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Ch. 3 - The Truth about the First Thanksgiving 
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 Ch. 3 - The Truth about the First Thanksgiving
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong - by James W. Loewen

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Ch. 3 - The Truth about the First Thanksgiving



Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:21 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3 - The Truth about the First Thanksgiving
Chapter 3: The Truth about Turkey Day

Discussion Questions:

1. When you were taught history in school, did disease figure amongst one of the major factors of the colonialisation of North America? What other examples in history do we see where disease has had immense and lasting effects on culture and politics?

2. Loewen has begun to outline what he has called the origin mythos of the United States. Are there other national/cultural origin myths of which you know? How do these compare to the American mythos?

3. If Christopher Columbus and The First Thanksgiving serve as an American origin myth, what are the myths in American history that make up The Journey part of America’s myth?

4. Do you agree the antidote to feel good history Is inclusive history? Do you think feel bad history has become en vogue? Where do you think (if you’ve read it), Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States falls on this continuum?

5. Pumpkin pie is thought of being quintessentially American and incontrovertibly associated with the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Pumpkins (like other ingredients Loewen mentions in this chapter) are native to the Americas, however Pumpkin Pie as we think of it today has its origins in Europe, the squash being exported to Europe and grown there, later becoming married to a custard base (eggs, milk, sugar), shelled in European (especially English) style pasty, and flavoured with an Old World spice set (ginger, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg), none of which came from the Americas, and then was brought "back" to the Americas by settlers in the 17th century. (My apologies here for the long winded introduction to the question): what other cultural items are you aware of that have been adopted into one culture from another and now are so deeply associated with the adopter culture many do not recognise it as being originally from somewhere else? Would this constitute syncretism in Loewen's view? Does it in your view?



Last edited by capricorn152244 on Thu Feb 07, 2019 5:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Chris OConnor, DWill
Mon Feb 04, 2019 7:33 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3 - The Truth about the First Thanksgiving
capricorn152244 wrote:
Chapter 3: The Truth about Turkey Day
Discussion Questions:
1. When you were taught history in school, did disease figure amongst one of the major factors of the colonialisation of North America? What other examples in history do we see where disease has had immense and lasting effects on culture and politics?
Thanks for raising such interesting and important questions about history. I recall my first school history lesson in 1970, celebrating the Bicentenary of Captain James Cook’s discovery of Australia in 1770. School history then was triumphalist about Australian settlement by Britain, rather like the American myths of manifest destiny and providence.

The genocidal impact of disease on indigenous people does not feature highly in the story of western triumph. Disease is a topic not well suited to the great man treatment of history as kings and battles. Only if we want to understand what actually happened will we take an interest in disease. And the story is about science, not about intrepid colonists.

History under the guidance of the state used to be about explaining cultural identity in a positive way, inculcating national sentiments of pride and loyalty rather than shame and guilt. The rise of indigenous history has blown open this patriotic tradition to some extent, leading to higher social value being placed on diversity, understanding and inclusion.


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Post Re: Ch. 3 - The Truth about the First Thanksgiving
capricorn152244 wrote:
2. Loewen has begun to outline what he has called the origin mythos of the United States. Are there other national/cultural origin myths of which you know? How do these compare to the American mythos?
Again, very interesting topic. Every nation has origin myths reflecting dominant perceptions of identity. For the USA, the Mayflower Puritan tradition, the Founding Fathers and the Constitution, Lincoln and the Civil War, and the whole pioneering frontier experience contribute to the dominant but fracturing sense of national identity. The Greatest Generation who fought World War Two have a modern cultural origin myth that has been challenged but remains largely ascendant as a basis for the American self image.

Australia also has origin myths, with an annual debate known as the History Wars about whether the anniversary of British settlement on 26 January 1788 should be called Australia Day or Invasion Day. Conservative nationalists are fighting to enshrine Australia Day while radicals want to abolish it, based on conflicting visions of history. Such questions are far from simple. Conflicting with the need for respect for people who were marginalised, there is the question of how much of the pioneering mentality contains enduring values that are protected by celebration of national identity.

A factor in comparing Australia to the USA, as colonial settler nations, is the material abundance of the American Midwest compared to the bleak dry desert of Central Australia. This economic factor shaped the cultural mythos around celebrations like Thanksgiving. The American myth of providence reflects an unconscious assumption of material growth on a much bigger national scale than in Australia.


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Post Re: Ch. 3 - The Truth about the First Thanksgiving
capricorn152244 wrote:
Chapter 3: The Truth about Turkey Day
4. Do you agree the antidote to feel good history Is inclusive history? Do you think feel bad history has become en vogue? Where do you think (if you’ve read it), Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States falls on this continuum?

Inclusive history doesn't need to be feel bad history, so yes, it's a pretty good antidote to biased feel good history. I wouldn't put Loewen in the feel bad category just on the basis of the balance he brings to the historical narrative. He does a better job than Zinn, in my view, who almost never paused in his bad-mouthing for perspective. For example, Loewen doesn't deny that the Pilgrims can be seen as admirable in their own right, but they had the usual human failings, which were air-brushed away by the texts.

