The First Light: A brief look at the long history of the first inhabitants of the Cape, with Paul Savage
Wednesday afternoons from 1-2:20 in person at Wellfleet Preservation Hall (or on Zoom if necessary)
October 26, November 2, 9, 16, 23
Course limited to 24 participants.
Cape Cod’s history is indelibly linked to Nov. 1620 when the Pilgrims landed at Provincetown. In Massachusetts, the Cape and Islands–and in numerous locations of North America--thousands of places are named for Native American peoples, cultures and nations. This is a journey back to the origins of human settlement in North America and the Cape. The class will include two classroom meetings and three field trips:
- the Cape Cod National Seashore Visitor’s Center in Eastham to meet park historian Bill Burke, who will help us explore archaeology of the park’s first inhabitants. Time TBD.
-Plymouth Pawtucket on October 26 from 2-4 p.m.($28 additional fee, to be collected in class)
-Mashpee, date and time TBD to replace one class.
The goal of this class is to illuminate ourselves to the People of the First Light.
We will read and discuss Daniel J. Silverman’s book “This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving”. Here is a description of Prof. Silverman’s book:
In March 1621, when Plymouth's survival was hanging in the balance, the Wampanoag sachem (or chief), Ousamequin (Massasoit), and Plymouth's governor, John Carver, declared their people's friendship for each other and a commitment to mutual defense. Later that autumn, the English gathered their first successful harvest and lifted the specter of starvation. Ousamequin and 90 of his men then visited Plymouth for the “First Thanksgiving.” The treaty remained operative until King Philip's War in 1675, when 50 years of uneasy peace between the two parties would come to an end.
400 years after that famous meal, historian David J. Silverman sheds profound new light on the events that led to the creation, and bloody dissolution, of this alliance. Focusing on the Wampanoag Indians, Silverman deepens the narrative to consider tensions that developed well before 1620 and lasted long after the devastating war-tracing the Wampanoags' ongoing struggle for self-determination up to this very day.
This unsettling history reveals why some modern Native people hold a Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving, a holiday which celebrates a myth of colonialism and white proprietorship of the United States. This Land is Their Land shows that it is time to rethink how we, as a pluralistic nation, tell the history of Thanksgiving.