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About Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims, and the Indians

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The Real Story of the First Thanksgiving

What do we really know about Thanksgiving? How often do we celebrate the holiday without ever giving real thought to the meaning of giving thanks. As Americans, we are taught in elementary school about the first Thanksgiving in 1621, a harvest celebration that took place in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Our parents and teachers dress us up like the Pilgrims and the Indians and make us pretend we are friends. But the friendship between the Pilgrims and the Indians was a one-way friendship. The Indians treated the Pilgrims as friends and the Pilgrims stole their land.

Those people who became known as the Pilgrims were a group of people who escaped religious persecution in England on a small ship called the Mayflower and came to America. When they arrived in Plymouth, they soon realized that they were unprepared for the harsh winter and were facing starvation. Had it not been for the kindness and generosity of the Wampanoag Indians, they would not have survived. The Wampanoag taught them to live off the land, to hunt and find food within nature’s bounty. Soon afterwards, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag would sign a treaty of friendship.

In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims had reason to celebrate. They had survived the winter and applied the lessons of the Wampanoag, resulting in a bountiful autumn harvest. The land had provided food for all and when the harvest was complete, they shared a meal with some of their Wampanoag friends. This, was the first Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, A Day of Mourning for Native Americans

History has a way of becoming more aesthetic with time and what was forgotten in the history books was the sacrifice of Wampanoag land that would result from their kindness. History has forgotten that the Indians were here when the Mayflower arrived. They lived in harmony with the land, never taking more from it than was needed. The Wampanoag, like all Native Americans, never felt that they were owners of the land. Rather, they saw themselves as caretakers of the land that provided for all their needs. The Treaty of Friendship was perceived by the Wampanoag as a gesture of good will but to the European mind, it was a title of ownership. In the mind of the Pilgrims, they now owned the land. The Treaty would become the method used to steal Indian land across the United States territories and would eventually be the catalyst for forced relocation of Indians on government designated reservations. It is a sad part of our history and for the Indian, Thanksgiving is a day of mourning, not a day of celebration.

The Wampanoag Indians and Pilgrims
The Wampanoag Indians and Pilgrims | Source


Where is the truth and what has happened to the true meaning of our holiday traditions?

Historians have rewritten history in favor of the dominant society and commerce has capitalized on the our weakness to own things. Most of our holidays have been reduced to little more than marketing opportunities. Is it any wonder that holidays have lost their real significance? The retail industry fast forwards us from Halloween to Christmas as the skeletons and witches are replaced by reindeer and elves. Christmas jingles appear on our television screens at the end of October and stay until after the New Year. Did someone forget Thanksgiving? No, it wasn’t forgotten. It was ignored because it is not a historical holiday that we should be proud of and, it isn’t a holiday that requires giving gifts. It does not feed the retailers. Only the grocery stores benefit from the Thanksgiving holiday.

  • Stop any American on the street and ask them if they know the history of Thanksgiving. Most will tell you it is the day that the Pilgrims and Indians shared a meal.
  • Ask them if they spend the day giving thanks and most will tell you no, that they eat too much, watch a football game or the Macy’s Parade, or, go hunting.
  • Most, if asked, will tell you that yes, they do say a prayer of gratitude over their Thanksgiving meal but that is about as much “thanks” as any of us put into the holiday we call Thanksgiving.

Two rooms, no heat, no water, 15 residents, no transportation, no grass,
Two rooms, no heat, no water, 15 residents, no transportation, no grass, | Source
One bedroom, no heat, single mom with 4 kids
One bedroom, no heat, single mom with 4 kids | Source
9 of 14 grandchildren living with 89 year old grandfather, parent dead or drunk, no heat, no water, two room house
9 of 14 grandchildren living with 89 year old grandfather, parent dead or drunk, no heat, no water, two room house | Source

Forced Relocation, Oppression, and the Future

Obviously, we’ve gotten it all wrong. Perhaps we should reconsider the Thanksgiving holiday and recognize it as the Native Americans do, a day of mourning. The real history of the holiday does not warrant a celebration. Nothing good came from rounding up Native Americans and forcing them to live on reservations. Just ask them. Most reservations are little more than land that has been stripped of its ability to sustain life through mining. For many reservations, the natural water resources have been polluted by big industry. Jobs don’t come to reservation lands because most are located in remote areas without convenient access to major highways, rail, or shipping industries. The only thing that thrives on most reservation land is alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide. Education and health care on most reservations are substandard at best. Domestic and sexual abuse are the result of isolation and oppression and access to healthy food doesn’t exist. Most reservation land is incapable of sustaining a healthy life or, a healthy attitude.

