What's the Truth about the Pilgrims?When I was in school, I learned that the Pilgrims had come to the New World from England to flee persecution for practicing their Separatist religion. After a hard journey on a small ship called the Mayflower, they founded a colony at Plymouth (Plimoth) under the leadership of William Bradford and William Brewster.
The Pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower on December 21, 1620, and made Plymouth Rock famous. No one who landed on that day, though, wrote anything about it's being the place where they stepped into the New World.
What I Learned about The First Thanksgiving in School
|Replica of Mayflower at Plimoth Plantation, photo edited from Pixabay|
What Some Children Learn in School Now about the First Thanksgiving
Fact or Myth?
Many people think that "history" and "the past" are the same thing. But they aren’t! The past is what actually happened. The past can never change. You would’ve have to have lived at the time to truly know about the past. History is how we think and write about the past. History is always changing. So events that occurred in 1621 (the past) will never change. But how we think about these events (history) has already changed a lot!
A few years ago, historians at Plimoth Plantation decided to look at the 1621 harvest celebration in a whole new way. They knew there was more to the story than the "Pilgrims" and "Indians" having dinner together. They decided to set aside what they thought they knew and look at the event with fresh eyes. They also realized that it was important to look at the events of 1621 from both the English and Wampanoag sides of the story. A lot of their research and new ideas about 1621 have gone into the creation of this web site.
|Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, MA. Photo courtesy of Pixabay|
The gist of this is that historians can't change history -- what actually happened, but they can change the way it's interpreted and taught to match whatever political view prevails in the education establishment. What I learned in school may not have been completely accurate, but neither is the current curriculum in many schools. We now live in a more secular and multicultural society that cares much more about the Native American culture than the culture and beliefs of the Pilgrims who lived at Plimoth Plantation.
The Truth about The Pilgrims
The truth is somewhere in the middle. We need to recognize how God brought Squanto to the Pilgrims, along with Massasoit, Chief of the Wampanoag tribe. Squanto taught the colonists how to produce food in their new land and gave them some corn to plant. Massasoit signed a treaty to live in peace with the Pilgrims, and that peace lasted for fifty years.
So, yes. The Native Americans did play a big role in the survival of the colony. But so did the faith the Pilgrims had in their God, whom they trusted daily to provide their needs. They saw the friendship of Squanto and Massasoit as part of God's providence, a way He was meeting their needs. A reading of the primary sources, such as Of Plimoth Plantation by William Bradford will make it clear what the Pilgrims believed. It is this faith element and God's providence that contemporary teaching often leaves out.
Children's Books about the Pilgrims that Strike the Right Balance
The First Thanksgiving Feast by Joan Anderson
Pilgrim Music for Thanksgiving
You can find this version at Amazon in digital form.
You can find the CD form at eBay.
I think it ironic that I found the same hymn being sung (different arrangement) at Westminster Abbey in a service commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth. It shows much of the ceremony that the Separatists despised and separated themselves from. As the processional of the choirs and the Queen and other dignitaries came down the aisle, I was temporarily taken aback, wondering who that bewildered looking younger person in the black and white clip with the crown was. It took me a minute to realize it was a clip of the Queen on her actual Coronation Day superimposed on the processional.
Pilgrim Voices: Our First Year in the New World Edited by Connie and Peter Roop
Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness
We first meet the children in the middle of the ocean on the Mayflower and follow their life in the colony. Young Mary Allerton grew up and died of old age in 1699. She grew older than anyone else who came over on the Mayflower.
The Pilgrims at Plymouth, a Landmark Book by Lucile Recht Penner
Daily Life in the Pilgrim Colony 1636 by Paul Erickson
Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.