What Really Happened During the First Thanksgiving

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There can be countless records of the same event, and while many times each record is different, there are also incidents in which one needs to know every record to piece together what really happened. The story of the first Thanksgiving takes place in 1621, and is generally known as a meal that was shared between the Pilgrims and the Indians. For the Pilgrims, this was a harvest festival, much like one they would have had in England. For the Indians, it was a show of hospitality from the Pilgrims, similar to what they would expect from visiting another Indian tribe. With being told only that, one can already see that there are already two very different histories of the same event recorded. Of greater interest, perhaps, are the different eye-witness accounts of two Pilgrims and a History Channel documentary of the same events.

The first eye-witness we’re interested in was a man by the name of Edward Winslow. Winslow was perhaps best known for his diplomatic work between the Pilgrims and many Indian tribes. Winslow’s description of the first Thanksgiving tells of a joyous time, when the Pilgrims and Indians feasted and hunted together. It’s mentioned in his description that there was a great amount of food, as opposed to the harshness of the year prior. He makes special note of the presence of Massasoit, the leader of the Indians, who, along with his ninety-some men, were hosted by the Pilgrims for three days.

William Bradford, another eye-witness of the first Thanksgiving, was the governor of the Plymouth colony. He had been elected earlier in 1621, after the sudden death of the previous governor. Bradford’s account tells that, after terrible sickness destroyed nearly half of the Pilgrims the previous winter and spring, t...

... middle of paper ... of a blend Winslow’s and Bradford’s records of the time, and also that Desperate Crossing shows the tension which would have indeed existed between English and Indians at the time. Winslow is the one who makes mention of Massasoit and his Indians, while Bradford goes into great detail about the various tasks being carried out by the Pilgrims. Each account of the first Thanksgiving gives a slightly different view -covering each other’s shortcomings, perhaps- that, when pieced together, give us a much better picture of what it was really like 1621. In many cases of multiple accounts, people tend to choose one over others, based on what source seems the most credible. The overlap between Bradford’s and Winslow’s accounts, along with the visual details provided by Desperate Crossing, give what I believe is the most accurate representation of the first Thanksgiving.
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