In two days, millions of Americans will gather with family and friends to collectively acknowledge and give thanks for everything good in our lives. People will stuff their faces with foods that go with the holiday, and family members will take turns praising God for Aunty Lo-lo’s famous dressing (I love it). While I am an active participant in many of the American holidays, I cannot help but to acknowledge a less popular narrative about Thanksgiving: the fact that the puritans raped and pillaged the land inhabited by Native Americans who were not strong enough to defend themselves.
Here’s what most of us were taught about Thanksgiving:
The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest. Pilgrims and Puritans who began emigrating from England in the 1620s and 1630s carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to New England…the practice of holding an annual harvest festival did not become a regular affair in New England until the late 1660s.
Textbooks continue the narrative by acknowledging that Native Americans were present during the Pilgrims’ migration and settlement in America, but make it appear as if the Native Americans and Pilgrims had this wonderful kumbayah moment where all was well. That’s only half true. In fact, the first Thanksgiving commemorated the massacre of 700 Native Americans.
Initially, the Puritans and other English settlers did approach the Native Americans in a peaceful manner, but of course there was a method to this. They needed to gain the trust of the inhabitants of the land, as they knew the land best. They knew where to hunt, how to survive in the climate, etc. So the settlers taught the natives tricks, showed them their fancy weaponry, and even invited the natives to partake in their cherished Thanksgiving tradition.
Before enslaving the Native Americans and raping their women, the Puritans infected them with disease and famine. They killed off some of the strongest members of the tribes, leaving women, children and the elderly vulnerable. No wonder they had so much to be thankful for. They were conquerors, and had a heap of land all to themselves for the most part. But you won’t see any of this in the textbooks.
The only way to find the real narrative, (like a lot of history) is the challenge it. To unlearn everything that you’ve been taught in hopes of seeking the truth. The truth is that we should be giving thanks for what we have daily. We shouldn’t wait until a holiday comes around to spend time with family and tell them how much we appreciate them. I’m not judging those who want to partake in the holiday. Hell, I will be there stuffing my face with my family as well. But it definitely isn’t because I believe some fairy-tale that we’re continuing to teach our youth. To the pilgrims: Thanks for the day off, but no thanks to the b.s. reason for it.
Enjoy your turkey.