Thanksgiving is drawing near, and most everyone will be home with their families eating an abundance of food. But not everyone realizes that Thanksgiving is a holiday with a deep history.
Let’s go back to the first Thanksgiving. Most children are taught in school that the Pilgrims left England and landed on Plymouth Rock, and with the help of Native Americans, they learned to harvest and cultivate crops. While that’s true, that’s not the whole story.
The real origin of Thanksgiving lies in a slaughter of Native Americans, ones who were celebrating their own version of Thanksgiving in Connecticut. The Pequot tribe were slaughtered, not by the Pilgrims but by a group of Puritans. Over 700 of them were murdered by the Puritans and thereafter the governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony declared that the day of the slaughter would be a day of “thanksgiving” for having killed the Natives they thought were so beneath them, according to “Cooking the History Books: The Thanksgiving Massacre” on the Republic of Lakotah website.
Later, President Lincoln deemed Thanksgiving a national holiday. But only after he hung 38 Sioux on Christmas Eve in 1863.
The Thanksgiving that we celebrate today, of course, isn’t a celebration of a genocide. As Americans, we have turned the celebration into something different. It’s a day to celebrate our family and all the things we have in life, including food with a large dinner.
The truth is, most of us don’t know the entire origin of the holiday and even I had always thought of it as a great feast of peace between the English and the Native Americans. And while that’s not true, I think we can still celebrate that day in our own way.
However, it is important to learn the history behind it. What our ancestors did to the Pequot tribe was terrible and by learning what had happened to the Pequot and acknowledging that it was wrong, we can vow to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again. And we can also give the Pequot and Sioux the respect they deserve.
It is also important because we can acknowledge the racism and prejudice that Native Americans received and still receive to this day. If we acknowledge this, we can greater understand where it stems from and celebrate a Thanksgiving that is separate from those horrific events in which created the holiday.