So, what is there to celebrate about this holiday? It is a holiday that paved the way for a European invasion of Indian land. It was the first step in forcing the First People of America to give up a lifestyle in which they had lived in harmony with the land; the land that provided their food, clothing, and shelter for centuries.


If we can rewrite history so easily, perhaps we should begin rewriting the script for the holidays. Perhaps we should celebrate Thanksgiving as a Day of mourning and designate every day of the year as a day of giving thanks. Until we can rewrite the script, maybe we can begin setting the record straight by modifying our traditions just a bit.

Would it be so difficult to sit down at our Thanksgiving dinner and remember the American Indian who honored the treaty, even though the Europeans did not?


Can you find it in your heart to remember the First People of America in your Thanksgiving prayer; to ask for healing and abundance and life for those whose ancestors sacrificed their homes and land?


Will you teach your children the truth about this holiday? Will you teach them that it is a day of mourning for Native Americans?

New Opportunities to Give Thanks

Our calendar year contains 365 days in which we can celebrate a real day of giving thanks. Pick one. Pick two. Or, embrace every day as a day to give thanks for all the blessings that we have in our lives.

As a dreamer, I dream of a world in which we celebrate each other, the love of family, our relationship to nature, and our ability to feel emotion and passion. There are things in your life that I have no experience with that are blessings in your life. Aren’t they worthy of a day all their own; a day they do not have to share with a football game or a Christmas parade on the television?

Create your own celebration on a day that you choose to be thankful. Prepare a meal and invite someone who is alone to share it with you. Every tradition began with one person doing one thing. This is your chance to start a tradition for your family that can be passed down to future generations. I wish you a blessed day of giving thanks.


* If you have trouble finding something to give thanks for, read the captions under the photos above.


Read more of my hubs here.

Comments 32 comments

mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

You have written a wonderful Hub here. Hopefully, it will remind people just what Thanksgiving is all about.

I have always been sympathetic with the Indians. We took everything away from them.

I voted this Hub UP and will share.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

I delayed reading this because I wanted to see what the reaction would be....so here I am the first! LOL so much for my plans.

Well my dear, this is about as hard-hitting as they come, and painfully honest. I used to teach about this in my middle school history classes and each year I would get parents who were upset that I was revising history.

LOL....yes, Bill Holland, the great history revisionist!

Why do we even bother trying?

Well, you and I both know the answer to that one....because we are compelled to do so, and maybe, just maybe, we can educate others along the way.

Well done Linda! I'm with you all the way.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Mary, thanks for reading. I know this one will bother some people but I believe in telling the truth, even when it isn't pleasant. I appreciate your understanding that and for being here.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Well, Professor Holland, I am breathing easier now. Your first sentence stopped me in my tracks and I thought ..."oh no". I really am amused at myself sometimes. This was to be a hub about giving thanks. lol Sometimes I just can't suppress that real person that wants to scream about injustice. Honestly, I dreaded your reaction, knowing that you taught history. I should not have worried though because I also suspected that you had taught the real story. I know this one will be controversial but what the hell, I meant every word. :-)

Thanks for standing with me! I am a happy girl.


shiningirisheyes profile image

shiningirisheyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

Typical America history so often rewritten to reflect a wonderful happy ending. We slaughtered the Native Americans in Plymouth and throughout America. My Native American ancestors were the reason the Pilgrims were able to survive, as you so importantly state. And they repaid them by murdering and relocating them to land no one could possibly live on.

Although I am a true patriot, our country has a terrible history for persecuting so many races for the betterment of others. Then further persecuting them for being unable to make a proper life for themselves. It's so sad.

Fantastic write and I thank you. Sharing and voting up.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Shining! I am so glad you commented on this. Others will swear I am lying. This issue has been my passion for at least 4 decades and I will not stop fighting for American Indians and using whatever tools available. Hubpages has given me a new platform and I am going to use it. I really appreciate your comment today.


Michele Travis profile image

Michele Travis 4 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

Thank you for writing this hub and reminding us of the reality of the meaning of the "word" Thanksgiving. We did not GIVE thanks, we only took it.

Voted up.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Oh, Michele, I love the way you put it. Thank you so much!


galleryofgrace profile image

galleryofgrace 4 years ago from Virginia

Thanks, Linda, passing this on everywhere I can ! Thanks for writing it.

You go-girl!


