Thanksgiving will soon be upon us, fellow preppers. In our politically correct society, this honored tradition of sitting down to a massive family meal and giving thanks for all of our many blessings, will surely bring about controversy again this year.
The liberal talking heads on television will be bickering about Christopher Columbus, the pilgrims, and Native Americans as the aroma of pumpkin pie wafts through living rooms across America.
Instead of wading into that argument, we should be taking a deeper look at the many survival lessons we can learn from what led up to that first Thanksgiving dinner in the land that would become the United States of America.
There is far more to know about the events that paved the way for the breaking of bread between the pilgrims and the Native Americans than the textbook lesson you read in elementary school.
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Thoughts to Ponder
Who exactly were the pilgrims? Well, by and large they were city people. OK, they weren’t from cities as we think of them today, but the pilgrims were “townies”.
Darn few of those folks lived off the beaten path. Little to nothing in their lives had prepared them for the world they were about to find themselves in.
By easy comparison, the pilgrims are a superb representation of the unprepared. I may take a lot of heat from this next statement, and that’s alright – it just might provoke some soul-searching and saves lives.
The pilgrims, in my opinion, represent the unprepared less than they do most urban and suburban preppers. I say (arlight, type) this not to disrespect our metropolitan and city outskirts prepping peers, but to urge them draw brutally honest comparisons between themselves and the pilgrims – before it is too late.
The pilgrims were of tough stock. They were able to cross the Atlantic Ocean in an austere ship and survived both disease and crushing winter weather. Well, some of them did. Of the brave souls on the Mayflower, only about half, 102 people, made it through that first wicked winter in the new world.
Those pilgrims, like urban and suburban preppers, had the right mindset, had loaded up with as many supplies as they could, and truly believed they understood what life would be like when living outside of a civilized society.
The rigors they would have to endure and the skills that they would need to draw upon to not just survive but thrive, quite simply were just not there.
If your first experience “roughing it” in the woods where your food, water, shelter, and protection relied solely upon your knowledge and action happens during a real life or death experience there is no way to know what you don’t know… except in theory.
Folks who grow up in a rural area probably have a better survival skillset than 95% of urban and suburban preppers, even though they would never think to put such a label on themselves.
If you grow up learning how to hunt, fish, trap, track, grow your own food, butcher your own food, raise livestock, build things with your own two hands, and know that you will have to be your own first responder in case of a home invasion, fire, or medical emergency.
Because you live so far from professional local heroes – you develop a prepper mindset and skill set out of necessity.
The stockpiling and skill building urban and suburban preppers are engaged in will surely help them during a long-term disaster, and should be applauded.
But, the scant natural resources that will be available in such areas, dangers posed by high population density alone would require them to find their own Squanto to be able to survive long-term.
Please don’t consider “bugging out to the country” as a survival plan. Unless you have a destination to reach that you own or family, friends that are going to welcome you in, you won’t get in.
Country folks, card-carrying preppers or not, will be armed and standing on the county line – banded together, to prevent both strangers and marauding hordes from getting in.
If you choose to remain in an urban area, you will ultimately become as trapped and vulnerable as the Mayflower passengers were once they landed in a desolate area.
Survival Lessons We Can Learn From the Pilgrims
While these lessons should prove most eye-opening for urban and suburban preppers, rural preppers may also have something to learn from the mistakes of those that came before us.
1. Resource Sharing
Unless your prepping tribe is large and includes skilled experts that can supply all the goods and services you will possibly ever need, cultivate relationships with those around you who can.
If you live in a rural area, opportunities should abound. Find out and solidify mutually beneficial relationships just like the surviving pilgrims did with Squanto’s help.
When stockpiling gear, supplies, and even firewood, keep bartering in mind. Maybe you will not want to barter during the early stages of a SHTF event, but in the case of a long-term disaster, the time may come when you need to.
Even if your budget has allowed you to put back everything you need for an extended amount of time, a societal rebuilding phase, in one shape or form, will ultimately be initiated.
Set yourself up with a post-apocalypse career by stockpiling materials and skills that will prove useful when America starts to come back.
3. Multipurpose Supplies
We are survival homesteaders, that is basically the same thing as a prepper, but our self-reliance efforts are based upon the natural resources on our land. Homesteaders, whether they are focused on survival or not, learn how to repurpose and reuse anything at their disposal to get by.
The pilgrims learned this lesson after arriving in the new world. Some historians have written that the brave souls initially planned on sailing two ships to America, but, due to a problem with one of the ships, all of the pilgrims and gear had to be condensed upon a single ship, instead.
This was essentially an act of bugging out with only half of your supplies. When a beam needed repair on the Mayflower, the pilgrims got creative and used a printing press that had been packed, to sturdy the support.
Why the pilgrims chose to allow a printing press to take up space and deemed it an essential item, this once again goes back to the uninformed mindset and lack of situational awareness these towns people had when embarking on their journey.
They did learn as they went along though. Although more thought should have been put into shelter BEFORE boarding the Mayflower, the pilgrims learned to cut wood from nearby trees to make simple homes, and some folks lived about the docked boat to protect themselves from the elements.
4. Food and Foraging
Numerous pilgrims died that first year due to poor nutrition. The types of plants grown in little gardens in town before the pilgrimmage were not enough to fulfill the dietary needs of the Mayflower passengers.
Thanks to the relationships cultivated through Squanto, the pilgrims learned to grow nutrient-rich crops like corn, how to forage for nuts and berries, as well as which wild plants could be safely eaten and used for medicine.
How often do you forage? Being able to tell a safe to eat mushroom from a deadly one in a highly detailed color photo in a book is a far cry from differentiating between the two in the wild.
Be a Wise Pilgrim
Urban and suburban preppers can learn from the mistakes of the pilgrims, and we rural preppers should extend a welcoming and helping hand, just like Squanta and members of his tribe did.
Many times I have heard city and suburban preppers say they have to stay where they are because of work or medical issues. While dealing with a chronic or serious medical issue that requires you to live near a hospital or specialist is a massive and worrisome hurdle to deal with when considering relocating to a rural area, it can be done.
Folks out here develop heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. and garner expert medical care, we just have to drive further to achieve those same goals.
As for work, that is a shorter hurdle to overcome. I literally live in the middle of the woods and have quality satellite Internet service that allows me to earn a good living without having to leave our survival homestead.
We have city folks purchase property in our region all the time for hunting, vacation, and retirement homes.
There are two things they always say:
- I wish I could live here.
- Wow, I can’t believe how low the cost of living here is.
Even if you cannot afford to buy land, you could buy or rent a house in one of the villages (that is what small towns are classified as in Ohio), and be far safer and have a greater opportunity to hone those survival skills than you would surrounded by concrete.
Two prominent prepper pals from another state lived in Orlando, Florida, working high powered and lucrative jobs before they dove head first into prepping… for real.
They sold their home and purchased five acres of land outright in Tennessee. They launched new careers from working from home that led to them becoming not only equally successful, but prepared for whatever may come.
This is just one of many similar success stories. Do not let the career choice change be the deciding factor in where you choose to live. Look at a possible career change or adaptation, possibly into small business ownership, as an adventure that will help increase your family’s chances of being survivors and not statistics, during a SHTF event.
The first pilgrims came to America seeking freedom and a new way of life, but they were too woefully undersupplied and skill poor to pull it off alone. Don’t be like those pilgrims.
Position yourself so you can become like the survivors that thrived at Plymouth Rock, and then return the favor those just starting our folks fearful of chucking it all and moving to the country.
As my friend and prepping mentor Survivor Jane says, “We’re all in this together,” that’s one final lesson we can learn from the Thanksgiving story.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.