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Pig to president: Pardon me

Thanksgiving actually began in Virginia, and it featured pork.

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For 60 years, the president of the United States has stepped into the Rose Garden around Thanksgiving and pardoned a turkey.

This year, President Bush should pardon a pig as well.

Why? It's a long, mistaken history.

Most Americans believe the first Thanksgiving held by English colonists was in Massachusetts, where the meal supposedly featured turkey.

Over the past few years a number of writers, and even The History Channel, have taken to debunking the "myths" of the first Thanksgiving. They have been so bold as to challenge the idea that the first Thanksgiving meal included turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing.

But they haven't gotten to the real meat of the issue: the documented fact that the first Thanksgiving didn't take place in Massachusetts, but in Virginia.

The first English colonists to offer up their prayer of Thanksgiving stood on the James River banks in Berkeley, Va., on Dec. 4, 1619, almost two whole years before the Pilgrim feast. Their charter spelled out that they must give thanks upon arrival and keep that day as a perpetual, annual day of Thanksgiving.

As former Virginia Gov, Gerald Baliles (D) wrote this month in the Richmond-Times Dispatch, "Let us not allow Virginia's First Thanksgiving to languish in the mists of time. It could, should, and ought to be the gift of history that never stops giving."

This is not Southern legend, but American colonial history. And it has been dismissed as a joke on too many occasions by people who should treat the nation's history with more respect.

Gov. Baliles pointed out that "on Nov. 9, 1962, Virginia State Sen. John J. Wicker sent a telegram to President John F. Kennedy, taking issue with the previous year's [pro-Pilgrim] Thanksgiving Proclamation."

According to Baliles, Senator Wicker insisted he had proved to the governor of Massachusetts the validity of Virginia's claim to the first Thanksgiving by simply providing the historical documentation.

In response, Wicker received an apology from White House adviser and historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Writing on behalf of the president, Mr. Schlesinger attributed the "error" to "unconquerable New England bias on the part of the White House staff."

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