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  • Writer's pictureArwen Rasmussen

The First Thanksgiving

By Ken Anderson, The Mayberry Guru,

It is that time of year again. Summer is gone, and fall is officially underway. It won't be long before we begin the busy holiday season of Thanksgiving. With our entire country under many restrictions of Covid-19 last year, many people spent the Thanksgiving holiday isolated from family and friends. Thankfully, things will be different this year.

We are all familiar with the story of the first Thanksgiving. However, the story as we know it is usually from the Pilgrims' perspective. I thought I would share some history of the very first Thanksgiving from the perspective of the Wampanoag Native Americans.

The Mayflower arrived at Plymouth Harbor on December 16, 1620. The area was a Wampanoag village abandoned four years earlier after a deadly plague was brought to the region by European traders. Before 1616, 40,000 Wampanoag lived in sixty-seven villages that made up the Wampanoag nation in New England. The plague killed up to two-thirds of the Wampanoag population.

When the Pilgrims arrived, they were not considered a threat. The Wampanoag had seen many trade ships previously, and when the Pilgrims came ashore, it was the first time they had seen white women and children, so they believed the newcomers were peaceful people.

The very first Thanksgiving was in October 1621. The feast lasted for three days, and there were 53 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag in attendance. . The main dish was venison along with fowl and assorted kinds of seafood. Maize bread, pumpkins, and squash would also have been part of their big dinner.

The Wampanoag natives weren't invited to the feast right away. As it happened, the Pilgrims were hunting for deer for their upcoming dinner. When the Wampanoag heard all the gunfire, thinking the Pilgrims were under attack, they went to investigate only to find the Pilgrims hunting. It was at this time when the Pilgrims invited them to the Feast of Thanksgiving.

It has been 400 years since that first Thanksgiving. There are now just 4000-5000 Wampanoag left. Thanksgiving in 2021 is far different. While it is still a day that we set aside to be thankful for our many blessings, it has also become a time for football and early Christmas shopping. However, I believe that this year, more than ever, we need to take time to give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy in this great nation. The past two years have been challenging and divisive for many Americans. I can think of no better time to come together as one than on Thanksgiving Day.

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