1621 : A New Look at the First Thanksgiving

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In 1620, English settlers later known as Pilgrims landed in a world that was new to them and settled in a place they called Plimoth, in what is now Massachussetts. Native Americans from a group called the Wampanoag, meaning "People of the Dawn Land," had fished and hunted this land for thousands of years. Without help from their native neighbours, the English settlers would not have survived their first winter in their new home. As it was, nearly half the colony died. In the at Autumn of 1621 these two groups met for a period of three days as part of a very complicated political situation. Over this period, there was feasting to celebrate the harvest, and the English and natives may have sat down together to share food. This was not a religious occasion; nor was it entirely harmonious, but it grew to be so perceived in later American consciousness. After the Civil War, English descendants looking back on this event romanticised it and created from it the modern holiday we know today as Thanksgiving.
In October 2000, Plimoth Plantation with the cooperation of the Wampanoag community reenacted the 1621 harvest festival with careful attention to historical accuracy and with deliberate intent to strip away the myths grown up over the centuries. National Geographic photographer Sisse Brimberg captured the event for 1621 in a series of elegant and artistic photographs that give as close a glimpse of 17-century life as we are likely to have in modern times. Ninety Wampanog Indian men plus additional women and children and Plimoth reenactors representing the 52 English colonists participated in this event, making it an unprecedented cooperative effort on the part of Plimoth and the native community to tell the true story of the first year the colonists lived at Plimoth. Readers will learn about 17 century clothing, food, and shelter, plus get a detailed account of the event connected with the 1621 harvest festival. This book makes us look at this historical with a fresh eye and can help readers to hear the many voices that still speak to us from the past.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 48 pages
  • 223.52 x 276.86 x 12.7mm | 430.91g
  • Washington, United States
  • English
  • colour photographs
  • 0792270274
  • 9780792270270

About Catherine O'Neill

Sisse Brimberg has photographed more than 20 articles for National Geographic magazine. Her story on migrant workers won first prize for Picture Story of the Year from the National Press Photographers Association. She lives in Mill Valley, California with her husband Cotton Coulson.
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311 ratings
4.01 out of 5 stars
5 35% (110)
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3 18% (57)
2 4% (13)
1 2% (7)
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