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The Story Of How Thanksgiving Day Came Into Being

Today, Native Americans commemorate Thanksgiving in different ways.

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Thanksgiving Day
The First Thanksgiving by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. VOA

In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims celebrated their first successful harvest by firing guns and cannons in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The noise alarmed ancestors of the contemporary Wampanoag Nation who went to investigate.

That is how native people came to be present at the first Thanksgiving, says Ramona Peters, historic preservation officer of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, which suggests that paintings depicting Native Americans sitting down for a bountiful and harmonious meal with colonial families is basically a lie.

“The Wampanoag people, men, were not really sure what they were being told was actually true, so they stayed around for a few days. They camped outside,” says Peters. “So there was a lot of tension as well, all of these men, warriors, were next door in the woods at night in the dark close by.”

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Thanksgiving with the Indians by N. C. Wyeth. VOA

While the Wampanoag might have shared food with the Pilgrims during this strained fact-finding mission, they also hunted for food.

What was actually eaten at that first Thanksgiving is far different from the turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing that grace many holiday tables today, according to experts at Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

“We … know turkey was plentiful in Plymouth Colony, but we don’t know for certain that it was served at the meal,” Plimoth Plantation’s Kate Sheehan told VOA via email. “The likelihood is very strong, though. Mussels, lobster and eel were available as well, and enjoyed by both the English and Wampanoag.”

Plimoth Plantation attempts to replicate the original Plymouth Colony settlement established by the English colonists in the 17th century, and makes educated guesses about what else might have been on the first Thanksgiving table.

“English gardens probably produced cabbages, carrots, cucumbers, colewort (collards), parsnips, turnips, beets, onions, radishes, lettuce and spinach, as well as sage, thyme, parsley, marjoram, fennel, anise and dill,” Sheehan says. “Wampanoag and English women also cultivated beans and squashes, including pumpkins.”

 

Thanksgiving Day
A traditional Thanksgiving dinner often includes turkey, gracy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing and sweet potatoes. VOA

 

Other foods that would have been available at that time of year include Jerusalem artichokes, wild onions, garlic, watercress, cranberries, Concord grapes and native nuts, including walnuts and chestnuts.

“Native people also dried out-of-season fruits such as blueberries and currants, and added them to dishes throughout the year,” Sheehan says.

Although Americans now celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November, historians can’t pinpoint the exact date of the very first Thanksgiving.

“We know it took place over three days sometime between mid-September and early November in 1621, and was considered a harvest celebration following a successful planting of multicolored flint corn, or maize,” says Sheehan.

It wasn’t until 1863, during the Civil War, that Thanksgiving became a national holiday. President Abraham Lincoln furthered an idealistic Thanksgiving narrative for strategic reasons.

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In this Nov. 15, 2018, photo, Mashpee Wampanoag Kerri Helme, of Fairhaven, Mass., uses plant fiber to weave a basket while sitting next to a fire at the Wampanoag Homesite at Plimoth Plantation, in Plymouth, Mass. VOA

A woman named Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of an influential women’s magazine, had a hand in convincing President Lincoln that a national Thanksgiving holiday would help unite the war-torn country.

“It was a socio-political move to try to reunite the North and the South after the Civil War to have this national holiday,”says Peters, of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. “It was their brainchild to have this national holiday called Thanksgiving, and its popularity grew through time, but it was actually a pretty smart move to establish something to unite families. During the Civil War, a lot of families actually split down the middle, brothers against brothers.”

Today, Native Americans commemorate Thanksgiving in different ways. Some consider it a day of mourning given the rapid colonization and displacement of their people. Others gather with their families, but the Pilgrims aren’t on their minds.

Also Read: Successfully Harvested First Vegetable Crop In The Australia

Peters says native people celebrate a number of thanksgivings throughout the year, at times such as when certain crops come in or a particular fish returns to spawn. Giving thanks is a big part of the Wampanoag members’ spiritual life, she adds.

The tribe, also known as the “People of the First Light,” will have a number of reasons to give thanks this year.

“On a tribal level, we have a chief who’s 98 years old and we’ll give thanks for him still being with us and willing to lead us as a traditional leader,” Peters says. “We will be thankful for the land that is in our care, for the newborn babies into our tribe. We live by the ocean, so we’re First Light people so we give thanks to the bay.” (VOA)

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Number of Indians Studying in the U.S. Surpassed 2 Lakh

Indians studying in the USA Keeps Growing in Number

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Set of books for studying and reading.
Academic libraries are generally located on college and university campuses and primarily for studying and for faculty members. Pixabay

The number of Indians studying in the US increased by almost three per cent over the last year to 202, 014, – the sixth consecutive year marking such growth.

According to the 2019 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange released on Monday, Indians make up over 18% of all international students in the United States.

India provided the second highest number of graduate students and jumped up to third place in undergraduates, it said.

students studying in lecture
Students during a university lecture. Pixabay

Speaking at the United States India Educational Foundation (USIEF), the Embassy’s Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs Charisse Phillips said, “Student exchanges between our two countries help strengthen the foundation upon which our strategic partnership is built. Indian students are looking for a great education and the United States offers the best return on this investment.”

In 2018-19, US colleges and universities hosted more than one million international students for the fourth consecutive year. The total number of international students expanded for the thirteenth consecutive year.

The top places of origin for international students studying in the United States were China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Brazil and Mexico. The top host states were California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.

Also Read: Union Environment Ministry Rolling out Anti-pollution Measures for Delhi NCR region

Open Doors is published by the Institute of International Education (IIE), which has conducted an annual statistical survey on international students in the United States since its founding in 1919 and in partnership with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs since 1972.

EducationUSA is a US Department of State network of over 430 international student advising centres in 178 countries and territories. EducationUSA is the official source on US higher education. In India there are 7 EducationUSA advising centers.

USIEF hosts centres in New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata. The centre in Bengaluru is hosted by Yashna Trust and the one Ahmedabad is hosted by IAES. (IANS)