This Distinctively American Thanksgiving

By Bill McIntosh “.50 Cal.”, staff writer

The author gratefully recognizes historian William Federer’s reflection on Thanksgiving.

That “first” Thanksgiving in the autumn of 1621 involving the Pilgrims and members of the Wampanoag Confederacy under Massasoit occurred with many signs of God´s providence. That three day festival of meals including 5 deer (provided by the some 90 Indians attending); abundant wild game (probably waterfowl and wild turkey); fish, corn and bread was undoubtedly not the very first of celebrations giving thanks to God in the New World as these were a feature of the great Christian piety of the Europeans who came to the Western hemisphere after Columbus. But the Plymouth culinary event was the celebration most remembered as the quintessential thanksgiving in the U.S.

Some Hispanics will proudly note a thanksgiving that was held on Sept. 8th in 1565 in Saint Augustine, Florida. But dear Hispanics, this is not a who gets credit for the first Thanksgiving but for that distinctive and uniquely American one-at Plymouth.

No, Thanksgiving must not be hijacked. Just as America´s survival onto nationhood despite the dangers of its revolution can be ascribed to Divine assistance so to the survival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Their Mayflower Compact was so revolutionary (and which served as an inspiration for later constitutions) and proclaimed:

“IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, ………Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick…”

The Pilgrims, by the designs of Providence, happened upon a spot that was largely uninhabited by Indians due probably to infectious diseases that the Europeans had earlier introduced. One of those who escaped these ravages was Squanto who had been kidnapped by the English; taken to Europe and who was taken off the hands of the English by friars in Malaga, Spain who later allowed him to begin his attempt to return home via England. There he learned English before returning to Massachusetts in time for the arrival of the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims had been decimated that first winter in Massachusetts and it was Squanto who taught them how to fish salmon, plant corn and fertilize it with fish; catch beavers (which was an income source for paying back debt to the Virginia Company); served as interpreter and liaison to the Indians thus keeping the peace (that lasted over 40 years) so vital for the survival of this small colony and later for the much vaster Puritans who came by the thousands within the decade. The decision of the signers of the Mayflower Compact to assign land and farming it to each household instead of relying on working and sharing harvests in common was a wise decision that coincided with Squanto´s great contributions and that tended towards the establishment of a lasting foothold of Englishmen in America.

The Pilgrims famous Thanksgiving in 1621 was largely a celebration to give thanks to God who had blessed them with the help and knowhow that Squanto offered them and the bountiful harvest and plenty which followed his first encounter with the Pilgrims and for the favorable weather and sunshine that made so fruitful their planting. Upon Squanto´s death Governor William Bradford, in Bradford’s History of the English Settlement, wrote :

“Here [Manamoick Bay] Squanto fell ill of Indian fever …and within a few days he died. He begged the Governor to pray for him, that he might go to the Englishman’s God in heaven, and bequeathed several of his things to his English friends, as remembrances. His death was a great loss.”

May Squanto´s life, contribution and death be an exemplary source for American apologetics and guide assimilation for all immigrants-especially those who champion defiance against White Europeans who were crucial towards making America the magnet that has attracted millions of immigrants here in the first place-or do those millions really yearn to go to Mexico to escape to a better life?

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2 thoughts on “This Distinctively American Thanksgiving”

  1. "50 Cal", an awesome perspective of the uniqueness of the American Day of Thanksgiving; both an historic and an every-day reason to give acknowledgement, thanks, love and support to all who make our world a better place in which to live. To remind us that God, our families, and others who influence our lives are responsible, as individual entities working together, for bringing about the greater weal, rather than worsening the woe around us.

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