Thanksgiving is a holiday that starts the “holiday season” in the United States. It is a time for families to get together, start Christmas shopping (if you haven’t already), or load up on some pumpkin spice lattes (again, if you haven’t already). If you live in the Northeast, then you are probably enjoying fall (for those who don’t know what fall looks like, google it). The history of why we celebrate Thanksgiving is plain and simple: European explorers, by navigating the seas for weeks, landed on solid ground and gave thanks to God for a safe journey. These were the first thanksgiving celebrations that were done by the Spanish in 1565 in what would become St. Augustine, Florida; in 1598 in modern-day San Elizario, Texas; and by the English in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. However, the “first” thanksgiving celebration that inspired the modern American Thanksgiving comes from the Northeast.
In the late fall of 1620, 131 people landed in what would become Massachusetts and established Plymouth Colony. Their first winter was terrible; half of the original passengers died, and the Mayflower’s crew left for England in the spring, leaving only fifty-three survivors. A year later after their landing, they celebrated the harvest, and that is what we commemorate today. The actual thanksgiving was officially celebrated in the summer of 1623 by praying and worshipping together as a community. The Abenakis were helpful in helping the English immigrants in the area by teaching them new crops like corn and getting them acquainted with the land. If it weren’t for the Abenakis and other Native Americans who helped other Europeans to acclimate to new lands, we probably wouldn’t be here today. It is unfortunate, however, that history did not favor the Native Americans and their descendants.
In the United States, many Native American languages are still spoken. Some of the most widely known is Cherokee, a language spoken in Oklahoma and the Appalachians, which has a rich history and an interesting writing system. To say thank you, just say ᎠᎾᎵᎮᎵᎬ (analiheligv). Going west, we encounter Navajo, a language spoken by members of the Navajo Nation which straddles the northern areas of western New Mexico and eastern Arizona. Thank you in Navajo is ahéhee; and if you go south towards Arizona, you’ll hear áho in Western Apache. Going further south, into central Mexico, you’ll hear tlazohcamati, which is thank you in Nahuatl. Going north along the Pacific coast to the San Francisco Bay Area, you’ll hear of a language called Ohlone. If you want to say “thank you” than try ‘alšip-mak. If you want to travel by sea, then go west until you reach Hawaii. Once you land, make sure you greet your welcome committee with an aloha and mahalo.
This Thanksgiving let’s remember to give thanks: thanks for our lives, families, friends, and other things that we might hold dear. Happy Thanksgiving!
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