Thanksgiving: Should we really be giving thanks?

Olivia Woo

Thanksgiving. A holiday full of meals with loved ones, tales of pilgrims and Native Americans, and of course, giving thanks. To many, this holiday is one that is celebrated with little to no thought. Unfortunately, while the idea of Thanksgiving is sweet and happy, the controversial topic is not all turkeys and gravy. Many people believe that it is a made up story that claims peace, when the opposite happened in real life. 

In 1621, the Wampanoag helped the first wave of Puritans when they arrived on their shores. They showed them how to grow crops, hunt, and basically, how to survive.

When the idea of a Thanksgiving celebration was first mentioned, it was in 1637, after the colonists massacred an entire Pequot village. The colonists wanted to congratulate themselves on their “brutal victory” with a celebration. 

One student, who would prefer to stay anonymous, said, “The history behind Thanksgiving and its origins are why I see it as negative. No virtuous person would do what the Puritans did to Native Americans. I think that anyone who knows about this story should spread the word.”

During the Progressive Era (1896–1916), Americans feared being displaced after murdering indigenous people. So, they began coming up with ways to define “Americanism” for new immigrants.

One of these ways was the whitewashed, sanitized story of Thanksgiving. It told a story of colonizers and tribes living peacefully together. It, of course, failed to mention the amount of death, destruction, and land-grabbing that occurred. This biased version of history is now told everywhere around the world. 

History teacher Mr. Fitzgerald stated, “Thanksgiving is controversial because a lot of people think it’s a myth. So that story of pilgrims and Native Americans getting along peacefully, many think that it’s made up.”

This is the Thanksgiving story told around the world. But is it actually true? (Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, Wikimedia Commons)

Beatty students were asked about their opinions on Thanksgiving.

17 students identified the holiday as positive. They enjoyed the holiday because it allowed them to spend time with family, give thanks, and take a break from school.

“I see Thanksgiving as a positive holiday because it is a time when family and friends come together and give thanks and share what they are grateful for,” said one 7th grade student—who wishes to stay anonymous.

“This is often overlooked daily. You take what you have for granted sometimes. So Thanksgiving is a good reminder to be grateful for what we have.”

     8 students think of Thanksgiving as a negative holiday. They called it a violent, made up story, and a celebration of death. 

 Those who considered Thanksgiving as positive were not familiar with the gruesome roots of the beloved holiday, and were shocked when told the truth. They thought it told a story of peace and happiness, just like most people who grew up hearing this. 

When informed, one student confessed, “I had no idea that Thanksgiving has such a horrible story behind it. I always grew up listening to stories about pilgrims and Native Americans helping each other and getting along, so I’ve never thought otherwise.”

The story that is told today neglects to add the amount of bloodshed and pain that occurred in real life, instead having been made for the sake of unity. 

So does Thanksgiving really have anything to do with the Native Americans? Or is it a lie that has been passed on for generations?