The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth. A three day celebration of the 53 suriving Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Tribe of Native Americans where a peace and friendship agreement was signed.
Imagine, being forced from your own country because you do not have the liberty to worship in the manner your religion calls for. Imagine having to leave the shores of your motherland, because of this intense faith. Imagine the wild waters of the late autumn seas as you make your way to the New World on borrowed money. Imagine the harshness of having to face an east coast winter for the first time, without having a clue as to what to expect. Imagine, being a Pilgrim on the Mayflower as it makes its way to America, and being greeted by the Native Americans of the Wampanoag Tribe, who make it there mission to see you survive your first winter.
In the early autumn of 1621, there were only 53 Pilgrims who managed to survive that first winter. With the help of the Wampanoags, part of the Algonkian tribes, the survivors wanted to show their appreciation and thanks by honouring the traditional Thanksgiving of their homeland. Unbeknownst to the Pilgrims, the First Thanksgiving at Plymouth would actually be the 5th for the Wampanoags, who would practice celebrations of giving thanks no less than six times a year.
There are two primary sources of information pertaining to the First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, and according to some, these two are the only actual descriptions based in reality rather than myth.
One is Edward Winslow's writing found in Mourt's Relation and the second comes to us by way of William Bradford's piece that was discovered in, Of Plymouth Plantation. It is from these two recollections, that much can be determined about the Pilgrims' First Thanksgiving at Plymouth.
From Winslow's piece, we are given details of the Governor sending forth four men for the haunting of water foul to have for the festivities. He also speaks to the invitation to the King of the Wampanoags, Massasoit, and the surprise at the 90 people he arrives with. The native family structure was not understood by the Pilgrims and they did not realize the families were so large. Fearing not enough to feed the crowd, Winslow goes on to describe how Massasoit sent out his own team of hunters, and them returning with 5 deer which they presented to the Governor, captain and settlers. He goes on to mention his thankfulness and speaks of the goodness of God.
In Bradford's writing, we hear of the Pilgrims readying their homes for the coming winter, and a renewed strength and health of the remaining survivors. He speaks of a plentiful harvest, an ample stock of cod and bass in the area's waters and each family being able to have their own portion. He mentions the stores of water foul (which would be seen quickly declining) and speaks of the wild turkeys and venison that were both abundant in the area. His description ends with a point most interesting. He speaks of the Pilgrims writing to their homeland, telling tales of their bounty. He confirms these reports with a simple, ",,,which were not feigned, but true..."
According to many accounts, mostly altered by time and story telling, the First Thanksgiving at Plymouth speaks to a moment forever captured in time. A peaceful, three day celebration between the English settlers and the Native Americans, where food and drink were plentiful and there was much to be thankful for.
It was only with the help of the Wampanoags that the Pilgrims were able to survive long enough to see their first Thanksgiving, and because of the teachings of the natives, they were able to learn their new land and how to work with her. Without the support and help of the Wampanoag, those 53 people would not have survived.
The Pilgrim's First Thanksgiving was a three day celebration that would conclude with a peace and friendship agreement between Massasoit and Miles Standish that would give the Pilgrims the forest clearing where the Indian village of Patuxet once stood. This was the clearing where the town of Plymouth would be built.
Looking back at the Pilgrims First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, reminds us all of just how thankful we should be.