Myth Busters: Thanksgiving

by Anna Schactler

Conventional wisdom on Thanksgiving has been shaped by years of patriotism.

Conventional wisdom on Thanksgiving has been shaped by years of patriotism.

Here in the United States, we interpret Thanksgiving as a day to commemorate the Pilgrims coming to America, right?


Over the centuries, we have built up an interpretation of this holiday that is far from it’s original meaning. For most people, Thanksgiving is a day to be thankful for all that we have and to spend time with family, all while stuffing your face with turkey.

However, for many Native Americans, this isn’t a day to celebrate, but to remember those who lost their lives during the Pequot war in 1637.

More than seven hundred men, women, and children in the Pequot tribe gathered to have their annual Green Corn Festival.

A militia of English mercenaries led by Captain John Mason surrounded the village. Those who listened when they said to come out, which was around seven hundred Native Americans, were killed in what we call the Mystic Massacre.

The governor of Massachusetts, John Winthrop, then declared a national “day of thanks” because they had carried out a successful massacre. This was the first Thanksgiving.

Originally, a day of thanks was called after every successful military action. However, Thomas Jefferson soon declared that we would have a day of thanks once a year, that we now know as Thanksgiving.

Many people have different interpretations of this holiday. For example, some people see it as a day to show thankfulness for their family and friends. Others may see it as a day to actually remember the history of the holiday.

Today, Thanksgiving has been painted over with a new image that portrays it as a happy day, therefore disguising the actual events that first established it. It’s taught in school that the Pilgrims came to Plymouth and made peace with the Native Americans. This is what blinds people from the more detailed history, which holds more truth.

Some people might feel guilty about not addressing it, causing them to deny it and only see it as a celebration, rather than a day to reflect on the horrible events that took place during that fateful year. Others may have never even heard of it.

It is important to talk about it because many people are oblivious to the history, even though it has shaped Thanksgiving as a whole.

So this year, while sitting down to dinner and giving thanks, take time to think about and reflect on what this holiday really represents.


photo by: GDJ

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