On a cold day in November, 1620 the Mayflower arrived off Cape Cod on the Massachusetts Coast. The ship was blown north of its course, and landed in an area that John Smith called New England. The Pilgrims settled on the site of an abandoned Native American village that they would call Plymouth. The Pilgrims were dissenters who separated from the Church of England, which had been established after King Henry VIII broke his country’s ties with the Catholic Church in the early 1500s…
Though English Protestants approved of separation from the Catholic Church, many disagreed with certain aspects of the English church, thinking its practices too closely resembled those of the Catholic Church. The Separatists (Pilgrims) were persecuted by King James for rejecting England’s official church, and they initially fled to Holland, a country that is known for its tolerance of differing opinions. They would eventually gain permission from the Virginia Company* to settle in America (*The Virginia Company was a joint-stock company that had been founded for the purpose of colonizing America).
The Plymouth settlement was beyond the limits of the Virginia Company, however, and their charter did not apply to this particular area. Thus, most of the men about the Mayflower signed the Mayflower Compact, an agreement that helped establish the practice of self-government and majority rule. The settlers were not prepared for the hardship, specifically the “starving time” that they would face, however, and half of the group died during the first winter.
The remnant of the settlers were saved by Native Americans who’d learned to speak English. Squanto, a Native American, taught the Pilgrims to plant Native crops; and sometime during the fall of 1621 the Plymouth settlement celebrated a good harvest by holding a three-day feast that became known as the first Thanksgiving, which came to represent the peace that existed at that time between the Native Americans and Pilgrims.
GIVING Thanks to Native America
Today should be a day that we observe and celebrate the fact that if it had not been for the Native Americans there would be no America.
Just as the Natives taught early English settlers to grow crops for survival, America should ever GIVE thanks to the Natives through investment of resources that would elevate their quality of living to that which all Americans should be privileged.