The first Thanksgiving – 400 years ago

by Gary Kennedy

The Wampanoag Indian tribe and the first Plymouth Colonists, in the fall of the year 1620, shared a feast that we know as Thanksgiving today. The Wampanoag Indians are also known as the Wȭqanȭak. In the 17th century they were a loose grouping of several different tribes. (Pequot’s, Narragansett, Iroquois, Powhatan, Nipmue and Abenaki). Most of the tribes were under the protection of the Narragansett’s, historically the tribes would have two homes. These tribes for the most part lived in the area that we know as Rhode Island. The first European settlement was established in 1635. The winter home of the Wampanoag people was called a long house and in the summer the tribes would move to the shore line and build very large dug out logs or a type of canoe. These could hold as many as 40 men. These would be great for military efforts, transportation and fishing. They built temporary abodes which resemble igloos, for their summer stay along the ocean. Much to their dismay the Narragansett’s and affiliates joined with King Philip against the Massachusetts colonist and suffered a devastating defeat, thus breaking up the tribes of that time. They retreated to the forest. This is just a capsule of history.

You can research much more of this very interesting history. In any case, the first official greetings for Thanksgiving was given by the father of our country, George Washington. The foods that were part of this festivity was dominated by meat sources, deer, turkey, goose as well as chestnuts, onions, potato, turnip, and some herbs and spices. Boiling and roasting was the cooking method. There might have been some fish. So it wasn’t as elaborate as today’s fare. However, its purpose remains similar to today’s Thanksgiving, an American holiday.

I should mention that this is the 400th anniversary of the original holiday of 1620. Unfortunately, we can’t celebrate it as we should, four centuries is a long time with much history both good and bad. Thankfully we tend to lean toward the good.

We think of family, food, football and fun. I refer to this as the four F’s. However, this Thanksgiving we will need to work on this a little harder as these are very hard times for America and the world. The entire world is not well and seems like it is never going to end.

However, Americans are a resilient people and have experienced hard times before and not only survived but prospered, coming together to solve the issues that try to tear us apart. As we come into the holiday season we should remember who we are and from where we came. We should acknowledge all the positives and embrace all the blessings of which we all are a part. We are Americans free to think and believe what we like without ramification other than self reflection. Happiness is just a thought, smile and deed away. Let your heart be your life force and bring you to that happy place where people glow because of you. It really is up to each of us, one at a time. This leads to a group, population, and a society.

The fixin’s are the turkey and all that is spread before you. Let’s be an example for the world and get through these trying times together. Let’s put Thanksgiving in our hearts and let it radiate for the world to see. Share the wonders of this time with others, especially those who have lost their way and/or have so much less.

The key word here is find a way to share. Believe me, you will feel so much better when you and yours give to those who have feelings of envy when they see what you have and wish they had. Don’t let a tear be shed this season even though we are having a difficult time with Covid. Remember, “it’s not what you have or take with you, it’s what you’ve left behind.”

May God bless you, your family and friends, your table and those whose lives you touch. God bless.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us.


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