Until recently the history of America’s first Thanksgiving was a cute animated cartoon in my mind. While little is known about the occurrence, the little we do know tells a tale of betrayal and misjudgment. The issues facing the pilgrims and the Wampanogs were primarily different cultural practices, language barriers, and religious bigotry. These differences caused tremendous consequences, which we can not only learn from, but also we can come to understand more about why there is still war and international crisis today. Igrew up in a ever changing world.
The seasons changed, sometimes we had food, sometimes we did not. We often faced war and hatred from other tribes. Though we faced uncertainty at times we knew the stories of our ancestors, we had our home, religion, and families. We knew how to face the problems that arose. Our culture is like a protective cave, as Plato described. We grow with a particular way of thinking, perspectives, beliefs and practices. We feel comfortable around people who understand and think the way we do. This, while certainly not a bad thing, can cause issues when trying to identify with somebody from a different “cave”.
We, as humans, reject change. It scares us. We learn how to deal with expected or predicable changes, but when a problem arises that we are unsure of, our defensive shields go up and we fight it. People are driven by their emotions so we can understand when the pilgrims wash up in Plymouth their determination to take root in that area stems from fear, disease, loss and a great need of stability. At this time, their intentions can only be seen as pure. On the other hand, the Wampaoags and other Native tribes are scared, and rightfully so.
There are people invading their land and they don’t just want to live there, but they are bringing completely different cultural practices and beliefs to their home. They both had things they could learn from one another, the natives knew the land and how to use the environment to get what they needed. The pilgrims brought modern technology and tools that could be used to simplify their lives. While these things helped both colonies, the pilgrims came from a society that was “dog eat dog” they were independent and considered their way of life the “correct” way to live.
The Wampanoags believed in living in harmony with the land, they had a complex government system, they worked together as a community, thus creating a distinct line between the two societies. When we first saw the white men we feared them, only I had hope that they could be our allies. We faced potential war from a nearby tribe and we were devastated by a disease that swept our through our tribe. The white men, I felt could be a gift form above. However, upon meeting I quickly realized we could not communicate.
The tongues we spoke were vastly different, therefore I couldn’t see how they could help us, or us them, unless we found a way to communicate. Language barriers are a problem that everybody is familiar with. How do you speak to someone who cannot understand you? The inability to communicate intensified the issues facing the Wampanoags and the pilgrims. Language in essence is culture. The way people speak, what they talk about, even grammar structure, stems from the society of the people speaking that language.
Even if we can speak the dialect, if we do not emphasize with the way those people are we cannot properly communicate. The Wampanogs fortunately did have somebody who could interpret for them; I believe this man is what made the brief alliance possible. The prisoner who had learned English was able to create an alliance with the pilgrims, which in turn would benefit both parties. However, as time passed, the differences among them became too great. Tradition separated them and they could not emphasize with one another. If they had taken more time to understand each other things may have been different.
The pilgrims, still fearing for safety, sincerely sought somewhere they could call “home”, but they chose to take land that was not theirs to take. They established a community among a nation of natives and refused to integrate their practices with theirs, instead choosing to claim the land as their own and create their own rules. The pilgrims established a society that opposed the natives, is this not an obvious recipe for war? This is where empathy really comes into play. In order to properly communicate with others, even people from the same culture, “we must first seek to understand and then seek to be understood.
The tension grows between us and our friends. Our religious views are different from one another. Among the largest issues was the religious bigotry enforced by the pilgrims. To me, the turning point in the allies’ relationship with each other was at the pilgrims fault. They chose to not practice empathy and learn what the natives believed, but to tell to them that they were wrong and needed to change. The pilgrims, while they may have had good intentions, attempted to force the Wampanoags to convert to Christianity.