A Project for Native American Heritage Month and the First Thanksgiving Quadricentennial

Handshake? or measuring it for shackles?

November is Native American Heritage Month. But this year it will not be just any Native American Heritage Month. 2021 marks the 400th anniversary of what is traditionally known as The First Thanksgiving, now known to many as The Day of Mourning.

Accordingly, I’ve undertaken my own ambitious project to mark this major milestone. This: and a lot else.

When my mom died a few years ago I did some research and learned that what had always been vague family lore was in fact true — that I was descended from several of the Pilgrims who came on the Mayflower in 1620. I learned this, and lots of other good and bad information about my ancestry (including some possible Cherokee heritage)…at the same time the nation seemed to be melting down into a nightmare of white supremacy and pseudo-Fascism. Then this climaxed with the pandemic, and the insurrection. Mortality was very much on my mind. If I had anything to say, I’d better say it quick! And I’d not only lost both parents in recent years, but also, for all intents and purposes, my closest sibling. My family was on my mind — my nuclear family, but also all who had gone before, four centuries of them, a people and culture and history which seemed to culminate somehow, horribly, not on a “City on a Hill” but on January 6. What is this history of violence and (frankly) self-delusion all about?

And so I just started writing. And writing and writing. About myself, about my nuclear family, about my ancestors, and about the history of America, just trusting that it would fit together. Surprisingly it did, almost like a braid. For a long time, I worried about what it was going to be: A piece of solo theatre? A podcast? A book? I think ultimately it is all of the above. I took some of the most dramatic and personal sections out and turned them into a piece presented at the Frigid New York’s Gotham Storytelling Festival this November 11 and 13. The work is a sui generis mixing elements of humor, horror, history, memoir, performance art, poetry, world events and even a little Shakespeare. The performance has been recorded. Here is the link to it. It’s honor-system, pay-what-you-can — send $ via Venmo to @FrigidNewYork https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D77gkUoR1Dg

Most of the rest of the material I have published at the links below. I am very much hoping that folks who came to see my show will also read the posts at the links, either before or after they see the performance, as it is very much of a piece with it. I had to cut these sections out or else the performance would be something like 16 hours long. Think of these not as complete essays on their subjects, but as what they are — sections of a longer work that have been excised like slices of cake to be sampled. And please know, that these are not the show! The content in the show is completely different from these historical articles, both in tone and in the ground it covers. By definition, the show has the “A” material. The stuff below is what I’m calling “The Appendix”. It is my hope that will you check out both. If all goes well, I’ll be removing the material below in future, and it will available only in book form. We share it now to illuminate and augment the experience of the show.

“Plymouth Adventure” and Other Bad Mayflower Takes

What is a Pilgrim?

Children of a Saucy Godson

The Great Swamp Fight

More on Jamestown and the Fate of the Powhatans

The Dutch, Deal Making, and the Defeat of the Delaware

An Overview of the Indian Wars

The Deification of Christopher Columbus

Fort Parker, The Searchers and the Downfall of the Comanche

William Holland Thomas and the Eastern Band of Cherokee

Readings in Romanticism: From the “Noble Savage” to Buffalo Bill

On the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Shows, et al.

The Genocidal Writings of L. Frank Baum

Hollywood and the Western

How the Mohawk Built New York

Fess Parker and the Craze for Coonskin Caps

Pete La Farge and “The Ballad of Ira Hayes”

The Hall of Problematic Presidents

Songs of the American Indian Movement

The Enigma of Tribes

Tobacco Road, Crack Alley, and the Path to the Celestial City

Not Part of This Piece, But Very Much Related:

On the Mayflower Compact

A Review of Mayflower, by Nathaniel Philbrick

A Review of Saints and Strangers

Biographies of Native Americans in Show Business


  1. […] ABOUT | Writer/performer Trav S.D. has been making downtown theatre in NYC for over 30 years. His shows have been performed at Joe’s Pub, La Mama, the Duplex, Theater for the New City, HERE, Dixon Place, The Brick, and of course Horse Trade! He is known as one of America’s premiere vaudeville revivalists. His most recent production, Horse Play, was presented at the Ellen Stewart Theatre with Everett Quinton, Molly Pope, and Tim Cusack, who also produced. This is his sixth solo show. To visit his prolific blog, Travalanche, click here. […]


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