It’s not just about the turkey

Mashed potatoes, green beans, turkey, pumpkin pie, macaroni and cheese—these are the things that we associate with Thanksgiving. The warmth of the food and the company of loved ones filling the room bring us feelings of happiness and gratitude. Thanksgiving originated from the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving in 1621, where they celebrated their harvest and the blessings from the previous years. Thanksgiving is the time where families gather around, travel to meet up and celebrate the annual holiday and express their gratitude for things they have overcome or gained in the past year. But is Thanksgiving really about people coming together, sharing different dishes and giving thanks, or is there more to Thanksgiving than what the name implies? 

When the Pilgrims arrived and established the Plymouth colony, they found themselves struggling to survive on this “new land.” The Native Americans aided them by teaching the Plymouth colony how to harvest crops so they would have a means of food. After a successful first harvest, the first Thanksgiving was hosted. Attendees were made up of ninety men from the tribe of Wampanpag and fifty passengers from the Mayflower. We were taught this in our primary school years. While this is correct, the harmony and peace did not last very long between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. Because the Mayflower survivors were successful, and successfully established themselves on the land, other English settlers caught wind of the news and soon began to arrive on the “new land.”

After the first Thanksgiving, the peace between the natives and Pilgrims took a turn for the worst. The English began to seize land, capturing strong native people, enslaving them and killing those who they viewed as unfit. In 1637 over 700 men, women, and children of the Pequot Tribe gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival, which was around the same time Thanksgiving was celebrated. Just before dawn, English men surrounded the Pequot Tribe, ordered them to come out of their sleeping quarters and killed all who came out. Those who remained inside were mostly women and children, and they were burned down with their homes as well. After the wretched event, the following day was declared “A day of Thanksgiving.” That was the beginning of the Pilgrims driving natives off of their own land. Regardless of the stories we were told throughout the time we were growing up, there will always be facts that may not add up and simply may not be true.

The truth is we were not alive at that time.Therefore we will always rely on storytelling because that will get us closer to the truth than anything else. The celebration of Thanksgiving overall has changed throughout the course of history. Families of different cultures celebrate the annual holiday differently, and others may not celebrate the holiday at all. Those who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving may use this day to mourn those who lost their lives in the Thanksgiving Massacre. This is certainly something on which we should continue to educate ourselves. Along with showing our gratitude this holiday, we should also pay our respects to the natives who were brutally and unexpectedly killed. Savages are those who see and hear the truth but turn a blind eye to preserve the image of their ancestors.

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