Lesson Plan: The Thanksgiving Story - "This Land Is Their Land"

Story of the First Thanksgiving

Author David Silverman provided background on the story of the first Thanksgiving as well as different perspectives from the Pilgrims and Native people.


This lesson features video clips from author David Silverman talking about the history of Thanksgiving in the United States and the relationship between the Wampanoag Native People and Plymouth Colony settlers. Silverman provides background on the story of the first Thanksgiving from different perspectives. He talks about the Wampanoag people and their community prior to the arrival of the English settlers, their interactions, the events leading into King Phlip's War as well as the aftermath.


  • SET UP:

    This lesson offers several options for you to use with your students whether you are teaching in class, using a hybrid model, or engaging through distance learning. It can be completed in steps as a class or students can move at their own pace and complete the activities independently.

    You can post links to the videos in the lesson along with the related handouts and engage in discussion to share responses on a discussion board or learning management system.

    You can also save and share the following Google resources for students to use with this lesson.

    HANDOUT: Vocabulary Chart (Google Doc)

    HANDOUT: The Thanksgiving Story: "This Land Is Their Land" Graphic Organizer (Google Doc)

    In Google, choose "File" then "Make a Copy" to get your own copy. You can make any needed adjustments in the instructions such as which activities students need to complete, when it is due, etc. and then make it available to them via Google.

  • WARM-UP:

    At the start of class, ask students to consider the following questions and engage in class discussion to provide a foundation for the lesson:

    • What do you know about the first Thanksgiving?

    • Why do we celebrate it in the United States?

    Ask students to view the following introductory video clip and have them answer the related questions on their graphic organizer. Use the accompanying questions to generate class discussion.

    Video Clip 1: Story of the First Thanksgiving (2:58)

    Author David Silverman provided background on story of the first Thanksgiving as well as different perspectives from the Pilgrims and Native people.

    • Describe the "patriotic story" of the first Thanksgiving that David Silverman shared.

    • How does he describe the first few months of the Pilgrims' settlement in Plymouth?

    • How do the Native people respond to these settlers according to David Silverman?

    • How does he describe the Native people's legacy and their view of this history?

    Have students view the following collection of video clips that discuss the historical perspectives of the encounters between the Wampanoag people and the English colonists. They can watch each video independently, view a video with a partner, or you can jigsaw them by assigning videos to students. Students should respond to the questions on the handout.

  • Video Clip 2: The Wampanoag Community (3:13)

    Author David Silverman talked about the Wampanoag people, their community, and their relationship with the Pilgrims after their arrival in the colonies.

    • Describe the history and community of the Wampanoag people as David Silverman explained.

    • Describe the relationship between the Wampanoag and Pilgrims from when they initially arrived up to King Philip's War as David Silverman discussed.
  • Video Clip 3: Conference Between the Wampanoag and English Colonists (6:14)

    Author David Silverman talked about King Philip, also known by his Wampanoag name Pumetacom, and his meeting with a delegation of English magistrates from Rhode Island, as they discussed their relationship and the 1621 alliance.

    • Explain the different perspectives that were presented at the conference between Pumetacom and the English representatives.

    • Describe the split among the Wampanoag people that David Silverman discussed.

    • Explain the conflict regarding the land deeds between the two groups.
  • Video Clip 4: King Philip's War (5:49)

    Author David Silverman discussed the origin and outcome of King Philip's War.

    • What action did Pumetacom and the Wampanoag take against the English colonists?

    • Why did their resistance eventually collapse, according to David Silverman?

    • What impact did these conflicts have on Pumetacom, his family, and other Native people?

    • According to David Silverman, what did the colonists do subsequent to the conflicts?
  • Video Clip 5: Aftermath of King Philip's War (1:47)

    Author David Silverman talked about the treatment of the Wampanoag by the English in the aftermath of King Philip's War.

    • Explain David Silverman's account of the actions of the English colonists following the war and the impact.

    • Explain William Apess' "eulogy to King Philip" as Silverman noted.
  • Video Clip 6: Frank (Wamsutta) James (4:18)

    David Silverman talked about Frank James, his educational background, and activism in Wampanoag history including the "National Day of Mourning" that he organized.

    • Who was Frank James?

    • Describe what unfolded when Frank James was invited to speak at an event marking the 350th anniversary of Plymouth's founding.

    • What was the "National Day of Mourning" that Frank James organized?

    • How did Frank James describe the relationship between the Wampanoag and the colonists?

    Through class discussion, have students share what they learned from viewing each of the videos to ensure understanding of the perspectives. Then, ask them to consider the information they learned through viewing the videos in this lesson and class discussion, and write their reflections on the following question:

    • Have your views on the first Thanksgiving changed? Explain your position.

    Have students write several journal entries from the perspective of the Wampanoag chronicling their experiences from before the colonists arrived through the aftermath of the war.

Additional Resources


  • Alliance
  • Allies
  • Altruism
  • Ambush
  • Betray
  • Censor
  • Collude
  • Colonialism
  • Colonization
  • Commemoration
  • Concede
  • Creditor
  • Democracy
  • Diaspora
  • Diminish
  • Discrimination
  • Dissenter
  • Indenture Servitude
  • Indigenous
  • Inflammatory
  • Intertribal
  • Iroquois
  • Mayflower Compact
  • Myth
  • Neutrality
  • Patriotic
  • Pilgrim
  • Poverty
  • Protest
  • Retribution
  • Revisionist
  • Sachem
  • Socioeconomic


U.S. History


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