Could Texas have hosted the first Thanksgiving?

KXAN (AUSTIN) — This week, millions of loved ones, friends, and families will get together to celebrate Thanksgiving. Although many people associate the first Thanksgiving with the pilgrims who traveled to New England, some El Paso locals believe the yearly event originated in the Lone Star State.

The background of Texas’ Thanksgiving traditions
The Texas Almanac’s historical research told the story of Juan de Oñate, a prominent family with strong links to the Spanish throne. He was granted access to territory in the northern Rio Grande Valley, home of the Pueblo Indians, as part of his mission to discover new territory.

In 1597, Oñate’s mission received approval. Before departing on his journey, Oñate is reported to have dispatched Vicente de Zaldívar from Santa Barbara in southern Chihuahua to establish a wagon road. This trail subsequently developed into the current highway that connects Chihuahua City and El Paso.

The Texas Almanac stated in early March 1598 that he traveled with 500 persons in all, including wives, children, colonists, and troops. The troop started to traverse the Chihuahuan Desert with 7,000 cattle animals.

According to historical retellings of the story, the marchers ran out of food and water during the final five days of their 50-day march to the Rio Grande. It caused considerable changes in the flora of the desert and the loss of some livestock.

It is said that Oñate requested a day of thankfulness upon arriving at the Rio Grande, as a token of appreciation for their survival throughout the expedition. According to the story’s teachings, Oñate’s traveling companions, Franciscan missionaries, presided over a feast of game and fish at the celebration.
It is reported that after Thanksgiving, he traveled up the Rio Grande till settling close to Santa Fe.

Texas has more than one claim to the original Thanksgiving.
Although El Paso today claims to be the location of the first Thanksgiving, other Texas locations also claim to have played a key role in the establishment of the American custom.

According to the Texas Almanac, the Texas Society of Daughters of the American Colonists erected a memorial outside the Panhandle town of Canyon in 1959. They claim that Francisco Vázquez de Coronado’s expedition saw the first Thanksgiving there in May of 1541.

Some people debate if such assertion is true. The story that pecans and grapes were collected and distributed during the feast is included in the Texas Almanac. But in Palo Duro Canyon, none of those crops are able to flourish.

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