We have a rich tradition of thanksgiving in the United States that we historically trace back to the first permanent settlement by Europeans in New England. Pilgrims (separatists from the Church of England) immigrated to the “New World” seeking a more abundant life along with religious freedom. The Pilgrims and many others that came seeking religious freedom, were subject to the world financial system of their day and in 1619 it was a system where “the slave trade was a global institution”. This group of about 35 was however, able to negotiate with a London stock company to finance their enterprise but were required to add others to ensure their success so about 100 embarked on the journey. After a grueling 65 day journey their ship, the Mayflower, landed at Cape Cod. This however was outside the territory of the “Virginia Company” and the status of their contract was unclear. Half of the group died that first winter.
It was Native Americans who gave them food during the first winter which allowed some to survive. It was also an Indian that had formerly been a slave that helped negotiate peace with the Native Americans that taught them how to survive in this “New World”. Over the next year “by the goodness of God” they gathered an abundant harvest. That next fall, they gave thanks and celebrated what we now call Thanksgiving. This would never have happened if one former Native American slave who had been kidnapped and forced into slavery years earlier had not been willing to help these early settlers after he had escaped his European master. This also would not have happened if the Pilgrims had prevented their Native American friends from joining them because of cultural or language differences.