The Red and Grey

The Student News Site of Madison County High School

The Red and Grey

The Red and Grey

Digging into Thanksgiving

We know Thanksgiving as a day to meet up with your family, most of whom you’ve never seen before, and yet they know every element of your life. And that’s what Thanksgiving is right? Just meeting up with family, eating, and appreciating things. Well not really. While that is part of the holiday, the history and its meaning throughout the centuries paints a very complex picture of what Thanksgiving means and the importance of this overshadowed Holiday.

The first Thanksgiving was a meal between the Wampanoag, their leader being Massasoit, and the surviving Pilgrims. The Pilgrims landed right at the end of fall, November 9th, unprepared for the Massachusetts winter. Their first interactions with the natives were violent, but it is unknown what tribe it was. At the end of the winter, only around half of the pilgrims were left due to starvation, illness and the brutality of a Northeastern winter. They continued to have food troubles in the earlier seasons of the next year largely due to people growing little crops. This was caused because the Pilgrims had no knowledge of the land and the idea food-sharing system caused a lack of motivation. Also, fears about the Natives didn’t help. But things changed when a Native American approached them and greeted them in English. 

Squanto had been taken into slavery around 1614 in Europe. During his time on the continent, he learned English. At some point, he was able to get back to his home in North America, but it is unknown exactly how. He had come on behalf of the Wampanoag Tribe, who wanted to help the Pilgrims. 

The Wampanoags’ motivations behind helping the Pilgrims are very complicated, and can only be assumed. What the evidence currently presents is a need for allies. In the years before the Pilgrims landed, Europeans had been colonizing the American Continent for around 128 years, mainly the Spanish. This is why Natives like Squanto ended up in Slavery. One of the worst effects of the introduction of Europeans was the diseases they brought with them, which notoriously hit the Americas, especially North America, brutally. The harsh epidemics had a grave impact on the Wampanoag Tribe, which led to their numbers plummeting. Other tribes, many of which weren’t hit as hard, saw an opportunity, especially the Narragansett. The Wampanoag suddenly were fending off other Native Tribes while their numbers declined. They however saw a chance to fight back through the Pilgrims, mainly because they had European weapons. The likely motivation of the Wampanoag was trade. They’d teach the Pilgrims how to live off the land and in return get weapons to help fend off other tribes.

This led to the story of Thanksgiving we know today, with the help of the Wampanoag, the Pilgrims finally developed a consistent food source. The celebration of their first harvest, the first Thanksgiving, was modeled after Wampanoag celebrations, which were often similar feasts. While the number is debated, about 150 people attended the feast. The event was followed by about 5 decades of peace between the two.

Thanksgiving has recently been thought of in a negative light because some believe it hides the brutal nature of the interactions between the Natives and Europeans. However, that seems to only emphasize the importance of Thanksgiving. It represented a rare union between people with drastically different cultures and societies, despite the violence that emerged elsewhere. This is what Thanksgiving means and what it has always represented. Unity: unity between cultures and people, united in appreciation for their lives and food. 

Thanksgiving was designated a federal holiday in the year 1863, in the midst of the Civil War. It was signed by Lincoln to represent the unity that he and the Union wished for: the ability to unite and appreciate each other, despite differences. To recognize that in the end, people have a lot more in common than they think: the same want for peace, love and life. So this Thanksgiving, when all the family comes together, appreciate them, the world and your country. More than anything, appreciate the ultimate goal of unity Thanksgiving represents. 

    Happy Thanksgiving, MCHS!

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Ava Long, Staff Writer
Ava Long is a Junior at MCHS. She is a huge fan of history, and she loves analyzing it and comparing it to the complicated modem day. The quotes that heavily influence her thinking are "History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme" from Mark Twain and "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" from George Santayana. This is her first year on The Red and Grey staff, and she looks forward to being able to write about the topics and world she finds fascinating. 

Comments (0)

All The Red and Grey Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *