With the changing of seasons comes the time of year that everyone loves – beginning with Thanksgiving Day. This year is a special Thanksgiving because it is the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Mayflower pilgrims in November 1621.
In the fall of 1620, the Mayflower with 102 passengers aboard, set sail from England,in search of a place where they could settle and freely practice their faith and could have prosperity and land ownership, according to brittanica.com. After 66 days of a treacherous journey, the ship dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod arriving much further north then planned, on Nov. 11,1620. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay where the pilgrims began work to establish a village. Their first building was a church which also doubled as the town hall. The Bible, which was the core of their life, along with 400 other books, were among the items used to convert and teach the Native Americans through the years. In return, the American Natives taught the Pilgrims how to survive in the this new land.
Throughout the first winter, most of the colonists stayed on the ship. Wikpedia.com reports that the pilgrims first winter in the new land was brutal and all but decimated the crew with a reported 57 of the original 102 living to see their first New England spring. The 45 who died was due to sickness, scurvy, exposure and contagious disease. In March of 1621, the remaining settlers moved ashore where they received a visit from a member of the Abenaki tribe who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery. He escaped to London and returned to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish and avoid poisonous plants. According to history.com, in November 1621, after the Pilgrim’s first corn harvest was successful, Governor William Bradford organized a feast to celebrate and invited a group of some of the native Americans allies. The festival lasted for three days. There are only two surviving documents that reference the original Thanksgiving harvest meal. They describe a feast of freshly killed deer and assorted wildfowl, a bounty of cod and bass and a variety of corn harvested by the Native Americans which was eaten as corn bread and porridge. While their first Thanksgiving meal was nothing like the meal that we enjoy today, it was bountiful.
This is a compilation from several different sites concerning the historical rendition of the first Thanksgiving. Some reporting, as in the different foods that may have been prepared, may be different. However, not found in any research, was the presence of a turkey on the tables.
One site that was of particular interest was indiancountrytoday.com. Here you will find information from the American Native tribes whose ancestors that were present at the first Thanksgiving 400 years ago in 1621.
Here is a snippet to peek any interest:
When you hear about the Pilgrims and “the Indians” harmoniously sharing the “first Thanksgiving” meal in 1621, the Indians referred to so generically are the ancestors of the contemporary members of the Wampanoag Nation. As the story commonly goes, the Pilgrims who sailed from England on the Mayflower and landed at what became Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620 had a good harvest the next year. So Plymouth Gov. William Bradford organized a feast to celebrate the harvest and invited a group of “Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit” to the party. The feast lasted three days and, according to chronicler Edward Winslow, Bradford sent four men on a “fowling mission” to prepare for the feast and the Wampanoag guests brought five deer to the party. And ever since then, the story goes, Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November. “Not exactly,” Ramona Peters, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer told Indian Country Today Media Network in a conversation on the day before Thanksgiving 2012—391 years since that mythological “first Thanksgiving.”
Thanksgiving has certainly changed over the last 400 years, but, it is cherished no matter how it is celebrated. It’s part of our history.