The United States is one of only a few nations that set aside a holiday for thanksgiving, but celebrations of thanks are centuries old. Early polytheistic peoples gave thanks to their various gods for sun, rain, food, and good harvests.

As children we learn about the Plymouth Thanksgiving which was a harvest feast of Native Americans and Pilgrims. You could say this was an interfaith celebration of thanks as the Christian Pilgrims joined with members of the Wampanoag Tribe — a tribe which was essential to the survival of the colonists during the newcomers’ first year. The Wampanoag, who had occupied the region for thousands of years, had their own government, their own religious and philosophical beliefs, their own knowledge system and their own culture. They were also a people for whom giving thanks was a part of daily life, They were not unlike other Native Americans and peoples of all lands and cultures for whom giving thanks is central to their beliefs and practices.

Christine Kellett is a board member for Interfaith Center for Peace and Justice.

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