2008-11-27 / Letters

What Does Thanksgiving Mean To You?

To The Editor:

What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Besides being thankful, is it football games, car races, a big dinner? To me it means "Indians and Pilgrims."

In the early 1800s, several young men came to America by boat from Copenhagen, Denmark,and settled in a Danish colony in Iowa. They worked for other settlers for 50 cents a day and saved up their money. Each bought a piece of ground for a farm with a creek, then built a cabin and shanty barn. Two of these young men sent money to their schoolmate sweethearts, later the two girls came over to America.

They were married when the mule-riding circuit preacher rode by. Years later (in 1917) they became my grandfathers and grandmothers. I grew up on this land; it was my home. I have thanked God many times that my grandparents came to America, or I would be living in Denmark.

The cabin had no glass windows; they'd close shutters at night. Not all Indians had moved west, a few stayed behind. When grandma baked breads, an Indian man would come stand outside the window. He would always have a dressed rabbit or squirrel in his hand to exchange for a loaf of baked bread. Some mornings grandpa would go to the shanty barn to milk his cow and a dressed rabbit or squirrel would be hanging there. Then he knew an Indian had milked some from the cow.

Indians doctored themselves with herbs, roots, berries, leaves, bark, etc. Sometimes an Indian squaw would come crying and grandma knew an Indian was very ill. Grandma would take the squaw to the barn and give her some dry barley. Indians boiled this and drank the juice. There was an Indian graveyard nearby and grandpa and grandma would notice if there was a new burial.

My grandmothers brought flower and vegetable seeds over from Denmark when they came and they planted them. They were new to the Indians. They would see Indians walking through the flower and vegetable garden, smelling and touching, but never destroying or taking anything.

My mother, her brothers and sisters played American games in the yard. Indian children stood in the trees watching, trying to figure out their new games.

The Indian children tried to tame and catch the wild horses. They did a lot of running and were good trackers and trappers.

White children would watch them play. No words were ever exchanged, but there was some sign language among adults later.

The Indians never did any damage. They were friendly, independent Indians that stayed behind. The fighting tribes had moved west. Some Danish men married Indian girls when the circuit preacher rode through. Indian women made beautiful beads and things from animals, horse or cow hides. Indian women were very hard workers and made white men very good wives. They knew how to bring in meat and would exchange meat for baked bread and vegetables from the garden. Squaw husbands showed them how to cook it. There was a trading post near our Danish colony, which later become a big city. It is still called today - Sioux City, Iowa. Beulah Cole, age 91 Three Springs

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