The untold history of Thanksgiving

What’s missing from Thanksgiving dinner?

Shelby Cross, Online Reporter

What children are being taught about Thanksgiving in school isn’t the whole truth. It’s factual for the most part, however there are major events that followed the first Thanksgiving that are being excluded or ignored on a regular basis by the American education system.

Many explorers visited America in the early days, including the Norse, who arrived in Greenland over 1,000 years ago. The first Thanksgiving took place after a shipload of pilgrims arrived in what they called “The New World,” from England. However, it wasn’t completely new. They were greeted by the Wampanoag tribe, which is a part of the larger group, the Algonquian. Ousamequin, better known by his title “Massasoit,” was the leader of the tribe at the time.

Children are told that Native Americans taught pilgrims how to farm the crops native to the region, and when the season was over and all of the crops were harvested they had a three day long harvest festival and invited the Native Americans to thank them for their role in the pilgrim’s bountiful harvest.

To children, this shows that white people provided food for the Natives once they gained their new skills. This is sending an inaccurate message, making the European forefathers seem less harmful than history has proven them to be. As told in an article on, Ousamequin sent a party of “several men to hunt deer as a gift to the English for their feast.”

This article also states that the pilgrims had already been celebrating Thanksgiving prior to coming to America for their religious practices.

To keep children from getting confused, they associate the food the first Thanksgiving consisted of with foods they would recognize today, for example turkey, cranberries, squash and potatoes. However, during the first Thanksgiving they’re said to have eaten foods such as duck, deer and shellfish.

The years to follow would prove to be devastating to Native Americans. As more European settlers arrived, Natives were being slaughtered regularly.

After Europe heard about what America had to offer, greedy settlers arrived to claim their “new” land and consequently began a centuries long killing spree of Native peoples. It only took one generation for this to begin after the first Thanksgiving.

According to National Geographic’s first Thanksgiving article, Abraham Lincoln declared each fourth Thursday in November to be the national holiday Thanksgiving, starting in 1863 “to give thanks for ‘general blessings.’”

Modern-day Thanksgiving is far from where the holiday began. The media has shifted focus from the history of the holiday to things like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and football games.

This is one of the many distractions the U.S. has used to ignore the horror European ancestors inflicted on Native Americans. For example, students don’t learn about U.S. offering bounties for Native American bodies, resulting in the mass genocide of millions of Native Americans in school, only that settlers spread diseases due to Natives not being exposed to viruses that European immune systems had already overcome.

Becoming aware of the history of Thanksgiving is not only respectful, it’s also a step forward in American culture. Thanksgiving’s origin is important for Americans to understand.

Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks for loved ones and the little things in life.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Shelby Cross
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The untold history of Thanksgiving

by Shelby Cross time to read: 2 min