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MARC H. MORIAL

(TriceEdneyWire.com)—“This history [of Thanksgiving] teaches us that the American instinct has never been to seek isolation in opposite corners; it is to find strength in our common creed and forge unity from our great diversity. On that very first thanksgiving celebration, these same ideals brought together people of different backgrounds and beliefs, and every year since, with enduring confidence in the power of faith, love, gratitude, and optimism, this force of unity has sustained us as a people. It has guided us through times of great challenge and change and allowed us to see ourselves in those who come to our shores in search of a safer, better future for themselves and their families.”—President Barack Obama, 2016

While Thanksgiving is clearly a celebration of gratitude for a bountiful harvest, its origin and history in the United States tell an unexpected tale of unity that is particularly relevant in in these divisive times.

While the early history of the United States is rife with atrocities committed against Native Americans, the “first Thanksgiving”—a three-day feast in 1621—was a peaceful moment of fellowship between the English settlers and the Wampanoag among whom they lived.

In one of two existing accounts of that feast, Edward Winslow wrote of the “many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted.”   Another English settler who arrived shortly after that first feast, William Hilton, wrote in a letter to his cousin described “the Indians round about us” as “peaceable and friendly.”

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