Football and the Several First Thanksgivings

By Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall (Rated G)

In 1863, President Lincoln established the annual observance of Thanksgiving in honor of the Union victory at Gettysburg (1). Over the following decades the holiday was backfilled with stories and histories of questionable accuracy, moving the focus back from Gettysburg to Plymouth Colony, but a holiday dedicated to gratitude for God’s blessings is always good anyway.

Without a football game between the University of Texas and Texas A&M, the day loses much of its meaning, though. Sniff.

Different groups claim that the dinner-on-the-grounds at Plymouth was not the first Thanksgiving. Texas, being Texas, claims TWO first Thanksgivings (2):

1541 – the expedition of Francisco Vazquez de Coronado in May in Palo Duro Canyon and

1598 – the expedition of Juan de Onate at San Elizario.

San Augustin / Saint Augustine, Florida claims yet another first Thanksgiving (3):

1564 – the expedition of Pedro Menendez de Aviles and 800 settlers.

Most of the images show the First Nations participating in the several first Thanksgiving, which is ironic – it’s as if someone shows up at your house uninvited, cooks your food, and then invites you to sit at your own table and at the foot, not at the head.

But all nations appear to have migration stories, and so almost every group has displaced other groups and each has been displaced in its turn. The one exception I know (and I am wonderfully ignorant) are the Acoma of what is known at the present as New Mexico. The Acoma maintain that their ancestors came from the earth right there, not somewhere else, and that is a rare historical narrative indeed.

Other Europeans who colonized part of what is now the U.S.A. include:

France – 1524

Holland – 1615

Sweden – 1638

Russia – 1732

Presumably they too had their own first Thanksgivings, so metaphorically there should be room at the table for everyone and at almost any time of the year.

Maybe the only matter upon which all agree is that any Thanksgiving should include a football game.  Every culture on the planet played forms of football from prehistory and it was a biggie in this hemisphere. Thus, playing any kind of football game on Thanksgiving is a very Meso-American thing to do.

  1. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/lincoln-proclaims-official-thanksgiving-holiday
  2. https://www.texasalmanac.com/articles/the-first-thanksgiving
  3. https://www.nps.gov/casa/learn/historyculture/the-first-thanksgiving.htm#:~:text=On%20September%208%2C%201565%2C%20Pedro%20Menéndez,Seloy%20tribe%20who%20occupied%20the%20site.&text=On%20September%208%2C%201565%2C,who%20occupied%20the%20site.&text=8%2C%201565%2C%20Pedro%20Menéndez,Seloy%20tribe%20who%20occupied 

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