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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Economy May Be Weak, but Thanksgiving Traditions Hold Strong

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HOST:

Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

(MUSIC)

I'm Doug Johnson. This week:

We listen to a new album from James Taylor ...

Answer a listener question about native American Indians ...

And talk to some Americans about the Thanksgiving holiday.

(MUSIC)

Thanksgiving

HOST:

A U.S. soldier at a Thanksgiving lunch at the military base in Bagram, Afghanistan, in 2007
A U.S. soldier at a Thanksgiving lunch at the military base in Bagram, Afghanistan, in 2007

Next Thursday, November twenty-seventh, is the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. Americans will gather with family and friends to share a big meal. They might play games, tell stories or watch football on television together. Faith Lapidus reports on a few Americans and their Thanksgivings, past and present.

FAITH LAPIDUS:

Angelo Rosa has more Thanksgiving memories than most people. The man from Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania is one hundred years old. He lives in the same house where he celebrated a great number of Thanksgivings.

But he says it was different when he was a child. Mister Rosa was just three when his family came to America. He says Thanksgiving was not a tradition his family celebrated when he was a child.

ANGELO ROSA: "When we were small children, Thanksgiving was never a very big holiday because at the time it was not promoted the way it is today so we actually didn't pay too much attention to it."

But, also, he says, his parents faced a language barrier.

ANGELO ROSA: "They were from the Naples area of Italy. They spoke very broken English, because they were the first generation that came over here."

And the family had little money. There were six Rosa children. Mister Rosa's father was a coal miner in Pennsylvania. The family was not able to have big, costly dinners, especially during the economic depression of the nineteen thirties.

But Mister Rosa says Thanksgiving dinners became a tradition in his own family after he married and had children.

This Thanksgiving, Angelo Rosa will go to the home of his daughter about twenty minutes away. He will celebrate the day with loved ones, including his great-grandchildren.

On the other side of the country, Cathie Dahlstrom will be cutting a lot of cabbage. She has to prepare coleslaw for a group of thirty-five to forty Thanksgiving celebrants in Concord, California.

We asked Miz Dahlstrom what she is thankful for this year, with the economy facing severe problems and American forces fighting two wars. Her first answer came quickly: "The election." She said she has a real sense of renewed hope that things can be better in America. She said she also is deeply grateful for her very large family. Miz Dahlstrom has one daughter. She has five younger brothers and sisters. She also has eight step-brothers and sisters. Many of them and their families will be at the Thanksgiving dinner.

Lastly, she says she is very thankful that her eighty-two year old mother has a new relationship. Her mother was widowed some years ago. She is now dating a ninety-one-year-old man who has six grown children.

Could Cathie Dahlstrom's Thanksgivings get even bigger and more complex? Maybe. And we would bet she would welcome such change.

American Indians

HOST:

Our VOA listener question this week comes from India. Nirmal wants to know what happened to the Native American Indians after the Europeans arrived in what is now the United States. The listener from Kerala state wants to know if Native Americans still live in the country.

Many Native American tribes are living in the United States today. However, whole groups of Indians died in the years after Europeans arrived and the United States was established.

Disease was a major problem. The Europeans brought diseases that were completely new to the natives. They had no natural defenses. The spread of diseases like smallpox sometimes killed whole tribes.

A historic drawing of the Narragansett Indians
A historic drawing of the Narragansett Indians

Differences in religion, culture and ideas about ownership and land rights led to long, bloody battles. Such a war began in sixteen seventy-five between settlers and the Wamponoag tribe in the Northeast. For two years, thousands of Indians and settlers -- men, women and children -- were killed.

But history experts say the Narraganset Indians were the real victims of that conflict. They did not take part in the war. They did not support one group or the other. But, the settlers killed almost all the Narraganset because they had learned to fear all Indians.

Throughout the eighteen hundreds, white settlers pushed west across the country. A United States government policy called the Indian Removal Act forced Native Americans to leave areas where they had lived for centuries. One of the most famous Indian expulsions is known as the Trail of Tears. In the early eighteen thirties, the United States government ordered five tribes to leave their lands east of the Mississippi River. They were told to go to what is now the western state of Oklahoma.

Over time, tens of thousands of Indians made the trip. But thousands died along the way. And hundreds of others died while fighting the expulsion.

Today, there are about two and one-half million Native Americans and Alaskan Natives living in the United States. The federal government recognizes more than five hundred sixty tribal governments. These are permitted some self-rule powers.

The last United States census found that one-third of all American Indians lived in three states: California, Arizona and Oklahoma.

(MUSIC)

James Taylor

HOST:

James Taylor has been writing and recording hit songs since the late nineteen sixties. His voice still has a sweet, youthful sound. But as he ages he gets better and better at recording songs made famous by other people. Barbara Klein plays some of these "Covers" from Taylor's new album of the same name.

(MUSIC)

James Taylor
James Taylor

BARBARA KLEIN:

James Taylor's cover of "How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved By You)" came out in nineteen seventy-five. It was one of his most popular recordings ever. On the new album, Taylor tries another hit song by the same writers, brothers Brian and Eddie Holland. Here is "(I'm a) Roadrunner."

(MUSIC)

James Taylor visits country music on this album, too. Here is his version of a beautiful John Anderson song from nineteen ninety-two. It is called "Seminole Wind."

(MUSIC)

James Taylor is still writing his own music, too. He is currently working on an album of new material. It will be his first since "October Road" in two thousand two. At sixty years old, this artist is still going strong. As proof, we leave you with James Taylor performing the Buddy Holly song "Not Fade Away."

(MUSIC)

HOST:

I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written and produced by Caty Weaver. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, www.unsv.com.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.

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