Contrary to the popular elementary school myth that our current Thanksgiving holiday stemmed from a feast between Pilgrims and Indians at Plymouth, feasts of thanks actually occurred earlier in the New World. This is only one of the myths Tony Horowitz discovered in his trek across the United States. In “A Voyage Long and Strange,” Horowitz determined to fill in the gaps of our historical knowledge between Columbus’s discovery of the Bahamas in 1492 and the Thanksgiving feast at Plymouth.
A Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Horowitz takes a different approach to history than most historians. While most historians write from documents, Horowitz also integrates his own experiences. Tracing early American history from the Vikings until the Mayflower, he takes his readers on a journey including stops in St. Augustine, Florida, hugging the east coast to explore Roanoke Island and Jamestown, north through New England, and travels through Mexico and the western United States.
In his adventures, Horowitz encountered many unique people including reenactors, those still looking for a city of gold and fountain of youth, and Native Americans who still clung to the traditions of their ancestors. Like a good journalist, Horowitz writes from experience. In fact, it is a wonder he survived to write about any of it. Starting with the Vikings and French settlements in Canada, Horowitz happened upon a reservation of Micmac Indians, a group who had traded with early French settlers in the region. While there, he joined in a sweat lodge experience, which included intense heat and tobacco.
He did survive, writing an amazing account of early American history that is both informative and entertaining. As for Thanksgiving, the Spanish gave thanks and dined with Indians at St. Augustine, fifty-six years before the Pilgrims. “A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World” by Tony Horowitz is our recommended read for the week. Hope you enjoy!