A 19th-century engraving of the Pilgrims signing a treaty with the Wampanoag in William Bradford’s house (Image: Library of Congress)

In November 1621 the Mayflower settlers decided to hold a celebration. Half of them had survived the first winter since their landing on Cape Cod on November 11, 1620; there had been a birth; there had even been a marriage. Above all, they had gathered their first harvest.

William Bradford, governor and chronicler of life in Plymouth, Massachusetts, wrote: “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labours.”

And rejoice they did. Chief Massasoit, the “greatest king” of the Wampanoag tribe, on whose lands the pilgrims had built their homes, turned up with 90 men and “for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor”.