When you begin a serious search about the first American Thanksgiving you tend to come up with a good dozen different stories, perhaps a few grains of truth in each one. But, truth be told, we still don't know a lot about that first Thanksgiving celebration.
But we do know a few things about the participants. For example, the Pilgrims themselves were quite a dumb lot. While they were sure about the tenants of their religion, they seemed to be the most impractical lot of people who ever crossed the ocean. To best understand the dearth of common sense the Pilgrim's displayed, you kind of have to look at how you pack for a weekend outing today. A weekend of camping requires that you pack matches, a fuel source, a tent, sleeping bag, and plenty of grub.
Well, the Pilgrims seemed all too willing to climb on a rickety ship, cross 3,000 miles of open ocean, with every intent to settle in an unknown, likely hostile land. And yet those Pilgrims did not pack any fishing gear, or sheltering materials, or food stocks to last awhile after they arrived. You would have thought a group of people so "anal-retentive" over a religion, would have thought to pack a few quilts and pillows, right? Except they didn't.
And so, when those Pilgrims slid into Plymouth, they looked toward shore and kinda said to each other "what do we do now?"
Well they waddled ashore and looked about them, and said, "well this looks like a good spot!". Except, because they brought no shelter with them, they set about just building some crude huts along the shoreline....then sat down, and someone said "I'm getting hungry!" Another said "Sure wish I'd brought a fishing pole!"
Well those Pilgrims began to starve, and die off from malaria.....cause no one thought to bring any quinine with them either.
Finally, as dumb luck would have it, a group of native Americans wandered by and asked "aren't you folks going to plant any seeds for your harvest?" And, by some grand miracle, the reason the Indians could ask that question was because of a fellow named Squanto, a local who had, a decade before, been kidnapped and taken against his will to England, where he would learn English...and learn how to turn down offerings of Haggis and Kidney pie.
So Squanto was there with his Wampanoag tribal friends, and taught them to plant seed corn and drop a few pieces of fish bones into the hole....cause the Pilgrims had no idea how to plant! Well, the Wampanoags eventually taught these dunces how to hunt and fish, and throw a few animal hides over their crude huts and, come fall, when they harvested their crops, the Pilgrims decided to celebrate their harvest.
Now get this. Recent historians say that these dumb Pilgrims had no plans for a celebratory dinner at all! In fact, they actually decided to fast. They thought they would fast for a few days after the harvest...a sacrifice to their god who made it possible!
Well, eventually they did have that Thanksgiving dinner, thanks to the Indians! But you have to imagine how that feast came about. Imagine you're attending a fat farm. Fifty of you are sitting around munching celery sticks and sipping water. Then, the fat farm supervisor sits down to the table with you as the Uber folks deliver her the Boston Market Family meal and place it in front of her! How long can you chomp on celery as Fat Farm Manager is dining on turkey and gravy and mashed potatoes?
Well, if the new history is right, that's exactly how the Pilgrims came to eat at that first Thanksgiving. Seems the Wampanoag tribe arrived at the settlement with roast venison, pots of Atlantic Cod, roasted corn and wooden bowls laden with roasted squash! Well, the Pilgrims' celery and water diet went right out the window as they dove into the grub!
And that my friends is exactly why we celebrate Thanksgiving today! If it weren't for those Wampanoags we'd all be sitting around on Thanksgiving Day munching on celery. So, when you sit down to your roast turkey and mashed, and cornbread stuffing...thank an Indian!