Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Origins & Menu

To learn more about Thanksgiving Day, please go to:

Teaching About Thanksgiving

Where Did Thanksgiving Come From?

American Indian peoples, Europeans, and other cultures around the world often celebrated the harvest season with feasts to offer thanks to higher powers for their sustenance and survival.

In 1541 Spaniard Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and his troops celebrated a "Thanksgiving" while searching for New World gold in what is now the Texas Panhandle.

Later such feasts were held by French Huguenot colonists in present-day Jacksonville, Florida (1564), by English colonists and Abnaki Indians at Maine's Kennebec River (1607), and in Jamestown, Virginia (1610), when the arrival of a food-laden ship ended a brutal famine.

(Related: "Four Hundred-Year-Old Seeds, Spear Change Perceptions of Jamestown Colony.")

But it's the 1621 Plimoth Thanksgiving that's linked to the birth of our modern holiday. The truth is the first "real" Thanksgiving happened two centuries later.

Everything we know about the three-day Plimoth gathering comes from a description in a letter wrote by Edward Winslow, leader of the Plimoth Colony, in 1621, Monac said.

It had been lost for 200 years and was rediscovered in the 1800s, she added.

In 1841 Boston publisher Alexander Young printed Winslow's brief account of the feast and added his own twist, dubbing it the "First Thanksgiving."

In Winslow's "short letter, it was clear that [the 1621 feast] was not something that was supposed to be repeated again and again. It wasn't even a Thanksgiving, which in the 17th century was a day of fasting. It was a harvest celebration."

But after its mid-1800s century appearance, Young's designation caught on—to say the least.

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day a national holiday in 1863. He was probably swayed in part by magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale—the author of the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb"—who had suggested Thanksgiving become a holiday, historians say.

In 1941 President Franklin Roosevelt established the current date for observance, the fourth Thursday of November.

What Was on the First Thanksgiving Menu?

Little is known about the first Thanksgiving dinner in the Plimoth (also spelled Plymouth) Colony in October 1621, attended by some 50 English colonists and about 90 native Wampanoag men in what is now Massachusetts.

We do know that the Wampanoag killed five deer for the feast, and that the colonists shot wild fowl—which may have been geese, ducks, or turkey. Some form, or forms, of Indian corn were also served.

But Jennifer Monac, spokesperson for the living-history museum Plimoth Plantation said the feasters likely supplemented their venison and birds with fish, lobster, clams, nuts, and wheat flour, as well as vegetables such as pumpkin, squash, carrots, and peas.

"They ate seasonally," Monac said, "and this was the time of the year when they were really feasting. There were lots of vegetables around, because the harvest had been brought in."

Traditional Thanksgiving fare that certainly wasn't on the table: potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.

If you want to eat like a Pilgrim yourself, try some of the Plimoth Plantation's recipes, including stewed pompion (pumpkin) or traditional Wampanoag succotash.

[ The above from National Geographic: Thanksgiving Facts

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ancient Mounds of Ohio

A website detailing the Newark, Ohio, earthworks is excellent:

[ From: "Ancient Ohio Trail - Travel overland or via the Web to the historic places of south-central Ohio" By Stephanie Woodard, Indian Country Today correspondent, Jul 14, 2009 ]

A new Web site,, offers a 21st century way to discover little-known historic places in the wooded hills and lush farmland of south-central Ohio: Hundreds of Native American earthworks ranging in age from 550 to 3,000 years old. Hidden in plain sight in cities, towns, fields and even backyards are solitary mounds, or artificial hills; animal forms sculpted into hilltops; and monumental earthen-walled complexes in the form of precisely sculpted circles, octagons, squares and free-form shapes enclosing scores, or even hundreds, of acres.

“Native people quietly visit these sacred places with prayers, sage, and tobacco to honor the ancients who built them, and to let the spirits know they are not forgotten.” -Marti L. Chaatsmith, Comanche/Choctaw and program coordinator of the Newark Earthworks Center

The Web site provides maps, photographs, links to tourism information, a free travel brochure, and videos you can watch on a computer (choose MP4 format) or download to your cell phone. The electronic Ancient Ohio Trail was put together by a consortium, including University of Cincinnati’s Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites, Ohio State University’s Newark Earthworks Center, and Ohio Historical Society. The easy-to-use site is worth a visit; junior high and high school teachers will find it an attractive, informative, respectfully written classroom tool.

It’s important to get information about these sites to the public, according to Carol Welsh, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate and executive director of Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio. “Native people can take pride in them, and they show non-Native people the richness and complexity of our heritage.” She and her husband, Mark Welsh, Ihanktonwan Dakota and NAICCO program director, are part of a team assembled by the Newark Earthworks Center to give tours of sites in Newark, Ohio.

“It may not be widely understood that Ohio was once a center of Indian country,” said Marti L. Chaatsmith, Comanche/Choctaw and program coordinator of the Newark Earthworks Center. “Indigenous people lived here long before 2000 BCE and built earthworks into the landscape to mark the progression of the moon or the sun with ceremony.”

At once massive modifications of the land and masterpieces of subtlety, the grass-covered forms rise gently from their surroundings. Some of the best-known – the Newark Earthworks, Serpent Mound, Fort Ancient and Hopewell Culture National Historical Park/Mound City, all in south-central Ohio – are being considered for inclusion in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, where they would join the Great Wall of China, Chartres Cathedral and other notable places.

The ancient Ohioans’ imagination encompassed not just architecture and astronomy, but also the adornment of their personal and ritual lives. They made shirts and dresses of hide and woven plant fibers and embroidered them with thousands of freshwater pearls and shells. They also fabricated stone statuary and pipes, copper jewelry and headdresses, trumpets and other musical instruments, pottery and ghostly open hands made from sheets of translucent mica. Though the ancients left no written language to let us know what they called themselves or how they thought of their vast and varied material culture, they survive in the oral histories of contemporary Native communities.

