Thanksgiving: A Time to Celebrate and a Time to Mourn

Despite all the confusion and misinformation, there is good news about the 1621 harvest celebration now known as The First Thanksgiving. We Americans have much to celebrate: democracy, separation of church and state, consent of the governed, self-determination, equal and just laws serving the common good. These are the tenets of civil government that arose from the principles and ideals of the Mayflower Pilgrims and the Indians they lived amongst in peace and friendship for 54 years.

We can mourn the loss of potential of the relationship that developed there under the guidance of the two visionary leaders Pilgrim Governor William Bradford and the Massasoit, sachem of the Pokanoket Wampanoags. And we can mourn alongside our Native brothers and sisters who have suffered since that unique time in human history.

The origin story of the United States begins with the Mayflower Compact, the Pilgrim/Wampanoag Peace Treaty and an inter-cultural feast, followed by a melding of cultures through more than half a century of friendship between the Mayflower Pilgrims and the Pokanoket Wampanoags at Plymouth Plantation from 1621 to 1675.

American democracy and the American mind and spirit are the fruits of the seeds planted at Plymouth. There’s an untold story waiting to be told, a story that has been out-of-balance since it the first telling of it. The telling of this story reflects the consciousness of the people who tell it. For centuries we glorified the Pilgrim and ignored the Indian except for the story of Squanto and the planting of corn that culminated in “The First Thanksgiving.” Now, for decades, in an effort to correct that imbalance, revisionist history has demonized the Pilgrims with tales of misdeeds that never occurred. We now have a confused and confusing story. We are enmeshed in blame, shame, guilt and anger, with no one knowing what or who to believe.

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Signing of The Mayflower Compact. November 11, 1620 aboard the Mayflower.
Mayflower PIlgrim/Wampanoag Peace Treaty Drafted March 22, 1621
Stylized rendition of the harvest celebration of the fall of 1621 now known as The First Thanksgiving.

Here’s a link to an interview on WZBC radio in Boston where we discuss our discoveries around The First Fifty Years of Peace and Friendship at Plymouth Plantation: