Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

Here’s a link to an article on the true history of Thanksgiving. It is likely this is not the story you’ve been told.  www.aaanativearts.com/article937.html

Here’s the most important thing we took from this article:

…Over the centuries, Thanksgiving has become a special day to join with loved ones in an offering of thanks for our blessings. Some give their time to help with the homeless and hungry. It is now a day of giving, and of honor, and of true thanksgiving.

In your Thanksgivings to come, I would ask that you offer a silent prayer for the spirits of those who were sacrificed so long ago. You and I did not commit these atrocities, and we are certainly not responsible for the behavior of our ancestors be they red, white, black or yellow.

However, we are charged with the responsibility of learning our true history, and of having the courage to behave with honor and dignity toward our fellow man. If the lessons of history are not learned, they will repeat themselves.

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If you are an educator or parent who teaches children about Thanksgiving, here is a MUST READ article offering a differing perspective and resources on the puritan/Indian mythology surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday.


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Foods Available to the Pilgrims for their 1621 Thanksgiving from www.nativeamericans.com/Thanksgiving.htm

FISH:  cod, bass, herring, shad, bluefish, and lots of eel.

SEAFOOD:  clams, lobsters, mussels, and very small quantities of oysters

BIRDS:  wild turkey, goose, duck, crane, swan, partridge, and other miscellaneous waterfowl; they were also known to have occasionally eaten eagles (which “tasted like mutton” according to Winslow in 1623.)

OTHER MEAT:  venison (deer), possibly some salt pork or chicken.

GRAIN:  wheat flour, Indian corn and corn meal; barley (mainly for beer-making).

FRUITS:  raspberries, strawberries, grapes, plums, cherries, blueberries, gooseberries (these would have been dried, as none would have been in season).

VEGETABLES:  small quantity of peas, squashes (including pumpkins), beans

NUTS:  walnuts, chestnuts, acorns, hickory nuts, ground nuts

HERBS and SEASONINGS: onions, leeks, strawberry leaves, currants, sorrel, yarrow, carvel, brooklime, liverwort, watercress, and flax; from England they brought seeds and probably planted radishes, lettuce, carrots, onions, and cabbage.  Olive oil in small quantities may have been brought over, though the Pilgrims had to sell most of their oil and butter before sailing, in order to stay on budget.

OTHER:  maple syrup, honey; small quantities of butter, Holland cheese; and eggs.

Some perhaps startling omissions from the authentic Thanksgiving menu

Ham.  (The Pilgrims most likely did not have pigs with them).

Sweet Potatoes-Potatoes-Yams.  (These had not yet been introduced to New England).

Corn on the cob. (Indian corn was only good for making cornmeal, not eating on the cob).

Popcorn.  (Contrary to popular folklore, popcorn was not introduced at the 1621 Thanksgiving.  Indian corn could only be half-popped, and this wouldn’t have tasted very good.)

Cranberry sauce.  (Cranberries were available, but sugar was not.)

Pumpkin Pie:  (They probably made a pumpkin pudding of sorts, sweetened by honey or syrup, which would be like the filling of a pumpkin pie, but there would be no crust or whipped topping.)

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Thanksgiving presents a special challenge to school teachers who want to discuss the holiday without resorting to biased information about Native American history and culture. To prepare parents for an anti-bias curricular approach, educators may wish to use or adapt the letter below.

Dear Parents:

As a part of our anti-bias curriculum, we are taking a careful look at how we discuss and celebrate Thanksgiving with students. As you may know, many Native American images found on Thanksgiving cards, decorations, and school materials are very stereotypic. They are often based on a “composite” view of Native Americans rather than on accurate and diverse Native American lifestyles and traditions. As a consequence, Thanksgiving imagery serves to teach and reinforce children’s misinformation and stereotypic thinking about Native Americans, laying a foundation for later prejudice.

