This is a particularly difficult introduction to
write. I have been a public schools teacher for twelve
years, and I am also a historian and have written several
books on American and Native American history. I also just
happen to be Quebeque French, Metis, Ojibwa, and Iroquois.
Because my Indian ancestors were on both sides of the
struggle between the Puritans and the New England Indians
and I am well versed in my cultural heritage and history
both as an Anishnabeg (Algokin) and Hodenosione (Iroquois),
it was felt that I could bring a unique insight to the
For an Indian, who is also a school teacher,
Thanksgiving was never an easy holiday for me to deal with
in class. I sometimes have felt like I learned too much
about "the Pilgrims and the Indians." Every year I have
been faced with the professional and moral dilemma of just
how to be honest and informative with my children at
Thanksgiving without passing on historical distortions, and
racial and cultural stereotypes.
The problem is that part of what you and I learned in
our own childhood about the "Pilgrims" and "Squanto" and
the "First Thanksgiving" is a mixture of both history and
myth. But the THEME of Thanksgiving has truth and integrity
far above and beyond what we and our forebearers have made
of it. Thanksgiving is a bigger concept than just the story
of the founding of the Plymouth Plantation.
So what do we teach to our children? We usually pass
on unquestioned what we all received in our own childhood
classrooms. I have come to know both the truths and the
myths about our "First Thanksgiving," and I feel we need to
try to reach beyond the myths to some degree of historic
truth. This text is an attempt to do this.
At this point you are probably asking, "What is the
big deal about Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims?" "What does
this guy mean by a mixture of truths and myth?" That is
just what this introduction is all about. I propose that
there may be a good deal that many of us do not know about
our Thanksgiving holiday and also about the "First
Thanksgiving" story. I also propose that what most of us
have learned about the Pilgrims and the Indians who were at
the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Plantation is only part
of the truth. When you build a lesson on only half of the
information, then you are not teaching the whole truth.
That is why I used the word myth. So where do you start to
find out more about the holiday and our modern stories
about how it began?
A good place to start is with a very important book,
"The Invasion of America," by Francis Jennings. It is a
very authoritative text on the settlement of New England
and the evolution of Indian/White relations in the New
England colonies. I also recommend looking up any good text
on British history. Check out the British Civil War of
1621-1642, Oliver Cromwell, and the Puritan uprising of
1653 which ended parliamentary government in England until
1660. The history of the Puritan experience in New England
really should not be separated from the history of the
Puritan experience in England. You should also realize that
the "Pilgrims" were a sub sect, or splinter group, of the
Puritan movement. They came to America to achieve on this
continent what their Puritan bretheran continued to strive
for in England; and when the Puritans were forced from
England, they came to New England and soon absorbed the
As the editor, I have read all the texts listed in our
bibliography, and many more, in preparing this material for
you. I want you to read some of these books. So let me use
my editorial license to deliberately provoke you a little.
When comparing the events stirred on by the Puritans in
England with accounts of Puritan/Pilgrim activities in New
England in the same era, several provocative things suggest
Obviously there is a lot more to the story of
Indian/Puritan relations in New England than in the
thanksgiving stories we heard as children. Our contemporary
mix of myth and history about the "First" Thanksgiving at
Plymouth developed in the 1890s and early 1900s. Our
country was desperately trying to pull together its many
diverse peoples into a common national identity. To many
writers and educators at the end of the last century and
the beginning of this one, this also meant having a common
national history. This was the era of the "melting pot"
theory of social progress, and public education was a major
tool for social unity. It was with this in mind that the
federal government declared the last Thursday in November
as the legal holiday of Thanksgiving in 1898.
