FIFTY: Massachusetts — "The Power of Thanksgiving"
Each story in the FIFTY collection focuses on a remarkable American from a different state. Below are some recommended topics to inspire further investigation of the history and geography of the state, as well as themes that can support our children's growth and development.
The Thanksgiving story of the Pilgrims and Native Americans is told year after year — and at its center is a famous man commonly called Squanto. He is remembered as the great translator and teacher who helped the European Pilgrims survive in their new home near Plymouth rock. But the true story of Tisquantum (his real name) is, of course, much more complex, personal, and relatable. It is a story of tragedy, of adventure, and of an opportunity to heal.
Parent Note: Our historical fiction version of his story includes the reality of native american slavery, the plague of smallpox and his personal grief around losing his family. Yes, this story includes difficult topics and themes that are not usually shared over the Thanksgiving meal, but it also includes reconciliation, service and ultimately … deep healing.
- Native American history of the many tribes of New England and their interactions
- History of the Puritans and Plymouth Rock
- History of European and Native American trade
- Map of trade routes of early American exploration
- Map of different tribal territories before the arrival of the Puritans
- Map of early Plymouth in relation to modern Massachusetts
The Power of Thanksgiving Study Topics
- A comparison of various versions of the Thanksgiving story
- The Thanksgiving story from the perspective of Native Americans, the Puritans and the English military.
Topics for Reflection From a Child Development Perspective:
In this story, your child might learn that:
In history there have been groups that have brought pain and suffering to humanity, but equally so, others have offered an outstretched hand of charity and compassion. Tisquantum suffered under the hand of Thomas Hunt who stole him and a dozen other men and boys from his home on the Massachusetts Bay and sold them into slavery in Spain. But was saved by the kindness of a group of Spanish monks who helped to return him back to England. Then in England, he was given the valuable life skill of learning English by a man named, John Stanley. It was Stanley who then made arrangements to send Tisquantum back to America.
Even when we feel wronged or upset, and even when it is with a very, very good reason, it is important to also acknowledge those who are helping us. This does not discount or excuse the mistreatment, but it does help us to find our way through it. Tisquantum felt thanks for all of these individuals who had helped him, even though he felt deeply angry at others.
When something happens that is completely and entirely out of our control, that does harm to our loved ones or to us, we can feel rage. Rage is an anger that is so strong that it overwhelms us, and we can hardly put words to it. Sometimes these things that happen are at the hand of others who, in their greed and selfishness, do real harm to others. Sometimes when hard things happen, however, they are really no one’s “fault”. It doesn't make it any easier, but sometimes out of our rage, we blame others who may even be innocent. When Tisquantum came back to the ‘rock of his youth’ and saw that he was all alone and that his tribe has been wiped out in a plague of smallpox, he wanted to blame all Europeans, even those who had helped him. It was the Europeans who brought this to his nation, and therefore he felt rage at the Spanish monks and the others, even though they personally did not bring the illness to his people.
Sometimes in the midst of our rage and loneliness, miracles can happen. Perhaps it was the ship that arrived from England carrying Puritans, that was the miracle. Or perhaps that wasn't the miracle, at all. Perhaps the miracle was that when the Puritans arrived, the first snows of winter fell, and so Tisquantum and Massasoit decided not to engage with them until the spring. Perhaps it was in the waiting and in the spring thaw that the miracle happened. Perhaps it was that the Puritans were starving and that Sammoset recalled a man named Tisquantum who could speak a little bit of English to help them. Perhaps that was the miracle. Perhaps then it was the fact that the Puritans could help both the Abenaki tribe and the Wampanaog tribe against the Narragansets to the north. Perhaps that was the miracle. Or perhaps it was all of that together that was miraculous, and that made healing possible.
It can be hard, but it is essential, to remember that it is individuals who make up groups of people. We might feel upset or angry at a group of people for what they stand for, and yet when we look at each other ey to eye, we can learn that there are some on adversarial groups whom we can still befriend. The Puritans were Europeans, and at first Tisquantum only felt more rage toward them especially since they wanted to build their own village right where his family and friends used to live.
When we feel unsafe, we can either do an about-face and leave the situation, or we can enter, treading with care, into the territory that feels threatening. Tisquantum knew that the Puritans had something to offer them, and even though this did not feel safe, because the Europeans had always wanted something from his people. However, he also knew that staying stuck in his rage would not bring positive results to him or to his people. And so he decided first to find out what it was specifically that they wanted before agreeing to make any arrangements. He was smart, and he was cautious.
Even our "enemies" are human beings, and they have the capacity to feel the same range of emotions that we feel. Tisquantum saw the grief and desperation in John Carver's sad and fearful eyes, and Tisquantum felt compassion and pity.
Sometimes we make sacrifices and do good in the world for the future of the world, even if it is hard work, and even if we have to question our convictions in doing so. Tisquantum decided to help the Puritans when he saw young children climbing on the “rock of his youth” playing just like he used to. He turned his rage into productive action that could change the world for the better in the future bringing more peace and understanding to all.
Sometimes the best way to heal our rage is by lending a helping hand to suffering people who need our compassion. Tisquantum, Squanto, did this for the Puritans. This is what creates gratitude among people and this is what we call Thanksgiving.
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About the Authors
David Sewell McCann
David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.
Meredith has been working with adults and children of all ages for the past 25 years as a Waldorf Teacher and Educational Consultant. She received a B.A. with a focus on child development and child psychology from the University of Michigan, in 1984, an M.A. Ed from Washington University in 1987, and her Waldorf Teaching Certificate from the Lehrerausbildung (Teacher Training) in Nurnberg, Germany in 1989. She was certified as a Living Inquiries Facilitator in 2014, and she completed her formal teaching certification with The Enneagram Institute in 2014. Her work in the classroom and with individuals and groups is designed to help people of all ages to drop self-limiting beliefs to live a more joyful and compassionate life.