The Thanksgiving Myth: Not a Bad Start

The Thanksgiving Myth: Not a Bad Start

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The first feast related to our current national holiday, which we call Thanksgiving, was celebrated in either October or November of 1621. The feast included around 50 English Separatists (of Mayflower fame) held at their Plymouth Plantation, and nearly 100 Wampanoag Indians. In addition to Wampanoag oral history, there are just a few original sources for the first Thanksgiving celebration in America but they all seem to agree on several things.

But beyond the “facts” of history remains the American Myth of Thanksgiving. The myth neglects the rest of the story between English settlers and Indigenous peoples. It presents the “First Thanksgiving” as a template some people would like to lay as a false basis for all Indian-White relations in America. Unfortunately, the attitude of presumed superiority on the part of the English is totally neglected in the myth. The Pilgrim’s false claim to have an a priori right to an already occupied land is also missing from the existing myth. Regardless of these other facts, I have to ask, “how many stories do we have in American history of Indigenous peoples and settlers sharing a better start?” Not many.

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