In consequence, what started as an inspirational bit
of New England folklore, soon grew into the full-fledged
American Thanksgiving we now know. It emerged complete with
stereotyped Indians and stereotyped Whites, incomplete
history, and a mythical significance as our "First
Thanksgiving." But was it really our FIRST American
Now that I have deliberately provoked you with some
new information and different opinions, please take the
time to read some of the texts in our bibliography. I want
to encourage you to read further and form your own
opinions. There really is a TRUE Thanksgiving story of
Plymouth Plantation. But I strongly suggest that there
always has been a Thanksgiving story of some kind or other
for as long as there have been human beings. There was also
a "First" Thanksgiving in America, but it was celebrated
thirty thousand years ago.(11) At some time during the New
Stone Age (beginning about ten thousand years ago)
Thanksgiving became associated with giving thanks to God
for the harvests of the land. Thanksgiving has always been
a time of people coming together, so thanks has also been
offered for that gift of fellowship between us all. Every
last Thursday in November we now partake in one of the
OLDEST and most UNIVERSAL of human celebrations, and THERE
ARE MANY THANKSGIVING STORIES TO TELL.
As for Thanksgiving week at Plymouth Plantation in
1621, the friendship was guarded and not always sincere,
and the peace was very soon abused. But for three days in
New England's history, peace and friendship were there.
So here is a story for your children. It is as kind
and gentle a balance of historic truth and positive
inspiration as its writers and this editor can make it out
to be. I hope it will adequately serve its purpose both for
you and your students, and I also hope this work will
encourage you to look both deeper and farther, for
Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving all around the world.
Tacoma Public Schools
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FOOTNOTES FOR TEACHER INTRODUCTION
(1) See Berkhofer, Jr., R.F., "The White Man's
Indian," references to Puritans, pp. 27, 80-85, 90, 104, &
(2) See Berkhofer, Jr., R.F., "The White Man's
Indian," references to frontier concepts of savagery in
index. Also see Jennings, Francis, "The Invasion of
America," the myth of savagery, pp. 6-12, 15-16, & 109-110.
(3) See Blitzer, Charles, "Age of Kings," Great Ages
of Man series, references to Puritanism, pp. 141, 144 &
145-46. Also see Jennings, Francis, "The Invasion of
America," references to Puritan human motives, pp. 4-6, 43-
44 and 53.
(4) See "Chronicles of American Indian Protest," pp.
6-10. Also see Armstrong, Virginia I., "I Have Spoken,"
reference to Cannonchet and his village, p. 6. Also see
Jennings, Francis, "The Invasion of America," Chapter 9
"Savage War," Chapter 13 "We must Burn Them," and Chapter
17 "Outrage Bloody and Barbarous."
(5) See "Chronicles of American Indian Protest," pp.
6-9. Also see Berkhofer, Jr., R.F., "The White Man's
Indian," the comments of Cotton Mather, pp. 37 & 82-83.
(6) See Larsen, Charles M., "The Real Thanksgiving,"
pp. 3-4. Also see Graff, Steward and Polly Ann, "Squanto,
Indian Adventurer." Also see "Handbook of North American
Indians," Vol. 15, the reference to Squanto on p. 82.
(7) See Benton-Banai, Edward, "The Mishomis Book," as
a reference on general "Anishinabe" (the Algonkin speaking
peoples) religious beliefs and practices. Also see Larsen,
Charles M., "The Real Thanksgiving," reference to religious
life on p. 1.
(8) See Graff, Stewart and Polly Ann, "Squanto, Indian
Adventurer." Also see Larsen, Charles M., "The Real
Thanksgiving." Also see Bradford, Sir William, "Of Plymouth
Plantation," and "Mourt's Relation."
(9) See Larsen, Charles M., "The Real Thanksgiving,"
the letter of Edward Winslow dated 1622, pp. 5-6.
(10) See "Handbook of North American Indians," Vol.
15, pp. 177-78. Also see "Chronicles of American Indian
Protest," p. 9, the reference to the enslavement of King
Philip's family. Also see Larsen, Charles, M., "The Real
Thanksgiving," pp. 8-11, "Destruction of the Massachusetts
(11) Best current estimate of the first entry of
people into the Americas confirmed by archaeological
evidence that is datable.
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HIGHLINE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES and ADMINISTRATIVE CENTER
15675 Ambaum Boulevard S.W. Telephone 206/433-0111
Seattle, Washington 98166
November 13, 1985
As educators, we continually strive to improve the clarity
and accuracy of what is taught about the history of our
country. Too often, we have presented what is considered to
be a traditional mono-cultural perspective of history to
our students. Our celebrations and observances have borne
this out. We are, however, becoming increasingly aware of
the need for greater cultural accuracy in historical
studies. This is consistent with the State Superintendent
of Public Instruction's commitment to multi-cultural
education for all students.
