The Truth Behind Thanksgiving
By: Giselle Dalili ’20
While many people currently think of Thanksgiving as a holiday to give thanks, the widely unknown origin is much more dismal. In November 1621, a group of English separatists anchored their ship, the Mayflower, and began their voyage to settle in Plymouth. Many modern sources exaggerate the morals of the original settlers, or pilgrims, and make them seem cooperative and open to the indigenous people and their culture. In reality, the pilgrims were barbaric and invasive to the land and culture of the Native Americans. The pilgrims enslaved and infected Native Americans with smallpox, nearly wiping out their population. The surviving Native Americans attempted to be welcoming to the newcomers and taught them important skills like fishing. After a year of settling in Plymouth, the pilgrims held a great feast in honor of the Native Americans, which many romanticize as the whole story behind the Thanksgiving holiday.
In an online survey sent to the Middle School, 88 percent of respondents said they learned all they know about Thanksgiving in elementary school. Many elementary schools explain the holiday with a peaceful take on the event, which impairs how people should perceive and act in regards to Thanksgiving at a young age.
“My school taught me that Thanksgiving was a celebration of the union between the pilgrims and Europeans, but now I realize it wasn’t. It is sad that they made the history of Thanksgiving seem positive and heartwarming, when it’s true history is important to know,” Katie Mumford ’20 said.
Similar to Thanksgiving, Columbus Day has a tragic historical background that we should acknowledge. Many respondents believe it is the same if not worse than Thanksgiving because it is the celebration of a man who decimated a great majority of a population using brutal torture and disease.
The way Thanksgiving is perceived and the true history behind the holiday are very different. Thanksgiving is a fun and positive holiday that we should not condemn because of its history. We need to understand its true meaning, rather than the one we have been taught in the past by our schools. When schools and families discuss Thanksgiving in regards to its history, they should not sugarcoat what happened, but rather tell it as it occurred so that we can learned from it. School should teach the reality of Thanksgiving similar to how we do with other tragic historical events. Most schools in America dilute specific occurrences in regards to history when they should they should do the exact opposite. One of the main purposes of teaching history in schools is to inform the youth of experiences that have occurred in the past so that in the future, they will not happen again. Thanksgiving’s history is one example of how we as a country can progress.
Nevertheless, society has rebranded the holiday. In modern times, Thanksgiving is a holiday to remind us to give thanks and spend time with our loved ones. For this reason, we should not forget the event that led to Thanksgiving but promote the positive meaning of it and be inclusive in regards to family and friends.