The Wampanoag Tribe & the First Thanksgiving

Ruth (West) Coombs

As most of us have much to be thankful for this holiday it is also important to remember those who have come before us.

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in a peaceful, friendly meeting of English settlers and the Wampanoag tribe for three days of feasting and thanksgiving in the autumn of 1621.

This feast was part of the Native American philosophy of giving without expecting anything in return. In the first celebration the Wampanoag tribe not only provided the food for the feast, but also the teachings of agriculture and hunting. These teachings gave the struggling settlers corn, beans, wild rice, and turkey. This food provided the foundation for Native Americans to survive through the harsh winters. These practices would be adopted by the settlers as their main food source for the winter months and beyond.

We must always remember not only this first feast and the generosity of these native people to the helpless settlers who were going into a winter that would have been full of hardship without the help and teaching of the native people, but we must always remember the hundreds of thousands of Native Americans who lost their lives at the hands of colonialists and the genocide of these tribes. As a teacher of Leadership at UC Berkeley I remind all of my students to be globally sensitive to the cultures of others. To celebrate without remembering this brave and kind tribe who reached out to the new settlers with friendship and empathy would be an oversight.

Ruth (West) Coombs

Above is a picture of the lovely Ruth West Coombs a descendant of the Wampanoag tribe, she was born at the turn of the 20th Century in New England and was a singer and a dress maker. I love the elegance of her dress and the softness of her beautiful braids. Happy Thanksgiving, enjoy your family and friends and remember to be grateful to all of those who help us along the way.

Love and blessings.

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