Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Journey Long Ago to Give Thanks

Many years ago I did extensive research on Squanto (also known as Tisquantum) and the Pilgrims and even wrote a short novella detailing their lives and what brought them together in what is now Massachusetts. On this Thanksgiving, I offer a portion of the manuscript that details that day in which Indian and white man celebrated together with a day of feasting and games.

May we all seek to live in such harmony and goodness, sharing in the bounty of the earth in fellowship with each other.

(Novel Excerpt)

That fall, the Pilgrims gathered in a great yield from their fields. Besides the vegetables and baskets of corn that could be made into noohkik and cornbread, there were dried berries called cranberries and barrels of salted fish and eels. As William Bradford and the leaders watched the foodstuffs being placed inside the storehouse, they decided to declare a feast to honor Almighty God for His great provision and care during their first year here in the New World. William sent Squanto with a message to Massasoit, inviting the sachem to come celebrate the goodness of the Creator God with them.
            Massasoit eagerly accepted the invitation. The town erupted into chaos as the people prepared for the arrival of their native neighbors. The women bustled about, cooking large amounts of food in kettles. Captain Standish gave instructions to the militia on a show planned as entertainment for the occasion.
Soon the Pilgrims heard the sounds of the Indians approaching from the south. Massasoit came with ninety Indian braves, scantily dressed in leather skins and glowing with fresh paint. The Pilgrims looked at the number and gasped. William encouraged them not to despair but to show hospitality. More food was brought out and several additional fires ignited to help cook the meal. Everyone enjoyed the great feast and the games of skill that afternoon which included running, leap frog, and a shooting contest led by Captain Standish. When the sun set that evening, Massasoit declared the celebration a success and decided to remain another two days.
            William managed a small smile, yet inside, his heart sank. Two more days of feasting! “Dear God,” he prayed that night in the house given to him as governor of the plantation, “how shall we provide for all these people? If we eat the small amount of food we have stored away, there will be none left for the winter.”
            A knock came on the door of his house that evening. William rose and opened it to reveal the tall, muscular form of Squanto, his dark eyes focused intently on him. Immediately he invited Squanto in, offering him a spot of brandy and his best chair. For a time neither said a word. As William watched him drink the brandy, he could not help but think of the stories surrounding this native - how Squanto had been carried off in a slave vessel but secured passage back to this land, only to find his family destroyed in his absence. William shook his head, wondering why he would choose to remain with the Pilgrims. Finally William said softly, “Squanto, you are truly a blessing sent to us by God. Without your help, we would not have this harvest.”
            Tisquantum sat back and eyed this young sachem of the village with a thoughtful expression. He pointed to the Geneva Bible spread open before him on the table. “I wish something, great Governor.”
            “What is that?”
            “Teach me this talking book about Kiehtan. I see such books in England and in Spain.” In a soft voice, he spoke of the godly men in Spain, especially Friar Luis who talked about the white man’s God. “I full of hate because of the white man. I want to kill white men. Friar told me I must forgive, like God-man Jesus forgive.”
            William sat on the edge of his seat, studying the Indian before him
            He continued. “I leave and come home to my land, but no home here. My people die of white man’s sickness. Many Wampanoag ask why I not hate white man for this.”  
            “Instead you come and help the white man,” William said, their eyes interlocking. “And what has taken the place of your hate and your sorrow, my towam?”
            “Kiehtan of white man,” Squanto confirmed, again pointing to the Bible. “Friar told me this God helps forgive. Only this God strong enough to keep pain of past. He is God of all people, not just white man.”
            “Yes, my towam. God is indeed strong enough to carry our pain and help us forgive those who hate us. And yes, I would be happy to teach you the Bible. There are many stories of such things in this book. Indeed it is a book both our people can benefit from.” William extended his hand, which Squanto shook. “Before you leave, might I ask a favor this night? Would you ask your chief to offer food for our celebration on the morn?  I fear we will not have enough food for the winter if we eat it all now.”
            “Do not fear. Great Sachem Massasoit to bring many deer at dawn. I hear him speak this to warriors.”
            “Praise be to God,” William sighed. “Truly the Lord has provided our food and our home. There is much to be thankful for this day.”
            Tisquantum could not help but agree. “Home. I want home, but no home with Wampanoag. Here with young children and families, I see true home. I find home with Englishmen.” He paused, staring into the ceiling of the home as if to thank the One on High who watched over his soul that night. “I thank Kiehtan for home.”
            William Bradford remembered the Scripture in Hebrews the night before the Mayflower and Speedwell set sail for the New World, confirming the words spoken by the Indian. All these died in faith, and received not the promises, but saw then afar off, and believed them, and received them thankfully, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they say such things, declare plainly, that they seek a homeland. “Yes Squanto,” he agreed, again pumping the Indian’s massive hand with excitement. “We can both be thankful for this place we call home.”

Excerpt copyright 2011, Lauralee Bliss. All rights reserved.  

1 comment:

Joy said...

Loved what you shared! Happy Thanksgiving! :)