Thanksgiving: Timucua Time Television
(A one act Thanksgiving play)
Setting: A giant map of Florida is the sole background.
Props: Four large dogs, (stuffed or kids in costume) each with a different sign around their neck.
One sign says: Timucua – efa. Timucua word for dog.
One sign says: Chien. French word for dog.
One sign says: Perro. Spanish word for dog.
One sign says: Dog – English word for dog.
Over sized cardboard television set.
Timucua Indian, wearing a one piece matchcoat, a long wrap around jacket with no holes for sleeves.)
Pedro Menendez de Aviles, Spanish Explorer, carrying a paper gun
RENE de LAUDONNIERE, French Explorer, wearing a paper sword.
Timucua Woman, wearing a matchcoat with a moss belt
Thanksgiving: Timucua Time Television
(Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, kids are sitting around a table with dishes on it. The Timucua Indian, the French Explorer, the Spanish Explorer, the Spanish Friar and the British Soldier sit behind the television in folding chairs.)
GRANDPA: (Patting his belly) That was a GOODDD Thanksgiving dinner, ladies.
GRANDMA: (Patting Grandpa’s belly) I can’t believe you ate five pieces of pie.
GRANDPA: (Indignantly) I most certainly did NOT eat five pieces of pie. I two pieces of pumpkin pie, two pieces of apple pie, and one piece of custard pie.
GRANDMA: Two pieces of pumpkin pie, plus two pieces of apple pie plus one piece of custard pie are five pieces of pie!
GRANDPA: The custard pie didn’t taste like one whole piece of pie. It tasted like a half. I think I’d better eat the other half now. Then you’ll be right. ( He pretends to eat the pie)
BILLY: It’s a good thing you weren’t eating Thanksgiving dinner in St. Augustine with the Spanish and the Timucua Indians, Grandpa. You wouldn’t have left any leftovers for the next day.
MOM: I don’t think your Grandpa left much turkey for tomorrow.
ANNIE: Daddy ate two pieces of pie.
DAD: I think it’s time to watch the game. (He gets up and walks over turns on the giant television)
ANNIE: (Whispering to the dog with the English dog sign) Here Spotty. Here’s a piece of turkey for you. (She gives Spotty a piece of turkey. Spotty barks.)
BILLY: That’s not the game, dad. It looks like a Timucua Indian sitting inside the TV.
ANNIE: You have Timucuas on the brain, just because you’re studying them in school.
BILLY: We have a Timucua on our TV! Look everybody!
(They all stare at the television. Annie grabs the Timucua dog.)
MOM: Annie, don’t grab that dog. You don’t know if it is friendly or not.
(The Timucua dog wags its tail)
ANNIE: (Petting the dog) The sign says EFA is the Timucua word for dog. EFA.
(As soon as she says EFA, the Timucua Indian stands up and looks at her.)
TIMUCUA: In 1492 we lived east of the Aucilla River and Florida and in southeastern Georgia as far as the Altamaha River. We were not one, but several peoples living in 510 villages. We were ruled by many chiefs. Then the French, Spanish and English came to us.
GRANDMA: French? Isn’t the French word for dog…..
(The French explorer pops up from behind the Timucua Indian and the Timucua Indian sits down. )
FRENCH EXPLORER: Wee, madam. We brought the chien along with us to the new country.
(The French dog comes to the French explorer, wagging its tail.)
GRANDPA: Does he bark in French?
ANNIE: How does the chien get along with the efa?
FRENCH EXPLORER: He gets along for the year. We French lived in what you call Jacksonville near Chief Saturiwa and his people who lived east of the St. Johns River for over a year. In 1562, mon ami Jean Ribault met and traded presents with several Timucua chiefs, but he did not stay. Then in 1564, the French returned and the Saturiwa Timucuas trade peacefully with the French until…
GRANDMA: I can tell by your voice that you’re going to tell us something bad. It’s Thanksgiving. Can’t it wait until tomorrow?
MOM: We need to find out now so everybody can get off from in front of the television and do the dishes.
BILLY: Hurry and tell us, Mr. Chien.
FRENCH EXPLORER: The French leader Laudonniere made a treaty with the Timucuas west of the St. Johns River who were the enemies of the Timucuas who lived east of the St. Johns River. The Saturiwa Timucuas didn’t trust the French any longer and they wouldn’t give them food. The French tried to steal food and even kidnapped Timucua chief Outina and offered to ransom him for food.
GRANDPA: See, I’m not the only one that likes to eat!
GRANDMA: Let him finish his story.
