The following is a post by four authors and appreciators of Native American history who would like to honor the rich heritage of those who inhabited America long before the authors’ ancestors arrived.
There’s a great Smithsonian Magazine article titled “The Myths of the Thanksgiving Story and the Damage They Imbue” that includes an interview with historian David Silverman about his book on the subject.
Here are two biggies:
The arrival of Pilgrims via the Mayflower represented a first contact between Europeans and the Wampanoags who lived in that area.
“Wampanoags had a century of contact with Europeans–it was bloody and it involved slave raiding by Europeans. At least two and maybe more Wampanoags, when the Pilgrims arrived, spoke English, had already been to Europe and back and knew the very organizers of the Pilgrims’ venture.
The Native Americans and Europeans sat down to dinner to enjoy the harvest.
“Wampanoag leader Ousamequin reached out to the English at Plymouth and wanted an alliance with them. But it’s not because he was innately friendly. It’s because his people have been decimated by an epidemic disease, and Ousamequin sees the English as an opportunity to fend off his tribal rebels.”
The idea of Thanksgiving was actually a PR ploy pushed by Pilgrim descendants in 1769, long after the Pilgrims arrived. People liked the idea, however, which is why it caught on. President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday during the Civil War to foster unity.
The two biggest takeaways are that 1) Native American history didn’t begin with the Pilgrims, but 12,000 years before, and 2) the arrival of the Pilgrims led to the decimation of the Wampanoag.
Martha Engber, author of THE FALCON, THE WOLF AND THE HUMMINGBIRD
Leslie K. Simmons, author of RED CLAY, RUNNING WATERS
Michael Ross, author of ACROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE
J. Stanion, author of MY PLACE AMONG THEM