Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday…but not for the reasons we generally remember. The Pilgrims and the Wampanoags did indeed share a harvest celebration together at Plymouth in fall 1621, but that moment got forgotten almost immediately, overwritten by the long history of the settlers’ attacks on their Indigenous neighbors.
Thankful for you and the knowledge you share . . . Happy Thanksgiving
« Let us therefore proclaim our gratitude to Providence for manifold blessings — let us be humbly thankful for inherited ideals — and let us resolve to share those blessings and those ideals with our fellow human beings throughout the world. »
— John F. Kennedy
Let’s be thankful, that for now, we still have a democracy
With gratitude for HCR and her followers, and for democracy’s followers and defenders everywhere!
Thank you for the always necessary reminder of our history.
May everyone, whether celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving Day or sharing an Indigenous Day of Mourning, find peace with family and friends, and rededicate themselves to the preservation of our democracy.
End this current civil war at the 2024 ballot box, not the battlefield!
Shining a light on the past that puts today and, hopefully, tomorrow into perspective.
Thank you, Heather Cox Richardson. Today I am grateful to have your history lessons lighting up the world for me.
And that government of the people, by the people and for the people WILL NOT perish from the Earth! Happy Thanksgiving all and thank you Heather!
HCR...teaching us on Thanksgiving about OUR history. You are the best! Thank you. Grateful for you this Thanksgiving.
I will be thankful when every American has unfettered access to the ballot box Now 23 states act like segregation has been reinstated. Disgraceful
"And in 1865, at least, they won."
Keep them coming, don't sleepwalk into it.
It will be much harder to reverse when it's to late.
Thanksgiving,: Myths in the USA, such as The Thanksgiving Story
I do not resist debunking some myths, which have been perpetuated against the facts, victims of America's lethal expansion, students, teachers and the general public.
'The Myths of the Thanksgiving Story and the Lasting Damage They Imbue'
'In truth, massacres, disease and American Indian tribal politics are what shaped the Pilgrim-Indian alliance at the root of the holiday' (Smithsonian Magazine)
Claire Bugos, Correspondent
'In Thanksgiving pageants held at schools across the United States, children don headdresses colored with craft-store feathers and share tables with classmates wearing black construction paper hats. It’s a tradition that pulls on a history passed down through the generations of what happened in Plymouth: local Native Americans welcomed the courageous, pioneering pilgrims to a celebratory feast.'
'But, as David Silverman writes in his new book This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving, much of that story is a myth riddled with historical inaccuracies. Beyond that, Silverman argues that the telling and retelling of these falsehoods is deeply harmful to the Wampanoag Indians whose lives and society were forever damaged after the English arrived in Plymouth.'
'Silverman’s book focuses on the Wampanoags. When the pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620, the sachem (chief) Ousamequin offered the new arrivals an entente, primarily as a way to protect the Wampanoags against their rivals, the Narragansetts. For 50 years, the alliance was tested by colonial land expansion, the spread of disease, and the exploitation of resources on Wampanoag land. Then, tensions ignited into war. Known as King Philip’s War (or the Great Narragansett War), the conflict devastated the Wampanoags and forever shifted the balance of power in favor of European arrivals. Wampanoags today remember the Pilgrims’ entry to their homeland as a day of deep mourning, rather than a moment of giving thanks.'
'We spoke with Silverman, a historian at George Washington University, about his research and the argument he makes in his book', 'This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving , Ahead of the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving, a new look at the Plymouth colony's founding events, told for the first time with Wampanoag people at the heart of the story.'
'The Myth of Thanksgiving'
'How did you become interested in this story?'
'I've had a great many conversations with Wampanoag people, in which they talk about how burdensome Thanksgiving is for them, particularly for their kids. Wampanoag adults have memories of being a kid during Thanksgiving season, sitting in school, feeling invisible and having to wade through the nonsense that teachers were shoveling their way. They felt like their people's history as they understood it was being misrepresented. They felt that not only their classes, but society in general was making light of historical trauma which weighs around their neck like a millstone. Those stories really resonated with me.'
'What is the Thanksgiving myth?'
