The year 1620 reframed by There, There (2018)

The year 1620 reframed by There, There (2018)

By Elizabeth Ferszt

Arizona State University

There, There is a debut novel by author Tommy Orange; it begins with a shamelessly bold Prologue that is offered as the historical tension point and context for the subsequent fictional narrative that follows. In this Prologue, Orange re-frames the Thanksgiving mythos of 1621 by explaining frankly that the meal shared by the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoags was a not a ‘thanksgiving’ meal, but rather, a “land-deal meal” (4). Orange, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma, aims to forcefully and immediately debunk the romanticized, European and Anglo view that the landing of so-called ‘Pilgrims’ in so-called Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620 was benevolent and even heroic. He’s not having even a little bit of the misguided nostalgia over what really were lost (they should have landed in Virginia because they were navigating with Capt. John Smith’s maps), religious ideologues (they ‘removed’ themselves from England to the Low Countries to practice ‘purely’), and treasonous theocrats (they fully ‘Separated’ from the Church of England and did not travel to the Americas with a Charter, as did the Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritans did some ten years later). According to Tommy Orange’s version of the early 1620’s period: “In 1621, colonists invited Massasoit, the chief of the Wampanoags, to a feast after a recent land deal. Massasoit came with ninety of his men. That meal is why we still eat a meal together in November. . .  But that one wasn’t a thanksgiving meal. It was a land-deal meal. Two years later [1623] there was another, similar meal meant to symbolize eternal friendship. Two hundred Indians dropped dead that night from an unknown poison” (4). Savage in its bluntness, this re-framing of the 1620’s contact period seeks to destabilize locus (“Being Indian was never about returning to the land. The land is everywhere or nowhere” (11).), and to disrupt the given storyline. This article will explore the Prologue in There, There, connecting it to modern day post-genocide commissions, in that if we don’t have truth, there can be no reconciliation between former adversaries. READ MORE HERE 1620 reframed by There There

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