Two prominent figures in the Plymouth Colony described it as a three-day feast and celebration of the harvest, attended by the colonists and a group of Wampanoag Native Americans and their leader Massasoit. But the Wampanoag were likely not in so much of a celebratory mood.
The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. This feast lasted three days and was attended by 90 Wampanoag Native American people and 53 Pilgrims (survivors of the Mayflower).
In 1620, the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth, and Tisquantum and other Wampanoag taught them how to cultivate the varieties of corn, squash, and beans (the Three Sisters) that flourished in New England, as well as how to catch and process fish and collect seafood.
The Pilgrim -Wampanoag peace treaty. At the Plymouth settlement in present-day Massachusetts, the leaders of the Plymouth colonists, acting on behalf of King James I, make a defensive alliance with Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoags.
The Native Americans welcomed the arriving immigrants and helped them survive. Then they celebrated together, even though the Pilgrims considered the Native Americans heathens. The Pilgrims were devout Christians who fled Europe seeking religious freedom.
The Pilgrims were the English settlers who came to North America on the Mayflower and established the Plymouth Colony in what is today Plymouth, Massachusetts, named after the final departure port of Plymouth, Devon.
The Wampanoag are one of many Nations of people all over North America who were here long before any Europeans arrived, and have survived until today. Our name, Wampanoag, means People of the First Light. In the 1600s, we had as many as 40,000 people in the 67 villages that made up the Wampanoag Nation.
As was the custom in England, the Pilgrims celebrated their harvest with a festival. The 50 remaining colonists and roughly 90 Wampanoag tribesmen attended the “First Thanksgiving.”
Squanto, also known as Tisquantum, was a Native American of the Patuxet tribe who acted as an interpreter and guide to the Pilgrim settlers at Plymouth during their first winter in the New World.
The colonist army burned villages as they went, killing women and children. The war decimated the Narragansett, Wampanoag and many smaller tribes, paving the way for additional English settlements. Thousands were killed, wounded or captured and sold into slavery or indentured servitude.
On a hilltop above stood a quiet tribute to the American Indians who helped the starving Pilgrims survive. Because while the Wampanoags did help the Pilgrims survive, their support was followed by years of a slow, unfolding genocide of their people and the taking of their land.