History of Thanksgiving

Written on 11/23/2022

Every year, families celebrate Thanksgiving without knowing its true meaning and intent. Over 80% of Americans celebrate the holiday, don't you want to know where the holiday started?

Every year, on the last Thursday of November, families around the US gather to celebrate Thanksgiving. Whether it’s for the annual argument, to eat the typical turkey and ham, or watch football, Thanksgiving is one of the most celebrated holidays in the US with a whopping 81% of Americans celebrating it annually. This has been a tradition dating back to 1621 when the settlers from Plymouth and Wampanoag tribes gathered for a three-day feast. Before and after the feast, the settlers and the tribe did not get along.

In 1620 the Wampanoag tribe and settlers signed a treaty under the Wampanoag’s leader Massasoit. This was thanks to a member of the Abenaki tribe, and Squanto, a member of the Patuxet tribe who taught them to cultivate corn, catch fish, and identify poisonous plants. They are also the ones who helped the Wampanoag and pilgrims. After the pilgrim’s first successful harvest, both groups sat down for a feast to celebrate. This treaty lasted over 50 years, but 10 years after Massasoit’s son, Wamsutta, took over was when the pot simmered for both groups. With more and more pilgrims arriving and more and more Natives dying to plague, it made the Wampanoag tribe question Wamsutta’s mysterious death. It wasn’t until 1675, when three Natives killed the translator for the settlers, that the treaty was broken. This war became known as King Philip’s war, the bloodiest war per capita in U.S. history. This war claimed as many as 30% of the English population and half of the Native Americans.

However, Thanksgiving didn’t become a National holiday until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln listened to Sarah Josepha Hale’s campaign for Thanksgiving to be a national holiday. This was during the height of the Civil War in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”

To most US Americans this is known as Thanksgiving, but not to most Natives. Not only did King Philip’s War mark a war between settlers and Natives, but it also marked a time when many Native ancestors lost their lives. This is why on Thanksgiving most Native tribes will celebrate National Day of Mourning, this is a day of remembrance, spiritual connection, and protest against the racism and oppression that Native Americans have suffered and continue to experience today.

Hopefully, you enjoy your Thanksgiving and know a little more about the holiday so many Americans celebrate each year!