With this in mind, the Highline Indian Education program
designed these instructional materials last year to be used
in teaching about Thanksgiving in grades K-6. The response
to these materials has been very positive and we are happy
to have the opportunity to share them with districts in the
state. We trust that you will find them to be a valuable
addition to your instructional resources.
Dr. Kent Matheson
Dr. Bill McCleary
Assistant Superintendent, Curriculum and Instruction
The Thanksgiving holiday season is a time when Indian
history and culture are frequently discussed in the
schools. Unfortunately, the information and materials
available to teachers are often incomplete or stereotyped
in their presentation. For example, some commercially-
produced bulletin board posters depict Plains-style Indians
with feather warbonnets, tipis in the background, and
horses tied nearby, sitting down to dinner with the
Pilgrims. While these images are popular, they do not
accurately represent the unique culture of the New England
tribes, whose lifestyle was quite different than that of
the Plains Indian stereotype. In addition, some books make
brief mention of the critical assistance given by the
Indians to the Pilgrims and tend to leave readers with the
mistaken impression that all participants at the
Thanksgiving feast remained friends for many years to come.
This unit provides additional information about the
Indians of the North-east culture area where the first
Thanksgiving took place. It includes art projects and other
activities teachers can use for expanding and enriching
their instruction. It is hoped that these materials will
enable teachers to better portray the events surrounding
the first Thanksgiving.
-- Cathy Ross, Mary Robertson and Roger Fernandes
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NA Culture NACulture's note: It is hoped you will also read the foregoing material which contains much important historical information. This was written by a teacher who is also an Indian, for Teachers, with additions by his principal and other teachers. The following is his story for Students, followed by suggestions for enactment and enrichment projects.
When the Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1620,
they landed on the rocky shores of a territory that was
inhabited by the Wampanoag (Wam pa NO ag) Indians. The
Wampanoags were part of the Algonkian-speaking peoples, a
large group that was part of the Woodland Culture area.
These Indians lived in villages along the coast of what is
now Massachusetts and Rhode Island. They lived in round-
roofed houses called wigwams. These were made of poles
covered with flat sheets of elm or birch bark. Wigwams
differ in construction from tipis that were used by Indians
of the Great Plains.
The Wampanoags moved several times during each year in
order to get food. In the spring they would fish in the
rivers for salmon and herring. In the planting season they
moved to the forest to hunt deer and other animals. After
the end of the hunting season people moved inland where
there was greater protection from the weather. From
December to April they lived on food that they stored
during the earlier months.
The basic dress for men was the breech clout, a length
of deerskin looped over a belt in back and in front. Women
wore deerskin wrap-around skirts. Deerskin leggings and fur
capes made from deer, beaver, otter, and bear skins gave
protection during the colder seasons, and deerskin
moccasins were worn on the feet. Both men and women usually
braided their hair and a single feather was often worn in
the back of the hair by men. They did not have the large
feathered headdresses worn by people in the Plains Culture
There were two language groups of Indians in New
England at this time. The Iroquois were neighbors to the
Algonkian-speaking people. Leaders of the Algonquin and
Iroquois people were called "sachems" (SAY chems). Each
village had its own sachem and tribal council. Political
power flowed upward from the people. Any individual, man or
woman, could participate, but among the Algonquins more
political power was held by men. Among the Iroquois,
however, women held the deciding vote in the final
selection of who would represent the group. Both men and
women enforced the laws of the village and helped solve
problems. The details of their democratic system were so
impressive that about 150 years later Benjamin Franklin
invited the Iroquois to Albany, New York, to explain their
system to a delegation who then developed the "Albany Plan
of Union." This document later served as a model for the
Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the
These Indians of the Eastern Woodlands called the
turtle, the deer and the fish their brothers. They
respected the forest and everything in it as equals.
