as Tisquantum and Squantum ) walked into the London office of John Slany, manager of the Bristol Company, a shipping and merchant venture that had been given rights to Newfoundland by England’s King James I in 1610.  Squanto had been captured four years earlier in his home  (Massachusett) and sold into slavery in Spain. Having escaped his slavers he made his way to London.

Squanto, while in London, worked with Slany learning the English language, Slaney had hoped that Squanto would be his interpreter working with other native groups in the New World. In 1617, Squanto set sail with Slaney and the other Colonists for Cupers Cove,  (Cupids) Newfoundland.

While in Cupers Cove, Squanto worked with the other colonists, perfecting his English and learning farming and fishing techniques.

Late in 1619, Squanto befriended Thomas Dermer, a British Merchant in Newfoundland who agreed to sail Squanto home.  On arrival, Squanto learned that his people the Patuxet  (a Native American band of the Wampanoag tribal confederation, they lived primarily in and around modern-day Plymouth)  were no more. Disease had ravaged his home in his absence, and not a single Patuxet native had survived.

Just weeks later the Mayflower’s naive and ill-prepared (Mayflower) Pilgrims arrived to face the winter of 1620 in the New World. Squanto, now alone and his home and people destroyed became a mediator and interpreter for the Mayflower Colonists.

As historian Charles C. Mann wrote in “Native Intelligence,” (Smithsonian, December 2005):

Squanto was critical to the colony’s survival. The Pilgrims’ own supplies of grain and barley all failed in the New World soil while the native corn gave them a life-saving crop. Squanto taught them how to fish, and how to fertilize the soil with the remains of the fish they caught…|”

In the spring of 1621, the colonists planted their first crops in Patuxet’s abandoned fields. While they had limited success with wheat and barley, their corn crop proved very successful, thanks to Squanto who taught them how to plant corn in hills, using fish as a fertilizer as he had seen in Newfoundland.

With Squanto’s help, the pilgrims grew enough food to survive the following winter, prompting them to invite him to the first Thanksgiving Feast in 1621.

The first Thanksgiving was a three-day feast to celebrate the successful fall harvest. No exact date for the feast has ever been recorded but it is believed that it most likely took place sometime between September and November. The pilgrims served fowl and deer for the occasion.

Squanto’s other claim to fame is that he also served as a negotiator between the Pilgrims and other aboriginal groups in the area. Because he spoke English (that he  perfected in Newfoundland) he was instrumental in establishing a friendship treaty between other aboriginal groups and the Mayflower Pilgrims, allowing them to occupy traditional aboriginal land.

Newfoundland has another connection to the American Thanksgiving. According to a popular local legend the ship that the Puritans sailed on, the Mayflower landed at Renews, Newfoundland in 1620, where it picked up water and supplies before sailing on to Plymouth Rock.

Happy Thanksgiving to our American friends!!

Recommended Archival Collection:   File GN 8.59 1913 Office of the Prime Minister,  Edward Patrick Morris,  file consists of correspondence related to proposal by Governor Ralph Williams (1908 -1913) for the establishment of Thanksgiving Day in Newfoundland.

Recommended Exhibit:  At the Rooms Level 4:  Feast and Famine. This exhibit draws on the permanent collection to explore the changing relationship between cultural identity and food in Newfoundland and Labrador, as portrayed by artists such as Grant Boland, Ross Flowers, Jamie Lewis, Mary Pratt, and Helen Parsons Shepherd.

Recommended Read: The Story about Squanto in Cupids, Newfoundland:  http://www.cupids400.com/english/about/squanto.php

 

 

 

 

The first Thanksgiving service was in Newfoundland?

happy_thanksgiving_turkeyThe first Thanksgiving service known to be held by Europeans in North America occurred on May 27, 1578 in Newfoundland and Labrador,  the English explorer Martin Frobisher landed here in 1578 in his quest for the Northwest Passage. The Thanksgiving service was held to give thanks for his safe arrival in the New World.

Thanksgiving day was not declared a national holiday in Canada until 1879.

From 1921 to 1931, Armistice Day (later renamed Remembrance Day) and Thanksgiving were marked on November 11.

In 1957, the second Monday of October was set as the consistent date for Thanksgiving Day in Canada.

What about the Turkey “Wishbone”?

The ancient Romans used to pull apart chicken bones hoping for good fortune. The English picked it up in the 16th century, where it was referred to as “merrythought.” In the New World, Pilgrims played tug-of-war with the bones of wild turkeys. The term “wishbone” didn’t emerge until the 1800′s. Each person grabs an end and pulls it apart. It is believed that if you get the bigger piece, your wish will be granted.

Talking Turkey

The term ‘cold turkey’ is now predominantly used as the name of the drug withdrawal process. It is also used to refer to any abrupt termination of something we are accustomed to.

The turkey looms large in North American culture and is the centrepiece of the annual Thanksgiving meal. In the USA, ‘plain speaking/getting down to business’ is called ‘talking cold turkey’, which has been shortened in present day speech to just ‘talking turkey’.

Eating turkey and feeling sleepy

Contrary to popular belief, eating turkey isn’t the main reason you feel sleepy after a Thanksgiving feast.

The oft-repeated turkey myth stems from the fact that turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan, which forms the basis of brain chemicals that make people tired. But turkey isn’t any more sleep-inducing than other foods. In fact, consuming large amounts of carbohydrates and alcohol may be the real cause of a post-Thanksgiving-meal snooze.

Happy Thanksgiving