False Thanksgiving feast painting illustrating the pilgrims feasting with Native Americans. (Graphic by Sandra Cruz)
False Thanksgiving feast painting illustrating the pilgrims feasting with Native Americans.

Graphic by Sandra Cruz

OPINION: When will we teach the real, brutal history behind Thanksgiving?

November 11, 2020

*Columns are the opinions of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wichitan as an organization.*

Growing up in America, we are taught about Thanksgiving as a holiday to remember the peaceful gathering of pilgrims and Native Americans. In elementary school, I remember my teacher giving the students a coloring sheet with a cartoon pilgrim hugging a Native and telling the class our Thanksgiving experiences. Schools teach us about one story on Thanksgiving which is just a candy-coated version of what really happened: the real story about bloodshed and colonists converting Natives to their version of a “real” American. Thanksgiving has nothing to do with Native Americans and all about a story of supposed unity created by old men with the need to dominate and take over the land.

Many Native Americans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving because of the genocide and whitewashing of their ancestors by colonists and I absolutely agree. Some celebrate the holiday but in their own way which celebrates their heritage. I love this way of celebrating Thanksgiving because of the connection to their ancestors whose heritage was almost taken away completely. Being a Native American in a predominantly white family can leave some mixed feelings because we’re celebrating a holiday made up by white colonists. However, I cannot blame my family or millions of other families in the country, because this is the fairy tale we were told, that it’s a day of family and coming together with loved ones. I am not saying I’m against this unity, but I am against the story behind it.

Most American children will be raised to the story of pilgrims and Natives gathering to eat dinner in harmony, but the reality is the “story” is the first official mention of Thanksgiving was following the colonist massacring the Pequot tribe. Over a hundred years later when George Washington tried starting the Thanksgiving holiday, the celebration called for giving thanks and prayer, not a celebration of unity among Natives and colonists. Many stories contribute to the creation of Thanksgiving, but none of them mention the massacres and land-grabbing against the Natives. Indigenous people were not even allowed to be citizens until 1924. They weren’t considered citizens of a country they resided in before colonists. If this doesn’t show how little the country cared about Indigenous people, I don’t know what will.

So when will schools start teaching the real story about Thanksgiving? I’m not sure, but I do know it will take many teachers and scholars to educate others on what really happened on Thanksgiving. There was definitely no thanks given to the Natives, but maybe by raising awareness and proper education, Indigenous people will be recognized properly.

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  • A

    anmousNov 12, 2021 at 1:52 PM


    • A

      Andrew BrownOct 6, 2022 at 9:09 AM

      I know Right 😭

  • M

    Marie Jean-BaptisteNov 26, 2020 at 7:00 PM


  • A

    Annette OwingsNov 13, 2020 at 2:29 PM

    The government is still taking native land. When the children were put in cages, it was reminiscent of what was done with the native children after we were given parcels of our own land to live on. A whole nation seemed too busy to deal with it because of the daily chaos from the White House. Don’t let foreign powers dictate our lives, especially when the goal is genocide, any way, shape, or form.

  • J

    Jason WilliamsNov 13, 2020 at 2:17 PM

    it’s very true the down play of whites taking land and murdering millions of natives. I learned alot about my tribe and how things came to be well before jr high. but in junior high the history teacher was teaching false and i couldn’t handle it. i then began a debate that infuriated the teacher. it ended in me being suspended for a lil while but i did get many other kids to actually investigate the truth themselves. many of them finding truth for the first time. I do wish the white education department should be honest no matter how ugly the truth is. millions of Native Americans were slaughtered to allow white folks to establish and grow this country we live in. among slaves of different descent helping to build the country for white folk. the truth should be told. The honest reality is they cant stomach to retell the genocide of Natives to steal thier land.
    This country was built on lies, deceit, and murder.
    I encourage everyone to truly research and seek the truth above all.

    • J

      JanNov 25, 2021 at 7:25 AM

      If ten thousand is not enough, then it becomes one hundred thousand, and if still no one pauses, suddenly stories suggest millions. Is there any written record or oral story telling about famous past (no one fact checking because they are dead). What is the population estimate during the early settlement? How many tribes and their sizes at that time? Usually it is just concluded into “Native Americans” (not sure why caps) and “huge number”. Much more constructive (and impactful) would be to name: 50 000 of tribe A, 35 000 of tribe B,… killed.