Thanksgiving’s history is misrepresented in American education

By Danielle Leonard

While Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Americans are getting excited for time off to see family, Native Americans are not as fond of the holiday. Native Americans see the holiday for what it truly is. In our schools today, they teach Thanksgiving in a different light than the actual facts.

In 1614, English explorers sailed home to England with a ship full of Patuxet Indians bound for slavery. By the time the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts Bay they found only one living Patuxet Indian, a man named Squanto who had survived slavery in England and knew their language. He taught them to grow corn and to fish, and he negotiated a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Nation.

At the end of their first year, the Pilgrims held a great feast honoring Squanto and the Wampanoags. This is what schools talk about when they explain why there was a feast and why we give thanks. However, they forget to mention what happens afterwards.

As word spread in England about the paradise to be found in the new world, Puritans began arriving by the boatload. They considered the land to be in the public domain. Joined by other British settlers, they seized the land, capturing strong young Natives for slaves and killing the rest. The Pequot Nation had not agreed to the peace treaty Squanto had negotiated, and they fought back. Mahtowin Munro, co-leader of the United American Indians of New England, said the holiday in reality has bloody roots. It’s official day was proclaimed in colonial times to give thanks that a militia had returned safely from massacring more than 700 Pequots, she said. Ironically, the first official “Day of Thanksgiving” was proclaimed in 1637 by Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop. He did so to celebrate the safe return of the English colony men from Mystic, Connecticut. Therefore, I think it is acceptable to teach about Thanksgiving, because it is America’s history.

However, I do believe the way it has been taught is not what is reality, and it needs to be better understood.

Every year Mahtowin Munro’s organization holds a National Day of Mourning in Plymouth, Massachusetts, to honor Native ancestors and current struggles of Native people. Schools only teach Thanksgiving through the Pilgrims’ point of view instead of the Wampanoags’. I think if schools taught it through the Wampanoags’ eyes, people would understand better why Native Americans do not appreciate this day. I think this day should be a time to admit mistakes and give back to the Native Americans for the struggles this day has caused them.

 

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