Whenever a hunter made a kill, he was careful to leave
behind some bones or meat as a spiritual offering, to help
other animals survive. Not to do so would be considered
greedy. The Wampanoags also treated each other with
respect. Any visitor to a Wampanoag home was provided with
a share of whatever food the family had, even if the supply
was low. This same courtesy was extended to the Pilgrims
when they met.
We can only guess what the Wampanoags must have
thought when they first saw the strange ships of the
Pilgrims arriving on their shores. But their custom was to
help visitors, and they treated the newcomers with
courtesy. It was mainly because of their kindness that the
Pilgrims survived at all. The wheat the Pilgrims had
brought with them to plant would not grow in the rocky
soil. They needed to learn new ways for a new world, and
the man who came to help them was called "Tisquantum" (Tis
SKWAN tum) or "Squanto" (SKWAN toe).
Squanto was originally from the village of Patuxet (Pa
TUK et) and a member of the Pokanokit Wampanoag nation.
Patuxet once stood on the exact site where the Pilgrims
built Plymouth. In 1605, fifteen years before the Pilgrims
came, Squanto went to England with a friendly English
explorer named John Weymouth. He had many adventures and
learned to speak English. Squanto came back to New England
with Captain Weymouth. Later Squanto was captured by a
British slaver who raided the village and sold Squanto to
the Spanish in the Caribbean Islands. A Spanish Franciscan
priest befriended Squanto and helped him to get to Spain
and later on a ship to England. Squanto then found Captain
Weymouth, who paid his way back to his homeland. In England
Squanto met Samoset of the Wabanake (Wab NAH key) Tribe,
who had also left his native home with an English explorer.
They both returned together to Patuxet in 1620. When they
arrived, the village was deserted and there were skeletons
everywhere. Everyone in the village had died from an
illness the English slavers had left behind. Squanto and
Samoset went to stay with a neighboring village of
One year later, in the spring, Squanto and Samoset
were hunting along the beach near Patuxet. They were
startled to see people from England in their deserted
village. For several days, they stayed nearby observing the
newcomers. Finally they decided to approach them. Samoset
walked into the village and said "welcome," Squanto soon
joined him. The Pilgrims were very surprised to meet two
Indians who spoke English.
The Pilgrims were not in good condition. They were
living in dirt-covered shelters, there was a shortage of
food, and nearly half of them had died during the winter.
They obviously needed help and the two men were a welcome
sight. Squanto, who probably knew more English than any
other Indian in North America at that time, decided to stay
with the Pilgrims for the next few months and teach them
how to survive in this new place. He brought them deer meat
and beaver skins. He taught them how to cultivate corn and
other new vegetables and how to build Indian-style houses.
He pointed out poisonous plants and showed how other plants
could be used as medicine. He explained how to dig and cook
clams, how to get sap from the maple trees, use fish for
fertilizer, and dozens of other skills needed for their
By the time fall arrived things were going much better
for the Pilgrims, thanks to the help they had received. The
corn they planted had grown well. There was enough food to
last the winter. They were living comfortably in their
Indian-style wigwams and had also managed to build one
European-style building out of squared logs. This was their
church. They were now in better health, and they knew more
about surviving in this new land. The Pilgrims decided to
have a thanksgiving feast to celebrate their good fortune.
They had observed thanksgiving feasts in November as
religious obligations in England for many years before
coming to the New World.
The Algonkian tribes held six thanksgiving festivals
during the year. The beginning of the Algonkian year was
marked by the Maple Dance which gave thanks to the Creator
for the maple tree and its syrup. This ceremony occurred
when the weather was warm enough for the sap to run in the
maple trees, sometimes as early as February. Second was the
planting feast, where the seeds were blessed. The
strawberry festival was next, celebrating the first fruits
of the season. Summer brought the green corn festival to
give thanks for the ripening corn. In late fall, the
harvest festival gave thanks for the food they had grown.
