Spanish settlers and Native Americans celebrated the first Thanksgiving in Florida. Deacon Greg Kandra made mention of two earlier Thanksgiving Celebrations in his blog today. In his post, Is Thanksgiving a Catholic? he finds the answers to the question. Read his post to see the original article.
Of course it was and it makes complete sense that the Spanish Catholics would offer a Mass of Thanksgiving, when arriving in the New World, since Catholicism was (I still think is) a huge part of Spanish culture.
My ancestors didn't come over the Mayflower. They weren't Puritians, Pilgrims, or Protestants of any sort. They were Catholic and yes, they celebrated Thanksgiving long before the Pilgrims did.
My dad's ancestors arrived in what is New Mexico in 1598, but led by Juan de Onate, that that particular Thanksgiving was held in El Paso before they made the journey north, so, I claim ties to that one. Though, I know that the Spanish celebrated the first Thanksgiving in Florida 30 years earlier. These are things I've always known, simply because growing up in New Mexico, I was always away of Spanish, Catholic history in the New World because I had teachers who made sure we were versed in our own history. In my text books, the arrival of the Spanish in the New World covered maybe the first couple of pages and was never mentioned again. I knew because my parents made sure I knew the history and I also knew because I took classes in New Mexican history, though while I always I knew, it always seemed like no one else did.
Now, Onate is not without controversy. Still, without his daring expedition, the establishment of the first coloney here, my ancestors may have never come to New Mexico and who knows if I'd even be here. A couple of links about him here and here.
Photo: reenactment of the Onate Thanksgiving in El Paso. Taken from here.