Our Thanksgiving legacy



After that first harsh winter the Pilgrims were full of thanks in 1621, for 14 days of rain that summer and for the Native Americans who taught them how to grow corn and cook an eel. So the 190 of them — 100 Calvinists escaping the Church of England, and about 90 members of the Wampanoag tribe of indigenous people who welcomed the European immigrants to the New World and saved them from starvation — gathered as one at the Plymouth Plantation to celebrate their bonds and praise God for their bounty.

In that tradition we give thanks four centuries later.

That by happenstance we were born on the richest spot on Earth, blessed by the richest soil and rainfall in just the right abundance to make this a garden of envy for the world. The maize that the indigenous people brought to Plymouth came from their native cousins in Mexico, and probably made its way to the East Coast after an exchange in Cahokia — now East St. Louis, but in 1400 the largest settlement in North America, where all the indigenous people came together to exchange seed and blood.

The story evolves and rewrites itself all over America and in Buena Vista County, Iowa. We give thanks that we are free to speak and worship as those repressed Calvinists did, that we are stewards of the bounty, and that dramatically different cultures are able to come together here and welcome each other as equal stakeholders in liberty. We are writing the new American story right here, every day, uniquely in Storm Lake.

For all that and this we give thanks:

To be able to freely publish a newspaper in our hometown with the most selfless people imaginable — Whitney Robinson does three jobs in one, Jen Olson makes finished pages out of chicken scratch, Jon Robinson makes sure all trains are on track, and Jamie Knapp is there every Friday night for football come rain or sleet. Somebody has to keep that phone from ringing off the hook, and Jennifer Newton does it. We are grateful that their largely unheralded work gives us this platform.

To live in the best little city in the land with a lake and a college and no rush hour, with safe neighborhoods and problems that are still manageable.

To live in a state that is waking up to how we are wasting our natural resources and forfeiting that bounty for future generations while we consume what we have been led to believe is ours. Iowans down deep know the answers and how to move forward in a way that can strengthen our communities, our state and nation, and make us all more prosperous.

To learn and grow from other cultures in our midst, like the Pilgrims and Native people learned from each other, embraced each other and sustained each other — until the settlers forgot who was here first and dreamed up their own exceptionalism. Were it not for the Wampanoag people there would be no United States because the Pilgrims would not have lived to declare it. It is good for us to remember that as we drive indigenous people back over the Mexican border — drawn by the barrel of a US gun in 1854 — from whence the corn came.

We give thanks that we live in a nation where elections every two years witness a peaceful change of power, as it happened this month, where the politically vanquished are not locked up, where you are endowed with rights by our Creator by virtue of birth in this great land, and where every man and woman may pursue happiness. Our legacy is to preserve what has been given us, to prize our liberties and maintain our rights as those first settlers and their native hosts imagined them together.