Mid-winter was the last ceremony of the old year. When the
Indians sat down to the "first Thanksgiving" with the
Pilgrims, it was really the fifth thanksgiving of the year
Captain Miles Standish, the leader of the Pilgrims,
invited Squanto, Samoset, Massasoit (the leader of the
Wampanoags), and their immediate families to join them for
a celebration, but they had no idea how big Indian families
could be. As the Thanksgiving feast began, the Pilgrims
were overwhelmed at the large turnout of ninety relatives
that Squanto and Samoset brought with them. The Pilgrims
were not prepared to feed a gathering of people that large
for three days. Seeing this, Massasoit gave orders to his
men within the first hour of his arrival to go home and get
more food. Thus it happened that the Indians supplied the
majority of the food: Five deer, many wild turkeys, fish,
beans, squash, corn soup, corn bread, and berries. Captain
Standish sat at one end of a long table and the Clan Chief
Massasoit sat at the other end. For the first time the
Wampanoag people were sitting at a table to eat instead of
on mats or furs spread on the ground. The Indian women sat
together with the Indian men to eat. The Pilgrim women,
however, stood quietly behind the table and waited until
after their men had eaten, since that was their custom.
For three days the Wampanoags feasted with the
Pilgrims. It was a special time of friendship between two
very different groups of people. A peace and friendship
agreement was made between Massasoit and Miles Standish
giving the Pilgrims the clearing in the forest where the
old Patuxet village once stood to build their new town of
It would be very good to say that this friendship
lasted a long time; but, unfortunately, that was not to be.
More English people came to America, and they were not in
need of help from the Indians as were the original
Pilgrims. Many of the newcomers forgot the help the Indians
had given them. Mistrust started to grow and the friendship
weakened. The Pilgrims started telling their Indian
neighbors that their Indian religion and Indian customs
were wrong. The Pilgrims displayed an intolerance toward
the Indian religion similar to the intolerance displayed
toward the less popular religions in Europe. The
relationship deteriorated and within a few years the
children of the people who ate together at the first
Thanksgiving were killing one another in what came to be
called King Phillip's War.
It is sad to think that this happened, but it is
important to understand all of the story and not just the
happy part. Today the town of Plymouth Rock has a
Thanksgiving ceremony each year in remembrance of the first
Thanksgiving. There are still Wampanoag people living in
Massachusetts. In 1970, they asked one of them to speak at
the ceremony to mark the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrim's
arrival. Here is part of what was said:
"Today is a time of celebrating for you -- a time of
looking back to the first days of white people in America.
But it is not a time of celebrating for me. It is with a
heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my
People. When the Pilgrims arrived, we, the Wampanoags,
welcomed them with open arms, little knowing that it was
the beginning of the end. That before 50 years were to
pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a tribe. That we and
other Indians living near the settlers would be killed by
their guns or dead from diseases that we caught from them.
Let us always remember, the Indian is and was just as human
as the white people.
Although our way of life is almost gone, we, the
Wampanoags, still walk the lands of Massachusetts. What has
happened cannot be changed. But today we work toward a
better America, a more Indian America where people and
nature once again are important."
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1. Who lived on the rocky shores where the Pilgrims
2. The Wampanoags were part of what culture area?
3. In what type of homes did the Wampanoags live?
4. Explain what the Wampanoags did to obtain food during
the different seasons of the year?
5. What was the basic dress for the Wampanoag people?
6. Describe the Iroquois system of government.
7. Who later used this system of government as a model?
8. What courtesies did the Wampanoag people extend toward
9. Who was "Tisquantum" and what village was he from?
10. Explain how Squanto learned to speak English.
11. Why did Squanto and Samoset go to live with another
12. Tell four ways in which Squanto helped the Pilgrims.
13. Describe the "First Thanksgiving" in your own words.
14. Why was this really the fifth thanksgiving feast for
the Indians that year?
15. What do you think would have happened to the Pilgrims
if they had not been helped by the Indians?
16. After studying about the culture of the Wampanoags,
how would you react to a thanksgiving picture showing
tipis and Indians wearing feathered headdresses?
17. Quickly re-read the lesson and as you read, make a
list of vocabulary words that are new to you and write
a definition for each one.
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* Study harvest celebrations in other cultures: Asia (New
Year), Northwest Coast Indians (salmon feast), and Europe
(Oktoberfest). For further information, contact the Ethnic
Heritage Council of the Pacific Northwest, 1107 NE 45th,
Suite 315A, Seattle, Washington, 98105, 206/633-3239.
