Mashpee Wampanoag, tribe at 1st Thanksgiving, is recognized

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MASHPEE, Mass. - The tribe that shared in the first Thanksgiving celebration received federal recognition Thursday as a sovereign American Indian nation, 32 years after it began its quest.

The ancestors of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe were at the area where Plymouth was founded long before the Pilgrims arrived, but their population was nearly wiped out by war and disease.

The roughly 1,500 members of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe learned last March that the Bureau of Indian Affairs had given their bid preliminary approval. Elders and other members gathered Thursday at their tribal seat in anticipation of the bureau's phone call announcing the latest decision...

In September, Mashpee town officials endorsed the request after the tribe agreed not to build a casino on Cape Cod or try to use the courts to take over private land. The tribe has been open about its desire to build a casino outside tribal lands, if Massachusetts alters its laws to permit it.

After the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, members of the Mashpee tribe dined with the English settlers at the first Thanksgiving. The harmony, though, gave way to a brief period of bloody war.

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John R. Maass - 2/16/2007

The folks at Berkeley Plantation in Va. will argue that in Mass., it was not the first Thanksgiving. They say it was at their site, prior to the more famous Mass. one by over 1 year.
Their website states:
"The first Thanksgiving occurred when Captain John Woodlief led the newly arrived English colonists to a grassy slope along the James River and instructed them to drop to their knees and pray in thanks for a safe arrival to the New World.

On this day, Dec. 4, 1619, these 38 men from Berkeley Parish in England were given the instructions:

"Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God."

This saying is now carved on a brick gazebo, where it is believed that Woodlief knelt down beside the James River."