Thanksgiving Myths, Manufactured History and a Nescient Population
In “Thanksgiving: Fact or Fiction?” by Jonathan Holmes writes the following. In the minds of many Americans, when asked the question, “When was the United States first settled?”, invariably the response will be, “in 1620 when the Pilgrims landed.” This so called “origin myth” has frequently been termed “the story of the first Thanksgiving” in many children’s books about the subject.
However, beginning the story of America’s settlement with the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony in 1620 leaves out not only the Native population, but also the Spanish, African and French as well. As a matter of fact, the very first non-Indian or non-Native settlers in this country know called the United States, were African slaves left in Georgia in 1526 by Spaniards who abandoned a settlement attempt.
This settlement attempt, according to Jeannine Cook, in Columbus and the Land of Ayllón: The Exploration and Settlement of the Southeast published in 1992, took place in the summer of 1526. Approximately five hundred Spanish colonists and one hundred African slaves, and perhaps some free African colonists, under the command of Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, founded a settlement in America called San Miguel de Gualdape. These colonists had sailed from the Caribbean island of Hispaniola in July 1526 aboard six ships. By August, they had landed at Winyah Bay on the mouth of the Pedee River, in what is now near present-day Georgetown in South Carolina. However, they failed to find a Native village, which they felt from past experience, would be necessary as a source for food until crops could be planted and harvested. Therefore, they sailed further southward. On what would later become the Georgia coast, Ayllón and his colonists found a village of Guale Natives and chose to settle nearby.
Although physical remains of their settlement have not been found, historians and geographers have utilized surviving navigation logs and other records to reconstruct Ayllón’s 1526 voyage. Based on the latest research, the San Miguel de Gualdape settlement probably was situated on the mainland of what today is McIntosh County in Georgia, opposite Sapelo Sound. Disease and disputes with the local Guale Native village caused many deaths in the settlement, and finally in November 1526, the African slaves rebelled, killed some of their Spaniard masters, and escaped to live with the local Guale tribe. By now only 150 Spaniards survived, so they evacuated to the island of Haiti. The former slaves elected to remain behind. Consequently, the first non-Native settlers in this country we now know as the United States, were Africans.
In 1564, approximately 250 French Protestants, also known as Huguenots and commanded by René Goulaine de Laudonniere, established a settlement on the St. John’s River near present-day Jacksonville, Florida. They called the settlement La Caroline. However, a year later in August 1565, some 600 Spanish soldiers and settlers under Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés came ashore at the site of a Timucuan Native village in what is now northeastern Florida, and soon fortified the fledgling settlement of La Caroline and re-named it Saint Augustine.
According to findings by Kathleen Teltsch, which were published in the New York Times in 1990 under the title, Scholars and Descendants Uncover Hidden Legacy of Jews in Southwest, when the long arm of the Spanish Inquisition established itself in Mexico City, some Spanish Jews, (called Sephardim in Hebrew, which were the descendants of Jews whose ancestors lived on the Iberian Peninsula), fled with Don Juan de Oñate in 1598 and established permanent settlements in what is today New Mexico and Colorado.
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