* Imagine for a moment that people from different cultures
have come to your neighborhood. How will you make them feel
welcome? How might you share your possessions with them?
What kinds of things could you do to build feelings of
friendship and harmony with them?
* Investigate agriculture in your local community. What
crops are grown? What time of year are they harvested? What
harvest fairs are celebrated in your area?
* Discuss religious and cultural intolerance as evidenced
by the problems that developed between the Indians and the
Pilgrims in the years following the first thanksgiving at
Plymouth. How do the United States Constitution and Bill of
Rights safeguard the freedom of religion and the rights of
all citizens in America today?
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If you enact the story of the first thanksgiving as a
pageant or drama in your classroom, here are some things to
* Indians should wear appropriate clothing (see dolls on
pages 31 and 35). NO WARBONNETS! A blanket draped over one
shoulder is accurate for a simple outfit.
* Squanto and Samoset spoke excellent English. Other
Indians would have said things in the Algonkian language.
These people were noted for their formal speaking style. A
good example of their oratory would be the prayers on page
23. Someone could read this as part of the drama.
* Indians in the Woodlands area did not have tipis or
horses, so these should not be part of any scenery or
* Any food served should be authentic. The following would
-- corn soup (see recipe on page 28)
-- succotash (see recipe on page 28)
-- white fish
-- red meat
-- various fowl (turkey, partridge, duck)
-- berries (including whole cranberries)
-- maple sugar candies
-- corn starch candy (believe it or not, candy corn is
almost authentic except for the colored dyes)
-- any kind of bean (red, black, green, pinto)
-- sweet potato
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"An Educational Coloring Book of Northeast Indians,"
Spizzirri Publishing Company, Illinois, 1982.
Arber, Edward, "Plymouth Colony Records," Boston,
Armstrong, Virginia Irving, "I Have Spoken," Pocket Books,
New York, 1972.
Benton-Banai, Edward, "The Mishomis Book," Indian Country
Press, Inc., Saint Paul, Minn., 1979.
Berkhofer, Jr., Robert F, "The White Man's Indian," Vintage
Books, Random House, New York, 1978.
Blitzer, Charles, "Age of Kings," Great Ages of Man Series,
Time-Life Books, Time, Inc., New York, 1967.
Bradford, Sir William, and Winslow, Edward, "Of Plymouth
Plantation" and Mourt's Relation," Massachusetts Historical
Society Collections, Tri-centennial Edition, 1922.
"Chronicles of American Indian Protest," The Council on
Interracial Books for Children, Fawcett Pub. Inc.,
Greenwich, Conn., 1971.
Epstein, Sam and Beryl, "European Folk Festivals," Garrand
Publishing Company, Champagne, Illinois, 1968.
Dalgliesh, Alice, "The Thanksgiving Story," Charles
Scribner's Sons, New York, 1954.
Forbes, Jack D., "The Indian in America's Past," Prentice
Hall, Inc., 1964.
Graff, Stewart and Polly Ann, "Squanto, Indian Adventurer,"
Garrard Publishing Company, Illinois, 1965.
"Handbook of North American Indian series, Volume 15,
"History of the Indians of the Northeast," Smithsonian
Institute, Washington, D.C., 1978.
"Harpers' Popular Cyclopaedia of United States History,"
Vol. 1 & 2, Harper and Brothers, Pub., Franklin Square, New
Jennings, Francis, "The Invasion of America," W.W. Norton
and Company, Inc., New York, 1976.
Larsen, Charles M., "The Real Thanksgiving," Tacoma Public
Schools, Tacoma, Washington, 1981.
Leiser, Julia, "Famous American Indians and Tribes," Youth
Publications, Saturday Evening Post Company, 1977.
Ross, Cathy and Fernandes, Roger, "Woodland Culture Area,"
Curriculum Associates, Seattle, Washington, 1979.
Russell, Howard S., "Indians in New England Before the
Mayflower," University Press of New England, Hanover, New
Simmons, William S., "Spirit of the New England Tribes,
Indian History and Folklore 1620-1984," University Press of
New England, Hanover, New Hampshire, 1985.
