Thanksgiving is the most American of holidays, its origins deeply rooted in the nation's past, its celebration an occasion for reflection regardless of one's religious beliefs.

In the Washington area, the day is marked in many different ways, reflecting the wide range of backgrounds of those who make this their home.

A group of vignettes offers a sample of how people in the Washington area are spending Thanksgiving. Important to them -- regardless of what they are doing -- is that they celebrate the day with other people. Not unlike the Pilgrims of 1621, they give thanks they are together with family and friends who have survived the year.

One flight above an Accokeek laundromat known as the House of Wash, the leader of the Piscataway Indian nation sat back in his office with his son and another red man to discuss the meaning of Thanksgiving.

"As far as we're concerned," said Chief Billy Redwing Tayac, "Thanksgiving is a day of mourning."

There aren't many Piscataways left, according to Tayac's son, 22-year-old Mark Wild Turkey. Once, long ago, thousands of Piscataways fished and camped in Maryland and wandered over hunting trails as far away as Pennsylvania and Delaware.

In 1608 their ancestors welcomed the English explorer, Capt. John Smith. In 1634 the Piscataways gave permission to Lord Calvert to settle in Maryland, and they helped a subsequent tide of settlers adjust to the wilderness, teaching them how to plant crops, build shelters, hunt and fish.

In time, however, the Piscataways' land was taken from them. Today there are only 97 remaining, most of them residing in southern Prince George's County.

The Piscataways are not recognized by the federal government as a tribe and they have no reservation. Simply to visit the Indian nation's sacred burial grounds in Piscataway Park nearby, they said, they need a special permit from the U.S. Park Service.

"We never had a concept of land ownership," Chief Tayac said. "How can one buy land or water or air? It's God's."

The ancient symbol of the Piscataway nation is the wild turkey, he said. "But that is the only tie we have to Thanksgiving. We don't celebrate it because we have little to be thankful for."

Tayac said the Piscataways have tried to save as much of their nation's heritage as they could. At the beginning of each spring and autumn they observe tribal ceremonies and share an annual feast in honor of their ancestors. These rites are very nearly like the ones the Piscataways practiced long ago, Chief Tayac said, except that they are performed in English.

The Piscataway's ancient language is dead, his son explained.

Tayac and his son own a furniture store in Suitland. They said they will take a day off from work today and likely will share a turkey at home with the rest of the family.

During the meal, however, they will talk not of things they are grateful for, they said, but of things that have been lost.