American Folklore: The First Thanksgiving

November 25, 2020

This comes from the book American Folklore and Legends by Reader’s Digest.

Hope you enjoy!


“To most Americans, the first Thanksgiving is a “legendary” and real event”, much as it is depicted in the modern painting by J.L.G. Ferris. A gathering of Pilgrims and Indian friends, meeting to offer thanks for God’s bounty. Historically, it is said, that God was not mentioned except for a brief grace. Rather, the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest with a three day banquet, spiced with tests of skill and strength.

Gothic Cloister CHIEF MASSASOIT Cyrus Edwin Dallin 1997.8
Chief Massasoit

Chief Massasoit, an Indian ally, was invited to dine with them. He showed up with 90 ravenous warriors, no tribal women were in attendance. The even was not a holiday for the five Plymouth women that had survived, they had to feed 145 diners.

The settlers couldn’t have been so elegantly dressed, neither were the houses/cabins built as depicted. The ten months of hardship they endured, killing half the original party, had to have taken a toll on the survivors. Just trying to survive would have been a strain on every aspect of life. The Pilgrim’s log cabin homes were built and fashioned with hewn planks and had wooden shutters. No leaded window panes. (I read in a book we have, One Night Stands In American History, which I plan on using in the near future, that wooden chimneys were outlawed in 1631 in Massachusetts. Yes, wooden chimneys were used!! How crazy is that!!)

Building a Home | Plimoth Plantation
(google search)

The settlers feasted on venison, wild fowl, eel, shellfish, lobster, corn, dried fruit and, yes, probably turkey. Everything was washed down with homemade wine. Cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, two traditional treats, were absent from the dining table. “Except for knives, there were no utensils. One ate with one”s fingers or scooped up food with crude clam shell spoons.” Food was placed in wooden trenches, according to the book.

Here are some words that have been “borrowed” from the Native American language(s):
Not a complete list…

hominy – prepared corn, coarsely
moccasin – box, case, shoe
opossum – white animal
papoose – very small; child
pemmican – grease, fat; a paste of dried and pounded meat mixed with melted fat and other ingredients
pone – baked (as in “corn pone”); unleavened corn bread
raccoon – he scratches with his hands
sachem – or sagamore – chief
skunk – small urinating animal (according to the Legends book, I can’t find any other meaning other than “foul smelling”, but it is believed that that a skunks odor can ward off disease )
squash – green thing eaten raw
squaw – woman
tomahawk – ax
wampum – white strings(small cylindrical beads traditionally made by some North American Indian peoples from shells, strung together and worn as decoration or used as money)
wigwam – dwelling

Hope you have a great day!
Thanks for stopping by!!

Wopila Tanka!

(Lakota/Dakota: many thanks!)

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough”

~ Melody Beattie


take care
stay safe
much love

Happy Thanksgiving!

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