A Thanksgiving Message

Published 10:52 am Wednesday, November 25, 2015

By Lea Sinclair Filson

On this November 26, 2015, as you carve the turkey, and look around the table at your loved ones, there are important lessons you can teach both young and old about our American Thanksgiving holiday.

When the Pilgrims traveled to America on the Mayflower, before coming ashore, they wrote a Compact, or an agreement, on how they would govern themselves. That document inspired the Founding Fathers as they drafted our United States Constitution. The Pilgrims are among the few colonists during the Colonial period who practiced self-governance.

The Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians wrote a treaty, once they made contact in New England, that allowed them to live together peacefully for fifty years. Plymouth Colony stood out admirably for its consistent attempt to treat Native Americans fairly in the courts, for paying Natives for land, and for allowing the courts to settle differences between the Pilgrims and Indians.

As you enjoy your delicious meal on our national Thanksgiving holiday, you are repeating a celebration the Pilgrims shared with the Native Americans in 1621, one year after they arrived in America. After gathering a bountiful harvest, a three-day Thanksgiving celebration was enjoyed with 90 members of the Wampanoag Tribe including Chief Massasoit. Their shared thanksgiving included food, games, and fellowship.

In honor of the 1621 celebration between the Pilgrims and Native Americans, on October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring the last Thursday in November to be a day of “thanksgiving and praise.”

Hopefully, discussing the Pilgrim story will create meaningful conversation around your table on Thanksgiving Day. There are some 10 million people in America who are Mayflower descendants so it is important that we not forget this unique American story. The Pilgrim story is about how we became who we are. The Pilgrim story is America’s story.

The General Society of Mayflower Descendants is a lineage society that has some 30,000 members and welcomes anyone who researches and proves lineage to the Mayflower Pilgrims. In addition to genealogy research, our mission is to educate the public as to why the Pilgrims were important, how they helped shape western civilization, and what their story means today. For more information about the Pilgrims, visit www.TheMayflowerSociety.org.

Lea Sinclair Filson is Governor General of the General Society Mayflower Descendants (GSMD)