By Sam Isenberg, Senior
Thanksgiving is a time of year where people reconcile their differences and come together to give thanks. While the modern Thanksgiving is a time to come together, its past suggests something much darker. The origins of the first Thanksgiving reek of imperialism and deceit from the early American colonizers.
These questions arise: Are modern people ignorant for celebrating Thanksgiving? Do we celebrate a holiday promoting the imperialism practiced by our ancestors, or has the holiday evolved and taken on a new meaning?
The 17th century was a dark time for Native Americans. According to History.com, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated between the Wampanoag tribe and colonizing Europeans at the Plymouth colony. The story that is told about the event always romanticizes the harmony between groups. The story of the First Thanksgiving is taught as if it were the truth. Maya Salem’s New York Times article “Most Everything You Learned About Thanksgiving is Wrong,” there is not even evidence that the Wampanoag people were even invited to the first Thanksgiving Feast. However, the settlers only had two things on their mind, land and Christianity. Nothing could interfere with the imperialist wrath of the Europeans. Despite their previous relationship, the Wampanoag and their land soon became a target of the Europeans during the King Philip's War, according to History.com.
Fast forward a few centuries and Thanksgiving is founded. According to an article by David Jackson, journalist for USA Today, after many successful Union victories during the Civil War, President Lincoln declared a new national holiday, Thanksgiving, which was celebrated November 26, 1863, and henceforth, every fourth Thursday of November. Abraham Lincoln intended this holiday to “heal the wounds of the nation.” Lincoln wanted to establish this holiday in order to put aside the strife of the nation, for us all to come together in harmony and make amends.
While the history of the First Thanksgiving is rooted in bloodshed and imperialism, it still represents the need for cooperation and acceptance. We cannot bury the history of our ancestors, but we can certainly correct the mistakes that they have made. So, enjoy your turkey and celebrate as a family, but know that the innocent Thanksgiving history you learned as a child is far from the truth.
History.com Editors. “History of Thanksgiving.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 27 October 2009, https://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving
History.com Editors. “King Philip’s War.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 9 Nov 2009,
Jackson, David. “Abraham Lincoln, Father of the Thanksgiving Holiday.” USA Today. 26 Nov 2013,
Salam, Maya. “Most Everything You Learned About Thanksgiving Is Wrong.” New York Times, 21
Nov 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/21/us/thanksgiving-myths-fact-check.html