I'm okay with approaching high-schoolers with inclusive history. I wonder more about how to do this with younger students. Or might we decide that history is actually too adult a subject for elementary/middle school? What we don't want is to give the patriotic, rosy view to the kiddies and then have to break it to the high-schoolers that we lied to them for their own protection. But I really do think younger kids aren't mature enough to "handle the truth." The social studies approach to history is probably best for the kids, a history-lite thing that doesn't tell any whoppers.
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5. Pumpkin pie is thought of being quintessentially American and incontrovertibly associated with the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Pumpkins (like other ingredients Loewen mentions in this chapter) are native to the Americas, however Pumpkin Pie as we think of it today has its origins in Europe, the squash being exported to Europe and grown there, later becoming married to a custard base (eggs, milk, sugar), shelled in European (especially English) style pasty, and flavoured with an Old World spice set (ginger, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg), none of which came from the Americas, and then was brought "back" to the Americas by settlers in the 17th century. (My apologies here for the long winded introduction to the question): what other cultural items are you aware of that have been adopted into one culture from another and now are so deeply associated with the adopter culture many do not recognise it as being originally from somewhere else? Would this constitute syncretism in Loewen's view? Does it in your view?

I don't know how Loewen would see it. It appears to be an example of the syncretism that has been going on since forever. I become confused sometimes by allegations of cultural appropriation, tending to see most adoptions of elements of others' culture as a good thing or at least not causing harm.



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Post Re: Ch. 3 - The Truth about the First Thanksgiving
capricorn152244 wrote:
1. When you were taught history in school, did disease figure amongst one of the major factors of the colonialisation of North America? What other examples in history do we see where disease has had immense and lasting effects on culture and politics?
Interestingly, we were taught (early 70s) about Europeans sending smallpox blankets to wipe out First Peoples. We heard about several "Indian fighters" including Jackson, Custer and William Henry Harrison, but there was no attention paid to the plagues that I can remember.

The Black Death of the mid 1300s was certainly epochal. A number of historians, including popularizer Barbara Tuchman ("A Distant Mirror") speculate that by killing off 1/3 of Europe, and similar portions of Chinese and Turkish populations, it might have launched a wave of modernization. This is plausible to economists, who see the ratio of people to "means of production" as being normally determined mainly by Malthusian poverty from breeding restrained only by starvation and "normal" disease levels. When the "man/land" ratio takes a jump (or a slide, with "land to men" jumping), as it did with discovery of the Americas and also with the Black Death, there seems to be a tendency to adopt labor-saving technology and to search for more efficient methods that would normally be forestalled by the abundance of human labor.

I must say I was completely unaware of the estimates having populations in the Americas outnumbering the European population, before disease and conquest took their toll. It does put a different perspective on things.

capricorn152244 wrote:
2. Loewen has begun to outline what he has called the origin mythos of the United States. Are there other national/cultural origin myths of which you know? How do these compare to the American mythos?
Most of us have heard of Eric the Red finding Greenland, of Romulus and Remus founding Rome (a violent tale) and of the origins of the Arabic kingdoms emerging with Islam. The founding myths were likely to exalt "pagan" virtues of courage and violence, and I think it is at least somewhat helpful to have religious freedom among the motivations for founding. (Though we were also taught that the Puritans were themselves intolerant.)

I have some awareness of the Swiss myths, including William Tell (which is re-enacted regularly in the "mountain cantons" who formed the original core of Switzerland, but as far as I know without actually shooting an arrow off the head of any children) and the Genevois story of the sneak attack by the Duke of Savoy, threatening Geneva's standing as a Protestant bastion, which was repulsed due to a lady making soup on the walls who poured the hot soup on the invaders and raised the alarm. This event is also still celebrated with the "Escalade" (ladder) festival in early December.

I'm curious what people think of Lincoln's appropriation of American mythos with phrases like "a new birth of freedom"? It has been noted that such re-appropriations themselves shape the way the original mythos is handed down. In Lincoln's case this was quite conscious and, I would say, more radical than the re-shaping that went with, say, Sophocles re-writing myths of Oedipus and Antigone.
capricorn152244 wrote:
what other cultural items are you aware of that have been adopted into one culture from another and now are so deeply associated with the adopter culture many do not recognise it as being originally from somewhere else? Would this constitute syncretism in Loewen's view? Does it in your view?
Well, I have heard Germans say "it wouldn't be German without potatoes." Likewise pizza is thought of as Italian, especially by non-Europeans, though of course it is Italian-American in origin. "Indian food" is a thorough mix of borrowings (as is "Thai food"). Apparently "biryani" is, among Hindus, an insulting way to refer to Muslims, who eat beef.

West Africa adopted "batik" for a way of putting patterns onto cloth, with some help from the Dutch who brought it from Indonesia, or so I am told. West African batik is recognizably different from Indonesian batik, and I would bet most Africans are unaware of the origin.



Sat Mar 09, 2019 10:44 pm
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