Thanksgiving Message

The Feast

November 26, 2019 in Inside SWS
Pumpkin Watercolor


As we gather with friends and family for Thanksgiving, I was inspired by an article written many years ago in the Christian Science Monitor about the first Thanksgiving. It highlights the history of this traditional celebration, and the role of the indigenous people settled in the New England region. I would like to share a blessing from Princess Red Wing of the Wampanoag nation. A tribal leader, teacher, and storyteller, Red Wing dedicated much of her life to bringing the universal message of thanksgiving and praise that lies at the heart of Indian culture to the rest of the world.

The Indians of the Northeast honor five seasonal thanksgiving celebrations, beginning in March when the sap begins to flow and culminating in November, with the traditional recognition of the Pilgrims’ first meal in Plymouth. Red Wing shares this account of that day with us.

“When those Pilgrims came across the water in the little Mayflower, they had used up just about everything they had on the ship, and they would have starved if our Wampanoag mothers hadn’t opened up their storehouses and fed them. Then when spring came along, they gave them seed that was strange to them and showed them how to fertilize the virgin soil with dead fish.

Golden field scene


“But that first year their crops were poor; many of them couldn’t stand this wilderness and passed into the land of the hereafter. Another cold winter was ahead of them, and they didn’t feel very festive.

“Then old Squanto stepped down into Plymouth, and said to Governor Bradford, ‘when things look dark, when many pass into the land of the hereafter, when the crops are poor, that’s the time for the biggest feast, for the biggest thanksgiving, for the biggest dance, to show your creator that you’re not complaining against your hard lot.’

“And Governor Bradford answered him, ‘That would be good for my fainting people. Go call your Massasoit and your people and tell them to come, and we will feast and we will thank God for what blessings we have.’

“And the Wampanoags came with their wild turkey, with their venison, with their bear meat, their potatoes, their corn, their beans, their squash, their pumpkin, their cranberries—enough to feed all Plymouth. They cooked it up and sat down and ate and thanked God.

“Now history says it was the first Thanksgiving, and the Pilgrims fed 700 Indians, but it was the Indians who brought food enough to feed all of Plymouth and themselves, and for the Indians it was just another thanksgiving, for the harvest of the garden, the forest, the fields, and the meadows. And we still have that thanksgiving today, but we celebrate it in conjunction with the national Thanksgiving.”

Red Wing’s blessing for all people, on Thanksgiving and every day, is:

May you be able to gain the peace
that surpasses all understanding
the gift from the Great Spirit,
as my ancestors did.

And may you be able to call the
Great Spirit to bless your cornfields
of present day achievements,
as my ancestors did.

And may you be able,
in this age of creative noises
and modern machinery
to find still the time to be still,
as my ancestors did.

Red Wing has spoken.

From all the faculty and staff at SWS, we wish you the gifts of peace and time to be still during this Thanksgiving holiday.