26th Nov 2014
We have been taught that when the Pilgrims migrated to North America they came seeking religious freedom.
Actually, that is not quite true. The Pilgrims came seeking religious freedom to worship for themselves only – not for anyone else who did not agree with their strict puritanical practices.
History shows that European descended members of the Massachusetts Bay community who did not conform to the Pilgrim’s ways were booted out or soon left to found new communities that were more to their own liking. These settlers founded new communities in places such as Rhode Island, Connecticut and also landed at Conscience Point, New York, founding Southampton, where I reside.
Yet, our ideas of tolerance for others beliefs and religious freedom that we are thankful for on Thanksgiving Day were embodied in that first Thanksgiving celebration as the Pilgrims and Native Americans came together to give thanks and celebrate their provisions and new community. The Native Americans had helped and taught the light skinned newcomers how to survive the harsh Massachusetts winter, plant corn, and introduced them hunting our native game.
Contemporary American’s ideas of tolerance at our welcoming of immigrants (at least legal ones) seeking a better life, of sharing and helping those in need, and of religious toleration were demonstrated and taught by many of the Native American tribes America’s north east coastal regions.
Despite the revisionist history that attempts to cast the Algonquin and Iroquois as heathens and savages, they were largely peaceful peoples until the pale settlers arrived on many ships. Even so, in the northern colonies there was little, if any, fighting between the settlers and natives. In Southampton the Shinnecock tribe easily and quickly adopted the Christian religion and has maintained a church on their reservation to this day.
Any study of the Algonquin religion quickly reveals that they followed a basically
monotheistic religion, much like that of the Hebrew Testament. Some people, including Native peoples, believe that some of the USA’s Native nations, such as the Algonquins and Cherokees are actually decedents of the lost tribes of Israel.
The various tribes did conduct war–like raids on one another. The neighboring tribes in Southampton and Montauk regularly “attacked” each other. Yet records reveal that these exchanges were more like innocent panty raids as young warriors from local tribes cause a bit of chaos as they invaded and met the maidens of the other local tribes, like young bucks sparring (but easily surviving). While it may have reminded the settlers of the raping and pillaging in European wars, there was no raping and pillaging. Records show that then the elders of the tribes met, smoked peace pipes, and held a party for the tribes and marriages between the tribes ensured.
Montauk Lighthouse by Judy Rey Wasserman
Strokes: Genesis 1-2:7,Deut. 6:4 & Gold “frame” Psalm 8
Even though he was only in his early twenties, George Washington quickly became a senior officer in the colonial forces during the first stages of the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years’ War, a war between England and France that was
fought in Europe, too. Native Americans fought on both sides.
For the colonists a war between England and French held religious concerns. France was a Catholic Country, and as such she was an ally of Spain. The religion of all the French and Spanish colonies was Catholic and Protestantism was not allowed. This was in stark contrast to the British colonies where different Protestant groups were tolerated and governed locally, ranging from Quakers on the left to Anglicans and the descendants of the Puritans on the right. Jews and Catholics were also tolerated and practiced openly in the colonies. Many of these groups were not welcome back in their countries of ancestry, or even in any European country. Winning the war was religious imperative as well as a concern of political allegiance. However the British colonies were aided by the same Native Americans who, a couple of generations previously also befriended them. Here Washington was exposed to the tolerance and ideas that helped inform his views when he became President, called for the first Thanksgiving and championed religious freedom.
From the first Thanksgiving until today we share our food and joy with others, family, friends, and neighbors who are willing to come together and give thanks for our blessings in tolerance and peace.
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Judy Rey Wasserman is an artist and the founder of Post Conceptual Art theory and also the branch known as UnGraven Image Art at ungravenimage.com. Get a copy of the currently free prior to and during an upcoming crowd funding campaign e book: In the Beginning via the right hand column on this page or via http://artofseeingthedivine.com/booklet.htm.
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