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

GREAT JOB! You did a real good job on this. Thank you so much. We are both aware we will never really know the truth. No one took pictures those days and the natives were very poor at writing things down.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Hello galleryofgrace. It's been a while but I'm glad to see you again. I am so glad you liked this one and really appreciate your sharing it. It is my passion and mission in life to shed light on the horror of what happened to Native Americans, and, what is still happening.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Hi MH! You liked this one, did you? I'm so glad. No, there were no cameras but this i know....Indians were here first and have been oppressed since the arrival of the Europeans. I've seen it, touched it, smelled it, heard it, and felt it and it's just wrong. Natives didn't write very well in the 1600's but there were meticulous oral historians. And the real truth is that even today, they are still the victims of environmental and social genocide. That's real. I appreciate your comment though.


shiningirisheyes profile image

shiningirisheyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

They may not have taken picture but there is certified and well documented accounts from the white men themselves through THEIR own diaries and ledgers in THEIR hand writing, complete with detailed descriptions for relocation plans, attack plans and results and many many accounts of the Pilgrims taking many Native American children and women as slaves. Additionally, they burned the dead Native Americans after slaughter, usually in the same area they held the poor souls who had the misfortune to live. I am from two blood lines - Irish and Native American. I hale from both sides. The ones who helped to accomplish the terrible injustices and the ones who were victims to it. And yes, many "white" nationalities came over on those historic ships, Irish included.

My fathers great grandmother was a full blooded Native American Indian. She and my fathers great grandfather were persecuted by their entire town because of a "mixed" marriage and that was far into the future compared to the age of the Pilgrims. It still goes on to this day, as this fantastic well-researched hub indicates.

Well- now I'm all fired up so I'm sharing it again! (That was meant to be funny although I AM sharing it again.)


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

shining, you can get all fired up on my hubs on this subject anytime. I loved it. My friends are used to me doing it so I enjoyed every word and the louder you got, the better I liked it. Share it again if you want to. lol

By the way, my great grandfather came over from ireland on one of those ships and married an Indian woman too. His brother got so mad that he changed his name and moved away. :-)


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 years ago from Central Florida

Wow. White Man certainly deserves a slap of some kind and you threw the first punch, Linda. Your words are true and you have the balls to speak them. After reading this, I see America's greed and hunger for fame started way back in 1621. Shame on the White Man for turning kindness into selfish greed and degradation. Wow.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Shauna, this is my passion and I 'll go the distance for anyone that doesn't think Indians got the short end of the stick. All my friends in Indian country (all over the country) still have to deal with the remants of oppression and racism. Did you look at the photos above. I have real friends living in those houses and every time I visit I get more angry. I could tell you stories that would give you nightmares for weeks.

I'm so glad you understood this one. Many won't. Thanks girlfriend.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

This is an important and brave hub and I really hope it makes a lot of Americans hard think about their roots and what was done to the first owners of the US, the real Native American.

As the related descendants of those first settlers, so-called Pilgrims who felt they were free to take another’s land, us Brits have nothing to crow about but strangely we have always been aware of this issue. Perhaps because we do not celebrate Thanksgiving.

Most Brits who have any awareness of history know that the Pilgrim Fathers were far from blameless and that is to our shame too.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Hello Angie. Than you so much for reading and for adding to a very important discussion. I often find the Brits more realistic than Americans. It is a sad story, this one, and I felt it was time I said something "loudly". Thanks to HP, I have a new platform. :-)


rcrumple profile image

rcrumple 4 years ago from Kentucky

Linda - You've said a lot here that goes along strongly with the way I've felt for years. First, holidays have been so commercialized, we no longer recognize them for what they are ... celebrations. Instead of rushing and shopping on holidays, we should boycott those that feel the almighty dollar is more important than a celebration of spirit. Two or three years of boycotting would stop this whole mess, yet, many don't know the true meanings of holidays anyway. Next, the Native Americans never had a chance. They showed mercy and the Europeans showed the greed factor. Later, the United States validated its land theft as "Manifest Destiny" and proceeded to own all between the two coasts. We were brought up looking at the great chiefs as "bloodthirsty redskins", but in essence, they were Freedom Fighters forced to do battle for their very existence. We used to accuse a one time super power of changing history for their people, yet, we have done no different. Alas, we may not have to worry much longer. With the school kids only being taught according to government testing programs now, history will truly become a "thing of the past." Great Job!


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Rich, I was preaching to the choir with you, and that is obvious. I feel your passion for this subject and I certainly share it. You are so on target about what the kids will learn in the future. It is so sad. The American Indians were freedom fighters. Thank you for pointing that out. They didn't kill for the sake of killing. They fought to survive and what did we do, take their land, spread our diseases for which they had no immunity, and force them to live in squalid conditions. Well, not much has changed, has it?

Thank you for validating my thoughts. It sure helps to knowyou're not the only one that sees through the mask. Glad you came to visit today. Hope you have a great weekend.


