Beyond Turkey: The Truth Behind Thanksgiving

"Thanks for the dinner."  "Thanks for the land!"  Cartoon: Reynoso
“Thanks for the dinner.” “Thanks for the land!” Cartoon: Reynoso


Thanksgiving. What do you think of when you hear that word? You probably think about eating lots of food with your family and friends. However, did you know that Thanksgiving has a hidden story?

The true history of Thanksgiving shows some embarrassing facts. Our history books tell us that the first Thanksgiving was a peaceful celebration in 1621 that included the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock and the local Native Americans. The purpose of the feast was for the Pilgrims to thank the Native Americans for teaching them how to grow crops and allowing them to live in peace.

While this is true, this is not the reason Thanksgiving became a national holiday. In fact, the very same Pilgrims who shared the “first” Thanksgiving later took over Native American lands, robbed them of all of their valuables, enslaved many young Native Americans, and then killed the rest. This first Thanksgiving did not become an annual event for Pilgrims.

In 1641, the Dutch governor of Manhattan and the Puritans joined forces to get rid of all Native American villages in New England. Village after village was attacked and destroyed. Each town across New England then began to hold thanksgiving days to celebrate their own victories over the “savages.”

President George Washington proposed the idea of making Thanksgiving a national celebration, but it wasn’t until 1863 that we began to celebrate Thanksgiving each year as a nation.

You may ask yourself why our history books might stretch the truth in order to make a shameful history something to be celebrated. Perhaps we can make a goal to observe Thanksgiving in a way that respects our history for what it was and honor those whose true story is not told each Thanksgiving.

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Yulissa and Noelia are 11th graders at the ACORN Community High School in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY

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