Moreover, the story of Thanksgiving is usually told from only one side — that of the European pilgrims who came to America. Rarely is it told from the perspective of the people who were already here. As a result, the role played by Native Americans in helping the pilgrims to survive is often downplayed or ignored. To many Native Americans today, Thanksgiving is a day of mourning because it is a reminder that in return for their help, they were repaid with theft of their land and the genocide of their people.

What, then, do we propose to do? We do not advocate the elimination of Thanksgiving from our curriculum. Instead, we strive to help children understand that Thanksgiving means different things to different people. We will explain that some families celebrate Thanksgiving and others do not, and we will explain why (in language appropriate for children). We will also discuss how Thanksgiving cards and decorations sometimes misrepresent Native Americans and lead them to feel hurt or offended.

What we teach about Thanksgiving is part of a larger effort to help students learn accurate information about Native Americans of the past and present. Our goal is to counter misleading portrayals in children’s books, television shows, and movies (e.g., Westerns), so that students do not acquire stereotypes that promote racism later in life. As part of this effort, we do not permit students to role-play cowboys and Indians (the historic enemy of Indians was not cowboys, but the U.S. government — some of the first cowboys were actually Indians). Furthermore, we want to make sure students understand that being an Indian is not a role, but part of a person’s identity.

If you are not sure what your child or children think about Native Americans, this Thanksgiving may be a good time to find out. You might ask questions such as:


  • “What do you know about Native Americans?”
  • “Would you like to have a Native American friend?”
  • “Where do Native Americans live today?” (most live off reservations)
  • “Can Native Americans vote in U.S. elections?” (yes, they are citizens)

For Thanksgiving, you might also consider giving a multicultural book about Native Americans or other groups. As we give thanks this season, we hope you will find ways within your family to reinforce these lessons and help instill in our children an appreciation and accurate understanding of all cultures.



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www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/623 – Great resource for teaching about Thanksgiving!

Learning activities surrounding Thanksgiving need, above all, to be historically accurate. In order to understand the first Thanksgiving, students need to have a good sense of its historical context — the religious beliefs of the Pilgrims, the culture of the Wampanoag people who lived in the Plymouth area before European colonization, the foods and cultural practices at the first Thanksgiving feast, and the ways in which the relationships between colonists and Native Americans evolved after 1621.

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The National Day of Mourning



On Thanksgiving Day, many Native Americans and their supporters gather at the top of Coles Hill, overlooking Plymouth Rock, for the “National Day of Mourning.”


The first National Day of Mourning was held in 1970. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts invited Wampanoag leader Frank James to deliver a speech. When the text of Mr. James’ speech, a powerful statement of anger at the history of oppression of the Native people of America, became known before the event, the Commonwealth “disinvited” him. That silencing of a strong and honest Native voice led to the convening of the National Day of Mourning.


The historical event we know today as the “First Thanksgiving” was a harvest festival held in 1621 by the Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors and allies. It has acquired significance beyond the bare historical facts. Thanksgiving has become a much broader symbol of the entirety of the American experience. Many find this a cause for rejoicing. The dissenting view of Native Americans, who have suffered the theft of their lands and the destruction of their traditional way of life at the hands of the American nation, is equally valid.


To some, the “First Thanksgiving” presents a distorted picture of the history of relations between the European colonists and their descendants and the Native People. The total emphasis is placed on the respect that existed between the Wampanoags led by the sachem Massasoit and the first generation of Pilgrims in Plymouth, while the long history of subsequent violence and discrimination suffered by Native People across America is nowhere represented.


To others, the event shines forth as an example of the respect that was possible once, if only for the brief span of a single generation in a single place, between two different cultures and as a vision of what may again be possible someday among people of goodwill.


History is not a set of “truths” to be memorized, history is an ongoing process of interpretation and learning. The true richness and depth of history come from multiplicity and complexity, from debate and disagreement and dialogue. There is room for more than one history; there is room for many voices.


Article courtesy of the Pilgrim Hall Museum

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