FRENCH EXPLORER: Mon ami Jacques le Moyne lived in Florida in this 1564, and he drew many pictures of the Timucua of the time. The Spanish wanted Florida like the French wanted Florida, so Spanish soldiers burned the French Fort Caroline to make the French like me leave. Some French escaped, but the Spanish killed many and many of the drawings of Jacques le Moyne were burned. Later he tried to redraw pictures of the Timucua from his memory, but he probably made mistakes, because like all people, he can’t remember everything. After Jacques le Moyne, a man called Theodore de Bry engraved the Timucua pictures, but since he had never met them, we don’t know which parts of his pictures are real and which are imagination.
(The French dog begins to bark so loudly that he drowns out the French Explorer. Then the Spanish perro comes over and begins to bark at the Spanish Explorer. He gets up and stands in front of the French Explorer. They weave back and forth until the French Explorer sits down.)
MOM: Did you want to say something, sir?
SPANISH EXPLORER: Si, senora, I want to say something besides what my perro has already said.
GRANDPA: I don’t think the Frenchman believes you.
FRENCH EXPLORER: Do not listen to him. He is a Spaniard.
ANNIE: His perro has a sweet bark!
BILLY: How can a dog’s bark be sweet? Tell me that.
MOM: Listen to what the perro and his friend have to say.
SPANISH EXPLORER: Si, si, listen to me. In 1573, Pedro Menendez de Aviles arranged for Franciscan missionary friars to minister to the Timucua.
FRENCH EXPLORER: ( Standing back up) Mind the dates! The date 1564 and the Saturiwa Timucuas is muy muy earlier than 1573 and Pedro Menendez de Aviles.
SPANISH EXPLORER: But Pedro de Aviles didn’t fight. He founded La Florida colony and made the capital town St. Augustine. He chose Franciscan missionary friars to save the souls of the Indians and at the same time transform them into loyal Catholic subjects of the Spanish crown.
FRENCH EXPLORER: You are not telling the whole, true story. You forced the Timucua to work to support the Spanish Colony. You betrayed them!
SPANISH EXPLORER: And you French kidnapped a chief and tried to ransom him for food. You killed them for food ! We saved their souls. We began seriously saving their souls in 1595. History even terms the years between 1595 to 1700 the period of the missions.
FRENCH EXPLORER: You Spaniards killed them! During your mission period the Timucuan population dropped from 50,000 people to 1,000 people. You killed their culture with your priests and you killed their bodies with your diseases.
SPANISH EXPLORER: Your people brought European diseases to the Timucua just like we did!
FRENCH EXPLORER: Monsieur, I cannot let you insult my people. I challenge you to a duel. (He draws a paper sword)
MOM: Wait a minute! Calm down you two. Mr. Frenchman, what do you mean the Spanish killed the Timucua?
FRENCH EXPLORER: I mean the Spanish came to Florida looking for gold and goods to trade. They brought influenza, small pox, and measles with them. The Timucua had no immunity to these diseases and entire villages of Timucua and other Native Americans died.
SPANISH FRIAR: Just one moment, senor. I suppose Frenchmen never got sick or spread disease.
FRENCH EXPLORER: You spread your culture, too. Your government allowed Spanish soldiers to steal from Timcua Indians, but it also ordered them to convert Indians to Christianity.
SPANISH FRIAR: Yes, we Franciscans converted the Timucua to the true God. We taught them to read and write.
FRENCH EXPLORER: You taught them to give up their culture, their names, their way of life, and the way they thought about the world.
SPANISH FRIAR: (Proudly) Yes, we taught them to dress like civilized Europeans. We got them settled in small villages near each mission we established. We taught them to grow crops to feed themselves and our friars.
FRENCH EXPLORER: Wee, but you forced them to give part of the corn they grew every year to your people in St. Augustine. You often didn’t pay them for their labor and when you gave them tools like metal axes, hoes, and fishhooks you often gave them bad ones. You changed their way of life. You made them to Catholic Spaniards!
SPANISH FRIAR: We civilized them!
FRENCH EXPLORER: You killed them with your diseases and your missions. You made a line across Florida.
SPANISH FRIAR: It was not a line. It was a road called the Camino Real that connected St. Augustine with Tallahassee where the Apalachee Indians lived.
FRENCH EXPLORER: Yes, you forced the Timucuas to guard the Camino Read so the corn the Apalachee planted would reach St. Augustine safely. You made other servants and forced others to work on Spanish cattle ranches since the Timucua now lived in small areas and there was much land for Spanish to raise cattle.
(British dog comes to French Explorer and stands in front of him and barks. The Frenchman and his dog sit down)
BRITISH SOLDIER: I say, old chap, it’s my turn to tell the story. The British Lion has arrived!
GRANDPA: (Looking around) I don’t see any lion. I just see four dogs and a bunch of weird people.
GRANDMA: (Nudging him) Shhhh! One of them has a sword. And that British man has a gun!
GRANDPA: And I ‘ll have my other half piece of pie.