'The myth is that friendly Indians, unidentified by tribe, welcome the Pilgrims to America, teach them how to live in this new place, sit down to dinner with them and then disappear. They hand off America to white people so they can create a great nation dedicated to liberty, opportunity and Christianity for the rest of the world to profit. That’s the story—it’s about Native people conceding to colonialism. It’s bloodless and in many ways an extension of the ideology of Manifest Destiny.'
'What are the most poignant inaccuracies in this story?'
'One is that history doesn’t begin for Native people until Europeans arrive. People had been in the Americas for least 12,000 years and according to some Native traditions, since the beginning of time. And having history start with the English is a way of dismissing all that. The second is that the arrival of the Mayflower is some kind of first-contact episode. It’s not. Wampanoags had a century of contact with Europeans–it was bloody and it involved slave raiding by Europeans. At least two and maybe more Wampanoags, when the Pilgrims arrived, spoke English, had already been to Europe and back and knew the very organizers of the Pilgrims’ venture.'
'Most poignantly, using a shared dinner as a symbol for colonialism really has it backward. No question about it, Wampanoag leader Ousamequin reached out to the English at Plymouth and wanted an alliance with them. But it’s not because he was innately friendly. It’s because his people have been decimated by an epidemic disease, and Ousamequin sees the English as an opportunity to fend off his tribal rebels. That’s not the stuff of Thanksgiving pageants. The Thanksgiving myth doesn’t address the deterioration of this relationship culminating in one of the most horrific colonial Indian wars on record, King Philip’s War, and also doesn’t address Wampanoag survival and adaptation over the centuries, which is why they’re still here, despite the odds.'
'The Thanksgiving Feast'
'How did the Great Dinner become the focal point of the modern Thanksgiving holiday?'
'For quite a long time, English people had been celebrating Thanksgivings that didn’t involve feasting—they involved fasting and prayer and supplication to God. In 1769, a group of pilgrim descendants who lived in Plymouth felt like their cultural authority was slipping away as New England became less relevant within the colonies and the early republic, and wanted to boost tourism. So, they started to plant the seeds of this idea that the pilgrims were the fathers of America.'
'What really made it the story is that a publication mentioning that dinner published by the Rev. Alexander Young included a footnote that said, “This was the first Thanksgiving, the great festival of New England.” People picked up on this footnote. The idea became pretty widely accepted, and Abraham Lincoln declared it a holiday during the Civil War to foster unity.'
'It gained purchase in the late 19th century, when there was an enormous amount of anxiety and agitation over immigration. The white Protestant stock of the United States was widely unhappy about the influx of European Catholics and Jews, and wanted to assert its cultural authority over these newcomers. How better to do that than to create this national founding myth around the Pilgrims and the Indians inviting them to take over the land? '(Smithsonian Magazine) See link below.
'This tribe helped the Pilgrims survive for their first Thanksgiving. They still regret it 400 years later.'
'Long marginalized and misrepresented in U.S. history, the Wampanoags are bracing for the 400th anniversary of the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving in 1621' (WAPO) See gifted article below.
"Our Government and institutions placed in jeopardy have brought us to a more just appreciation of their value.”
This may sound strange, but we should all thank Donald Trump for waking us from our slumber and alerting us to the danger we had been falling into before he ever arrived on the political scene, for us all to learn again the value of what we had taken for granted, this constitutional democratic republic. I don't think we would all gather here as we do otherwise.
Bending the ‘arc of freedom’ in the US, is every generation’s task….Coretta Scott King said it and many others have said it and right here, right now, Heather has said it…
A daunting task always, but in 2023 …a humongous one. Keeping our Republic is another way to look at it….we won’t preserve our democracy if we are not willing to exert every bit of talent/skill/effort….we have…..God willing we will and it will survive!
And special thanks Heather for making these issues so very clear!
That we are able to sustain President Lincoln’s vision, that democracy and liberty survive, that equality and love shall prevail over tyranny, darkness and hatred 🍁💖🇺🇸
Happy Thanksgiving Heather!
May it be so and that the true meaning of Thanksgiving finds a roost in all hearts