Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving, George Catlin and Refugees

I like Thanksgiving, however mythical or sketchy the origins of the holiday. 
I also like the artist George Catlin.

George Catlin traveled among the Native Americans, producing more than 600 portraits and illustrations of daily life among "the numerous and noble race of Human Beings". Catlin estimated their numbers to be in the neighborhood of 16,000,000. 

So much for the hubris of those who believe that the North American continent was somehow lying fallow before the first Europeans slogged onshore.

Be that as it may, and this a rare thing is a day when white people in the USA pretty much agree that some of their forbears were in deep, dire and unpleasant straights and needed help which was freely given them by the Native Folk.

Today is a day that commemorates a remarkable community supper and the spirit of cooperation. 

So, once upon a time, there were the Pilgrims. They were immigrants. They were religious and political refugees. At home they were facing almost certain death. They travelled across treacherous waters to an uncertain future. They were down and out. They were given a leg up by the First Americans ...the "numerous and noble". The Native People showed them how to feed themselves and where to shelter. In gratitude the Native People were invited to dinner by the Pilgrims once the dust had settled.

Now, please pass the cranberry sauce and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

This lady is Kei-a-gis-gis,  
a woman of the 
Plains Ojibwa. 
George Catlin painted her in 1832.
She was lovely and she was here first.

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