BRITISH SOLDIER: We already had colonies in the Carolinas, and we decided that we needed Georgia and Florida too. We got the Yamasee Indians to raid the Spanish missions along the Camino Real and they did, destroying buildings and taking thousands of native slaves including Timucua, Apalachee, and Guale. Many Timucua villages moved closer to the fort at St. Augustine to be safe from the Yamasee.
(Efa comes over to British soldier and barks until the British soldier sits down and the Timucua stands up.)
TIMUCUA: I will speak for myself and my people. The Spanish forced us to build a stronger fort of stone and coquina at St. Augustine. They ordered our men to form a militia to fight the British.
BRITISH SOLDIER: (Jumping up) Remember, we took St. Augustine and we killed most of your people or sold them as slaves in the British Carolinas. And don’t forget, we made a treaty with Spain.
SPANISH EXPLORER: We rescued the Timucua! When we left St. Augustine we took the 89 remaining Indians to Cuba for their safety. Only about 12 were Timucua.
TIMUCUA: And Juan Alonso Cabale was the last Timucua Indian. He died in 1767, and when he died, the Timucua culture died with him.
ANNIE: But you’re wrong. Your culture isn’t dead! You helped start Thanksgiving. We celebrate it every year! You helped start thanksgiving, didn’t you?
FRENCH EXPLORER: We French did!
SPANISH FRIAR: The padres did!
BRITISH SOLDIER: Then there are the Pilgrims. Is there a Pilgrim in the house? (Sits down)
GRANDPA: I can go find one. (Starts to get up)
GRANDMA: (Pulls him down) Wait a minute!
MOM: Will everyone stop talking and listen to the Timucua.
MENENDEZ: Listen to me! I know about this. I was there. On September 8, 1565, I stepped ashore in St. Augustine and claimed Florida for the Spanish crown. After I was declared governor of Florida, I asked Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoze Grajales to celebrate a special mass of Thanksgiving. Then I invited the Timucua Indians to join us Spaniards in a Thanksgiving feast.
BILLY: You had a feast!! What did you have to eat?
MENENDEZ: We brought a rich pork stew .
SPANISH FRIAR: Cocido. We brought cocido.
TIMUCUA: I will speak. We brought wild turkey, venison, and some brought alligator meat. We brought corns, beans, and squash. We gave thanks for new friends and new tools.
FRENCH EXPLORER: Arretez! Arretez! Stop! Stop! We French Huguenots, French Protestants celebrated Thanksgiving in Florida on June 30, 1564. French Huguenot explorer Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere founded the French colony of Fort Caroline in what is now Jackonsville.
RENE de LAUDONNIERE: I wrote this Thanksgiving story in my journal. “At the break of day, I commanded a trumpet to be sounded, that being assembled we might give God thankes for our favourable and happie arrival. Then wee sang a psalme of thanksgiving unto God, beseeching him that it would please him of his grace to continue his accustomed goodness toward his poore servaunts and ayde us in all our enterprises that all turne to his glory and the advancement of our king.”
MENENDEZ: (Proudly) The next year my soldiers and I wiped out the Fort Caroline settlement and we were thankful that we did!
De LAUDONNIERE: (Drawing his sword) I will show you how Frenchmen fight!
MENENDEZ: ( Aiming his gun)We will conquer you a second time!
MOM: (Jumping up) Stop this fighting at once!
DAD: Be quiet. The game is starting!
BILLY: Wow. Is that gun real? How sharp is the sword?
TIMUCUA: (Shouting) I will speak.
ANNIE: Listen to him.
BRITISH SOLDIER: Why should we listen to a dead voice from the past?
TIMUCUA: Look at my coat. (He points to his costume. He is wearing a matchcoat, a long wrap around jacket with no holes for sleeves.)
GRANDPA: Looks warm to me.
TIMUCUA: It is warm. It is made for deerskin to keep me warm and my woman made me one of feathers to keep me dry in the rain. (He points to the Timucua woman who is wearing a matchcoat belted with a belt made of Spanish moss.)
TIMUCUA WOMAN: I do more work than he has words! That is much work!
MOM: I know exactly what you mean.
DAD: I’m going to turn on the game!
TIMUCUA WOMAN: You must listen. You must sit down with us. Our culture is not dead.
MOM: Everyone sit down. We aren’t finished with Thanksgiving dinner.
( The French, Spanish, and English all fold their arms in front of them and sit down with the others at the Thanksgiving table. The dogs run back and forth barking and wagging their tails.
GRANDPA: I can finally have the rest of my pie!
(They all eat)
TIMUCUA: As long as we celebrate Thanksgiving together, my culture lives on.
Dr. Michael Gannon. The Cross in the Sand: The Early Catholic Church in Florida, 1513-1870. University Press of Florida, 1st Edition, 1965.
Dr. Jerald T. Milanich Laboring in the fields of the Lord: Spanish missions and southeastern Indians. University Press of Florida. (2006)