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Harvest Ceremony: Beyond the Thanksgiving Myth

Native American people who first encountered the "pilgrims" at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts play a major role in the imagination of American people today. Contemporary celebrations of the Thanksgiving holiday focus on the idea that the "first Thanksgiving" was a friendly gathering of two disparate groups—or even neighbors—who shared a meal and lived harmoniously. In actuality, the assembly of these people had much more to do with political alliances, diplomacy, and an effort at rarely achieved, peaceful coexistence.

Resource Information

grades   K 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
English Language Arts, History, Social Studies
Northeastern Atlantic Coast
Thanksgiving, Wampanoag, Pilgrims, Plymouth, Puritan, Harvest, Harvest Ceremony, Mayflower, Cape Cod, Samoset, Tisquantum, First Thanksgiving
Essential Understandings More Close

1: American Indian Cultures
Interactions with Europeans and Americans brought accelerated and often devastating changes to American Indian cultures.

2: Time, Continuity & Change
The Western Hemisphere was laced with diverse, well-developed, and complex societies that interacted with one another over millennia.

6: Power, Authority & Governance
Long before European colonization, American Indians had developed a variety of complex systems of government that embodied important principles for effective rule. American Indian governments and leaders interacted, recognized each other's sovereignty, practiced diplomacy, built strategic alliances, waged wars, and negotiated peace accords.