Curiad profile image

Curiad 4 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

Linda, everything you have stated here I have known and taught all of my adult life. In return I have been alienated and scorned. But I do and will continue to teach the truth whenever and wherever I can. Your statement about sharing true thanks with one person or one time is simply truth and is the only thing that can possibly save out race. Love after all is the answer and Love is a gift we all have freely and abundantly.

Mark


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Hi Mark! Standing on the truth doesn't always make one popular does it? I knew when I wrote this one that I was opening the door for all kinds of challenges and criticism. To my surprise, there has been none. This makes me hopeful. :-) I applaud you my friend, for doing it right all along!


My2GreenBeans profile image

My2GreenBeans 4 years ago from PA

Thanks for this! I have been looking for something good to share about the realities behind Thanksgiving and what happened to Native Americans who we really need to thanking on this day! History needs to be taught correctly in classrooms - why do we refer to the pilgrims as "settlers"? The land was already settled by a highly developed society?


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Hello My2GreenBeans! What a great user id. :-)

Thanks for reading this. I hope it will be helpful for your purposes.


bodylevive profile image

bodylevive 4 years ago from Loachapoka, Alabama

Great hub. It's good to see that others know the truth whether it's told or not. Many do not see or recognize holidays for the real reason. Many see it as the day before black friday, how sad. This is a day as all days to join in prayer. My immediate family and I take part of the morning giving thanks because it is a blessing that we're still here to give thanks. I enjoyed reading your hub and I can't wait to read what you'll write for the next holiday.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Hello bodylevive! What a wonderful comment you have left me. I am so thankful for your visit and wish you and your family a blessed day of giving thanks!


ChrisStyles profile image

ChrisStyles 4 years ago from USA

I really like the idea of giving thanks every day and not just one day out o the year. Unfortunately, I am one of the many that gets caught up in the day to day stuff and I forget about just being thankful sometimes.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Hello Chris. Thanks for the visit. It's easy to get caught up in the madness, I do understand. I've worked at gratitude for quite a while and now it is second nature to me. I run through a list of things I'm grateful for while sipping that first cup of coffee, when I'm driving alone (it reduces my road rage), and at the end of the day, when I first get into bed. Those are rituals. But with practice, I realized that I was doing it throughout the day. For instance. Yesterday I couldn't write because my computer had been infected with a virus. Throughout the entire day, while I was struggling to fix the problem, I caught myself feeling grateful that I had power to run a computer, unlike many in the East who are still without. Three days ago, I lost my glasses (still can't find them) and was amazed when my thoughts turned to the fact that I had them in the first place, unlike many who can't afford to hae their eyes examined. With practice, it just happens. Hmmm, may be my hub for today. :-)


Sustainable Sue profile image

Sustainable Sue 3 years ago from Altadena CA, USA

I'm going to add a little cautionary note here. All white men were not the same. My direct ancestor was Gov. William Bradford, who invited the Wampanoag to that first Thanksgiving celebration. According to the diary of one of his assistants this group of Pilgrims were friends with the Wampanoag. They were grateful for the assistance given them and subsequently invited them to many celebrations, including weddings. I agree that the prevailing opinion of most Europeans was greed - enthusiasm and joy about their ability to finally "own" land, after years of oppression in their homelands, and a convenient ignoring of the fact that those who came before them already "owned" the land. It looked to them like there was so much of it, the Indians could share, but sharing turned to grabbing in the years after the first Pilgrims came. And subsequent waves of settlers broke agreements made by earlier settlers. Even so, there were many who left the white man's greed to live with and marry Native Americans. They don't get much talked about and probably should. That would also show respect for NAs. (BTW my family had a great time this Thanksgiving at our gathering. Best holiday ever!)


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 3 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Hello Sustainable Sue. I appreciate your comment and agree, not all white men were evil. The end result was the same however and treaties broken and an entire race ostracized, decimated, and almost obliterated through disease, slavery, and starvation. It is a sad part of our history and sadly, our present on many of the remaining Indian lands.

I am so glad that you had a wonderful day of Thanksgiving.


Ibidii 2 years ago

Awesome Hub Linda. Yes, we are stewards of the Land and we definitely need to give thanks every day. It is sad how History forgets some things and brushes them under the rug. I am thankful for books and those who write about true History. Thankful for the Internet to access this information as well. I am glad you wrote this to remind us all again to be more thankful for our past and those who taught us to be stewards of the land.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 2 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Ibidii . Thank you so much for the visit to this hub. It is important that we teach the real story and that we remember that for the Native American, that history is still much the present. We all need to walk in gratitude more than we do.

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