Everything You Think You Know About Thanksgiving is Wrong


Many American schools do not adequately teach Native American history, and in some cases, do not teach it at all. However, Native American history is an intrinsic part of American history. November is National Native American History Month, making it the ideal opportunity to learn about the contributions of Native Americans and revisit one of the most important and celebrated moments in American history.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday which traditionally has been celebrated with family, friends, and food. 2021 will mark the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving.

The Pilgrims arrived in what is now Massachusetts in November 1620 and they were ill equipped to survive the first winter. Most elementary school children are taught that without the help of friendly local Native Americans who greeted the pilgrims as they arrived in the “New World,” the Pilgrim colony would have died out. The Native Americans taught the immigrant newcomers how to grow corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in rivers and avoid poisonous herbs. In November 1621, after their first summer harvest was successful, the Pilgrims decided to commemorate the moment by inviting their Native American neighbors, specifically the Wamponoag tribe, to a celebratory feast, which is recorded as the first American Thanksgiving.

However, in actuality, the story the American education has decided to teach is far from reality. The true story behind the occasion is so terrifying, in fact, that many Americans today are reexamining what they know about the holiday, and whether they ought to celebrate or mourn.

It is true that the Wampanoag tribe greeted the new arrivals with care, but what is “forgotten” is how the colonizers decided to react. In addition to learning all the new farming and fishing techniques, the colonizers took advantage of the situation by stealing  tools the tribes had created and used for agriculture purposes or rendering them easier. Colonizers robbed tribes of their essential (e.g. wood, clean water and food) and even went to the extent of grabbing the blankets they had made to keep themselves warm. At this point the tribes were left cold, starved, and fragile. 

While the celebrants may well have feasted on the traditional wild turkey, the local diet additionally included fish, eels, shellfish, and a Wampanoag dish called Nasaump, which the Pilgrims had embraced: boiled cornmeal mixed in with vegetables and meats. There were no potatoes (a native South American food not yet brought into the worldwide food framework) and no pies (in light of the fact that there was no butter, wheat flour, or sugar).

Nor did the Pilgrims stretch out a warm greeting to their Indian neighbors. Rather, the Wampanoags showed up uninvited. Wampanoag custom proposes that the gathering was indeed a military, respecting a shared safeguard agreement arranged the past spring. They came not to partake in a multicultural meal yet to help the Pilgrims: hearing repeated gunshots, they presumed that the pioneers were enduring an attack. After a long moment of doubt the two groups recognized each other, in some uncomfortable manner, and spent the following three days together.  

Following the first harvest, the only things that were steaming were the fatal conflicts between settlers, Native tribes and the Wampanoags. Colonizers compensated all the nice gestures of the tribes by stealing Native land and imprisoning, enslaving, and killing Native people.

Colonizers were slowly conquering a world that was not theirs to begin with.