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  • Writer's pictureKATYA MILLER

First Thanksgiving

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

A successful crop at the end of a growing season is always cause for celebration. This was particularly true for the first colonists and First Nations People of America during the early 17th century...

What is recorded to have been the first “thanks-giving” occurred in November of 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts where over 100 people gathered for a harvest celebration. 

According to a letter written by Edward Winslow in December of 1621, they celebrated for three days. Games, fun, communications and abundant food were part of the festivities, but know however, the over-all sentiment of joy was one of prayer and gratitude for being alive.

The Pilgrims, people of strong Christian faith, took off for America from Plymouth, England in search of religious freedom. Some one-hundred boarded the ship called, The Mayflower. They left on September 6, 1620 and after a 66 day journey at sea, they spotted Cape Cod, November 9, 1620. What a site that must have been.

Their voyage was challenging at the end and their first winter in America was difficult. 78% of the women died before their first spring. To have reached the autumn harvest after such hardships brought many to their knees. 

These 58, who were mostly men, were the lucky ones who survived. In the spirit of peace and human kindness, they were joined by the Wampanoag, the Native Americans of the region who were also reverent, giving thanks to Creator daily for life, sustenance and good fortune. They greatly helped the English endure and even prosper by teaching them farming methods. 

The Wampanoag’s sachem (chief) was named, Massasoit Sachem or Ousamequin (ca. 1581- 1661). His name, Massasoit actually means Great Sachem. He was also present for the festivities and is known to have befriended the Pilgrims. Interesting to note that in Edward Winslow’s letter, he refers to Massasoit as a “king.” Massasoit is remembered for his diplomatic skills and ability to co-exist peacefully with the settlers. 

Let us remember America’s roots this Thanksgiving. The day was originally three days of peace, prayer, celebration, good food and great thanks-for-the-giving.   


Kristen Farquhar


Hearty Thanksgiving Greeting

Museum for The American Indian


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