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A THANKSGIVING PRAYER FROM THE IROQUOIS (SENECA) PEOPLE
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Corn was a very important crop for the people of the
northeast woodlands. It was the main food and was eaten at
every meal. There were many varieties of corn -- white,
blue, yellow and red.
Some of the corn was dried to preserve and keep it for food
throughout the winter months. Dried corn could be made into
a food called hominy. To make hominy, the dried corn was
soaked in a mixture of water and ashed for two days. When
the kernels had puffed up and split open, they were drained
and rinsed in cold water. Then the hominy was stir-fried
over a fire. You can buy canned hominy in most grocery
stores. Perhaps someone in your class would like to bring
some for everyone to sample.
Corn was often ground into corn meal, using wooden mortars
and pestles. The mortars were made of short logs which were
turned upright and hollowed out on the top end. The corn
was put in the hollow part and ground by pounding up and
down with a long piece of wood which was rounded on both
ends. This was called a pestle.
Corn meal could be used to make cornbread, corn pudding,
corn syrup, or could be mixed with beans to make succotash.
A special dessert was made by boiling corn meal and maple
All parts of the corn plant were used. Nothing was thrown
away. The husks were braided and woven to make masks,
moccasins, sleeping mats, baskets, and cornhusk dolls.
Corncobs were used for fuel, to make darts for a game, and
were tied onto a stick to make a rattle for ceremonies.
Corn was unknown to the Europeans before they met the
Indians. Indians gave them the seeds and taught them how to
grow it. Today in the U.S.A., more farm land is used to
grow corn (60 million acres) than any other grain.
From: _Woodland Culture Area_, Ross/Fernandes, 1979
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WOODLAND CULTURE AREA
ROAST CORN SOUP
('o' nanh-dah) by Miriam Lee
12 ears white corn in milky stage
1 # salt pork (lean and fat)
1 # pinto or kidney beans
Using low heat, take corn and roast on top of range (using
griddle if your stove is equipped with one) and keep
rotating corn until ears are a golden brown. After the corn
is roasted, take ears and put on foil covered cookie sheet
until cool enough to handle. Scrape each ear once or twice
With a sharp knife. Corn is ready for making soup. While
corn is being roasted, fill kettle (5 qt. capacity)
approximately 3/4 full with hot water and put on to boil
along with salt pork which has been diced in small pieces
for more thorough cooking. Beans should be sorted for
culls, washed twice and parboiled for approximately 35-45
minutes. After parboiling beans, rinse well in tepid water
2 or 3 times. Corn and beans should then be put in kettle
with pork and cooked for about 1 hour. (Note: Beans can
also be soaked overnight to cut cooking time when preparing
green corn with kernels removed
fresh shelled beans
enough water to cover
salt and pepper to taste
cubed salt pork
Mix the corn and beans and cover with water. Cook the
mixture over medium heat for about a half hour. (Be sure to
stir the mixture to avoid scorching.) Add pepper and salt
and salt pork if desired.
FROM: _Our Mother Corn_
Top of Page
CORN HUSK DOLL
This legend is told by Mrs. Snow,
a talented Seneca craftswoman.
Many, many years ago, the corn, one of the Three Sisters,
wanted to make something different. She made the moccasin
and the salt boxes, the mats, and the face. She wanted to
do something different so the Great Spirit gave her
permission. So she made the little people out of corn husk
and they were to roam the earth so that they would bring
brotherhood and contentment to the Iroquois tribe. But she
made one that was very, very beautiful. This beautiful corn
person, you might call her, went into the woods and saw
herself in a pool. She saw how beautiful she was and she
became very vain and naughty. That began to make the people
very unhappy and so the Great Spirit decided that wasn't
what she was to do. She didn't pay attention to his
warning, so the last time the messenger came and told her
that she was going to have her punishment. Her punishment
would be that she'd have no face, she would not converse
with the Senecas or the birds or the animals. She'd roam
the earth forever, looking for something to do to gain her
face back again. So that's why we don't put any faces on
the husk dolls.
From: _Our Mother Corn_
Top of Page
A SIMPLE REQUEST
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