The year is 1621.
Friendship and hope are in the air.
It is finally spring! The sun is getting warm, the birds are starting to sing, and everything is starting to bloom. There are signs of life everywhere!
Remember Allerton is turning 6 years old. When she first stepped onto the ship that would bring her to America, along with her mom, dad, brother and sister, she had no idea how terrible the trip would be. Just about everything went horribly wrong. Click here to read Remember’s story from the beginning
Now, things finally seem like they are starting to get better. Remember sees tender green leaves emerging on the bare, dead-looking trees she has seen since she arrived. She sees the earliest, small blooms emerging on wildflowers. She can smell a fresh breeze blowing through her tiny, new village. She misses her mother desperately, but perhaps she can feel a tiny, growing something inside of her – a little bit of hope.
Squanto has been a prisoner of Massasoit, sachem (chief) of the Pokanoket Wampanoag, for many months now. Click here to read Squanto’s story from the beginning. The Wampanoag have been watching the English pilgrims since they arrived, not sure what to do. Squanto finally convinced Massasoit to offer them friendship. But disappointingly, Massasoit chose to send a fellow sachem, Samoset, to meet the English, instead of Squanto.
When Samoset returned, Massasoit learned about the situation of the English people. There are few of them, and some are very sick. They have about 20 men, and lots of weapons and armor. Unlike all the traders and explorers who have visited in the past, they have their wives and children with them. They have built permanent houses. They seem friendly, and are willing to meet with more Wampanoag. They would probably agree to a peace treaty.
Massasoit decides to pay them a visit himself. He wants an official agreement so that these English people will be his allies. This time, he needs someone who speaks English even better than Samoset. This time, he needs Squanto.
March 22, 1621
Remember thinks that these Wampanoag men are the strangest people she’s ever seen! For a long time, Remember has heard stories about the native people who live here. Her family calls them “Indians,” and from all the wild things she heard about them, they sounded scary.
But last week she met Samoset, and he is so nice! Even though he looks very strange, he is funny and friendly, and he even speaks some English.
Today Samoset is back. This time, he has brought other Wampanoag men, including their chief, Massasoit, and another man who speaks perfect English, named Squanto.
Massasoit’s entire head is glistening with bear grease, and his face is painted dark red. He is wearing a wide necklace of white shell beads and a long knife suspended from a string. The other men’s faces are painted, too: “some black, some red, some yellow and some white, some with crosses and other antic works.”
Remember and the other children can think and talk of nothing else. Their parents tell them they have to stay inside, do chores and be quiet, but it’s just too exciting to have all these strange people so close. The Wampanoag men have even brought their wives and children near Plymouth! But the families are staying about a half-mile away, so Remember and the other children don’t get to meet them.
The grownups have fixed up one of the unfinished houses with a green carpet and some cushions, so that they would have a fancy place to meet with Massasoit and his men. They are sharing food and liquor with the Wampanoag, and the grownups say they are making a peace agreement.
The peace treaty is finished, and all the Wampanoag men are leaving. They are carrying a large kettle of dried peas that the English have given them as a gift. They now have very little left of the food they brought on the Mayflower.
All the Wampanoag leave except for Squanto. It is agreed he will stay with the English. After six long years, he is finally back on his home soil by the sea. But this English village is a very different place.
On the morning of his first full day with the English, Squanto goes to the beach to fish for eels. He catches so many, he can barely lift them all with one hand. That night, the English have eels for dinner, and love them! They are “fat and sweet”!
The English love to talk with Squanto. They talk about familiar places back in London, places that both he and they know and remember fondly.
Although gardening, especially caring for corn crops, is the work of Wampanoag women rather than men, Squanto knows enough from watching the women work that he can teach the English the basics. Click here for the story of Wampanoag gardening.
Squanto is helpful not only with gardening and basic survival advice, but also with diplomacy. He has always been very good at making friends, and since he can speak Wampanoag and English, he helps the English to communicate with all the Wampaoag people in the area.
With Squanto’s help, the English speak to the Wampanoag family whose corn they took when they first arrived on Cape Cod. They apologize, and pay the family back.
They also meet the Wampanoag warriors who participated in the battle against the English when they first landed. They negotiate a peace treaty with them! Click here to read about that battle.
By September, with Squanto’s help, the English have made peace treaties with nine more sachems in the area. They feel much safer and more secure now, knowing that all the native people in the area are their friends.
As summer turns to fall, the weather is gorgeous, the crops are coming in, and everyone is healthy. After such a long time of suffering, the English are thrilled with the peace and prosperity they are suddenly – finally – enjoying.
It’s time to celebrate!
Sometime in late September/early October, 1621
Remember’s village is having a huge party!
The sky is a crystal-clear blue, and the leaves are turning brilliant fall colors. The sun is warm and wonderful, and the skies are filled with geese and ducks. Holland was never quite like this. Remember has never seen such a thrilling and beautiful place in all her life.
The governor of their little village has declared a time to “rejoice together … after a more special manner.” That means it’s time to celebrate!
As the village celebrates, Massasoit and 90 Wampanoag warriors arrive to join the party. They have brought 5 freshly-killed deer to help feed the crowds. Remember can't think of a time she has ever seen so much food.
Squanto has gone from being an important man in his village, to being a slave, to being a prisoner, and now once again being a very important man. He surely feels thrilled and gratified. He has once again brought peace and prosperity to the land of his ancestors.
Believe it or not, there is only one document written by the people who were there, that tells us anything about the "first "Thanksgiving." Everything we know comes from one small portion of a larger booklet called Mourt's Relation, published in London in 1622.
Here is that portion, so you can read it for yourself:
There's a lot this doesn't tell us! Besides venison and wild fowl, what else did they eat? Were there any Wampanoag women and children at the celebration? When exactly did it take place?
When historians don't have documents that tell them all the details, they hunt for clues to figure it out. The historians at the Plimoth Plantation recreate life in Plymouth in the early 1600s to figure out as much as they can about that time. Visit their website at www.plimoth.com to learn more.
This post originally appeared on 11/25/14.
Think you know what the “first Thanksgiving” was really like?
You can make gravy for your family to enjoy with turkey at your Thanksgiving feast!
The English pilgrims may have had turkey at the “first Thanksgiving” (we don’t know for sure), but they definitely didn’t have gravy! To make gravy you need an oven and you need flour – they didn’t have either one.