“Native people who recognize their blood connection with the ancients quietly visit these sacred places with prayers, sage, and tobacco to honor the ancients who built them, and to let the spirits know they are not forgotten,” Chaatsmith said.

Here’s a quick look at what you’ll find on the Ancient Ohio Trail. Recent budget cuts have meant that open hours have been curtailed; before you go, check current days and times:

Newark Earthworks: The Octagon

For two millenia, the Octagon has framed a view of the lunar standstill: The moment when the moon rises at the northernmost point of its 18.61-year cycle. In 2006, I watched this moment with a small group organized by the Newark Earthworks Center. Surrounded by the hulking walls, we faced the opening in the Octagon through which the moon would appear. Behind us was the flat-topped mound where the ancients likely stood to watch this event. Just after midnight, a brilliant white crescent soared into the velvet-black sky. This experience has, however, been clouded by contention since 1910, when a country club leased the site and began building a golf course on top of the earthworks. The course remains in use to this day, to the consternation of many. (125 North 33rd St.; Newark, Ohio 43055; (740) 364-9584;

Newark Earthworks: The Great Circle

Inside this immense walled enclosure, you feel far from the modern world, though you’re in the middle of a busy city. The Octagon and the Great Circle were once part of the world’s largest set of geometric earthworks. The grouping covered four square miles and encompassed many other forms, now mostly gone, including parallel walls that were likely ceremonial passageways. Native people tend to agree with archaeologist Bradley Lepper, who believes that one of the passages extended 64 miles to connect with earthworks in Chillicothe. Recently archaeologist William Romaine reported that on the summer solstice this passage matches the path of the Milky Way. (455 Hebron Road, State Route 79, Heath, Ohio, 43056; (740) 364-9584;

Serpent Mound

This 1,000-year-old, 1,330-foot-long snake is the largest effigy earthwork in the world. Sculpted into a grassy hilltop, its gently rounded coils are about 20 feet wide and three feet high and align with various celestial events. A footpath leads you along its body to the head, which overlooks gently rolling hills and aligns with the summer solstice sunset. Once at the head, you’ll see that the snake’s open mouth is swallowing something oval. (3580 Route 73; Peebles, Ohio 45660; (937) 587-2796;

Fort Ancient

Around 2,000 years ago, using deer shoulder blades and other tools, this place’s builders sliced the top off an hourglass-shaped 125-acre bluff. Using the resulting 553,000 cubic yards of dirt, they enclosed the space – one basket-load at a time over several centuries – with 18,000 feet of undulating earthen walls. Today, as in ancient times, you enter via a gateway at the site’s north end, proceed through the northern lobe of the hourglass, traverse a narrow, walled-in land bridge, and finally arrive at the southern lobe. There the site opens up to a glorious, panoramic view of the wooded river valley below. (6123 State Route 350; Oregonia, Ohio 45054; (513) 932-4421 or (800) 283-8904;

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Mannahatta -- Manhattan -- before the Europeans arrived (1609 A.D.).:

Mannahatta, 1609 A.D.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Earth Family

"It's not a resource. It's a family."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Native American Statehood

A great idea... Let's dream big:


[From: "A state for Native Americans?" by Andy Harvey - Jan. 16, 2009, 12 News, Phoenix, Arizona - see video on page, also. ]

Could the United States get a 51st state? That's what a Northern Arizona man is proposing. While living on the Navajo Indian reservation, Mark Charles came up with the idea.

"It was very striking to me how here we were in the middle of the United States, technology, community, government all around us and yet it felt like the country had no idea we were there,” Charles said.

And when the presidential candidates were campaigning, Charles said they didn’t pay attention to the Native American vote, especially since tribes have a unique relationship with the federal government through treaties unlike other minority groups. So that’s when the Navajo man started asking questions on what can be done to give Native Americans a stronger presence in Washington D.C.

"What can we do to take a place at the table where we can make decisions about our own lands and people and history and communities?" Charles said.

He came up with the idea to establish a Native American state.

"It would be a state for people who are enrolled members of tribes," Charles said.

The state would be virtual and wouldn’t involve rearranging any land. It would represent members from over 500 federally recognized tribes. According to the U.S. Census, nearly 4 million people claim to be Native American.

"That would put us, that population in ranking of order of a state somewhere in between 25 and 35 with 1 being the largest," Charles said.

The state would also get electoral votes and congressional leaders.

"Who could go and be a part of congress to have the ability to introduce bills and have the ability to object when things are brought up and funding is being cut from Native American programs," Charles said.

However, creating a new state is a long shot according to ASU law professor Robert Clinton.

"Essentially the state can't be carved out of existing states and all of the Indian reservations now are in existing states," Clinton said.

Clinton, who’s worked with several Native American tribes, said the idea isn’t new. Back in the 19th century, there were talks about establishing such a state by the federal government.

"There were proposals for an Indian state in the Indian territory, but that never happened," Clinton said.

Today, it would take approval of state lawmakers to allow such a state to be formed, but Clinton thinks this would never happen.

"This is one of those ideas that was a terrific idea before the states were admitted. Once they were admitted because of that provision it becomes constitutionally almost impossible to accomplish," Clinton said.

Still, Charles wants to start a dialogue. The Fort Defiance resident plans to travel to different reservations and talk to community members and tribal leaders about his idea. He said he’s already been contact by different members from across the country.

"I want us to think creatively outside the box. What can we do to give ourselves a voice?" he said.


Reservations map can be viewed and/or downloaded. Large file, give it time to load:

Reservations Map