Thanksgiving Leftovers

30 Nov 2020

Last week was the Thanksgiving holiday and this week we move from November—National American Indian Heritage Month—into December. In four weeks it will be 2021. But instead of trying to glimpse the future, let’s consider the recent holiday. 

Here’s an opportunity to test your knowledge of the holiday with some “fun” facts of Thanksgiving. Write down your answers to these seven questions; and try not to look ahead at the correct answers! 

1. What was the name of the tribe whose members shared the first Thanksgiving?

2. How many citizens of that federally recognized tribe are there now?

3. When was Thanksgiving established as a national holiday?

4. What percentage of the Mayflower passengers were Pilgrims?

5. What percentage of the first Thanksgiving participants were American Indians?

6. What year was the first Thanksgiving?

7. How long before the first Thanksgiving had people first settled the country that is now the United States?

What was the name of the tribe whose members shared the first Thanksgiving? If you answered “Wampanoag,” you are correct. 

How many Wampanoag citizens are there now? Today there are two federally recognized Wampanoag tribes. The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe was federally recognized in 2007, and according to the tribe’s official website, currently has “approximately 2,600 enrolled citizens.” The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head was federally recognized in 1987, and according to its official website, had 1,364 citizens as of January 1, 2019. So today there are approximately 4,000 citizens of the two Wampanoag tribes. 

When was Thanksgiving established as a national holiday? On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation establishing Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday. It set the last Thursday of November as the official day of Thanksgiving. 

What percentage of the Mayflower passengers were Pilgrims? The Mayflower set sail from Plymouth on September 6, 1620 and arrived at what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts on November 21. There were 102 passengers on the Mayflower, of which 35 were Pilgrims. So the answer to this question is that 34% of the 102 Mayflower passengers were Pilgrims. 

What percentage of the first Thanksgiving participants were American Indians? There exists only one first-person account of the first Thanksgiving, and it was recorded by either Edward Winslow or William Bradford and published as Mourt’s Relations in 1622. Based on Mourt’s Relations and other sources, we know that 45 of the 102 Mayflower passengers died before the first Thanksgiving. Therefore, there were 57 Mayflower passengers living when that first Thanksgiving took place, and we can assume that all of them attended the festivities. Of these, only six were women. Mourt’s Relations says that Massasoit, a leader of the Wampanoags, was at the festivities along with 90 of his men. So there were 91 Wampanoag men, 51 men from the Mayflower, and 6 Mayflower women at the first Thanksgiving. All told, 63% of the 148 people who attended the first Thanksgiving were American Indians!

What year was the first Thanksgiving? The first Thanksgiving was held in 1621. The actual dates are unknown, but based on the available sources, it took place over three days sometime between late September and early October of that year.  

How long before the first Thanksgiving had people first settled the country that is now the United States? The answer to this question might at first seem to be 14 years, since Jamestown was settled in 1607 by people from Europe. But the correct answer is approximately 12,600 years ago! That’s right, all of North America was settled by ancestors of American Indians by 11,000 B.C. 

We hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving, and that you aced these questions related to the holiday. 


(This article is also published in Lakota Times.)

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