Thanksgiving and more:

“our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we
might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered
the fruit of our labors.” (82)

[1]  Edward Winslow says much about the relations between the native Indians and the Pilgrims in a letter intended to make a friend in "Old" England feel good about coming to "New" England.  In fact, Winslow indicates three levels of good relations with the Indians, and the three move from the narrow to the more general, from good relations between one group of Indians and the Europeans, to good relations between all the Indians and Europeans, to good relations among all the different Indian groups themselves.

[2]  First, Winslow describes what we have now come to know and to celebrate as the first Thanksgiving.  The first Thanksgiving makes both Pilgrims and Indians seem peaceful towards one another.  This first harvest for the settlers was a celebration of success of their journey; thus they held a party: “[o]ur harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors” (82).  This first Thanksgiving was a joyous celebration because of the friendships formed as well because of the harvest.

[3]  In addition, however, Winslow further describes a second and third level of peace that we are not so familiar with and which, the third especially, are even more surprising.  Second, then, is a more general and continuous peace between Pilgrim and Indian that lasts far beyond that one "Thanksgiving" celebration:  “We have the Indians very faithful in their covenant of peace with us, very loving and ready to pleasure us.  We often go to them, and they come to us; some of us have been fifty miles by land in the country with them”  (82).

[4]  And then, third, Winslow has the Pilgrims take credit for fostering the practically unheard of atmosphere in which Indian is at peace with Indian as well: “So that there is now great peace amongst the Indians themselves, which was not formerly, neither would have been but for us; and we for our parts walk as peaceably and safely in the wood as in the highways in England” (83).

[5]  This letter Winslow writes is intended to “attract” the English to the “new land.”  In addition, Winslow undoubtedly takes credit for all relationships and treats the Pilgrims as the liaison between the groups.  Winslow wants the people in Europe to know of the good deeds they are doing in the “New World” to convince and lure them over.

Jaime Miller
11/02

(page references to Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, ed. Dwight B. Heath [Bedford: Applewood Books, 1963])