Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Cover of Robyn Gioia's book "America's REAL First Thanksgiving"

The above illustration depicts America's REAL First Thanksgiving.  Please note: not one pilgrim is to be found in that picture!  The more typical holiday image conjured in one's mind usually looks something more like this....

If you did not grow up in Florida, you most likely didn't learn that St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States.  And you definitely didn't learn about it's first Thanksgiving!

On September 8, 1565 Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles ceremoniously landed on the shore of present day St. Augustine, FL.  In 1565, it was the village of Seloy in which Menendez set foot, one of about thirty Timucuan villages located throughout Northeast Florida.  Menendez and his men undoubtedly were full of tremendous gratitude for their safe arrival to the new land (which of course was immediately claimed for Spain!)   A Mass of Thanksgiving was then followed by a feast for the Spanish with the Timucua as invited guests. The Spanish provided the feast, but it is very possible that the Timucua contributed some of their own native fares (to name a few: deer, corn, squash, shellfish, mullet, shark, and gopher tortoise).

America's First Mass
Founded in 1565, St. Augustine proceeds the Pilgrim's landing on Plymouth Rock by 56 years!
So, why did I wear a Pilgrim's Hat in my 4th grade Thanksgiving class play and not a Spanish conquistador helmet?

Well, history is written by the victors.  England eventually became the dominant culture in the United States so it is from their viewpoint that much of our history is told.
Gopher Tortoise: Good food for the Timucua, but not good for you

We now enjoy our English Thanksgiving traditions of turkey and pumpkin pie.  But perhaps this holiday you can surprise your guests with a dinner from America's REAL first Thanksgiving: Spanish stew, hardtack and shark (disclaimer: we do not recommend serving the Timucuan dish of gopher tortoise; That is now illegal and you will go to jail!)



To learn more about Robin Gioia, her books, and teacher resources, visit Robin's websiteAmerica's REAL First Thanksgiving can be purchased through the Jacksonville Historical Society  or on Amazon.

Whatever tradition you chose to follow, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!



Text:  Robbie Boggs, FPAN Staff
Images (in order of appearance): illustration by Robert Deaton, picture located on colonialsense.com, illustration by Robert Deaton, photo located on pinterest, photo located on UPI.com

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