The Truth About Thanksgiving

Most of us have heard the story of the pilgrims as kids. As we have been told, the pilgrims were immigrants from England who traveled to America seeking religious freedom. An English-speaking Native American named Squanto helped the pilgrims find food and learn how to use the land so they could survive in the new world. As thanks to the Native Americans, the pilgrims held a feast with a turkey, united together as one people to show gratitude for their bountiful harvest and good friends.

Today, however, many of my friends are against the celebration of Thanksgiving because they believe that we are not celebrating friendship, but instead the oppression of the Native Americans. By coming to America, the first settlers brought diseases to the native people, attacked them, and stole the land that was rightfully theirs. Therefore, to celebrate Thanksgiving is to support the slaughter of the “real Americans” and forceful takeover of their homeland.

However, many historians believe that this story that we have been told about these first settlers is indeed false. For one, the pilgrims did not come to America seeking religious freedom. According to the Plimoth Plantation, a museum dedicated to preserving history of the Plymouth Colony, the pilgrims had already fled religious persecution from England by immigrating to Holland. While there, they had complete freedom over what religion or church they followed or associated themselves with. No, they didn’t come seeking religious freedom, but instead because they feared they would lose their culture. Many of their children had begun to move away from their families and associate themselves with the Dutch culture. To preserve their identity as an English people, they decided to take the journey to the Americas.

Most of the rest of the story is true. There was indeed a Native American named Squanto that helped the pilgrims, and they did have a three-day feast of Thanksgiving with each other where they ate and hunted together. But you also might not know that the epidemic that killed Squanto’s people had come and gone before the pilgrims arrived. They had nothing to do with that slaughter that so many people attribute the first Thanksgiving with.

It is undeniable that our country has some corrupt, bloody history. But that first feast of the pilgrims was not symbolic of any of that. Even if we are wrong about the pilgrims, that doesn’t mean that the holiday is corrupt. For years, Thanksgiving has been celebrated by sitting down with family and friends for a meal to show gratitude and joy for each other’s company. It doesn’t matter if that feast actually took place or not. You can still give someone a gift on Christmas without believing in Christ or go trick-or-treating without believing in ghosts or spirits, so it is perfectly okay for you to give thanks this holiday season and share a good meal. Just don’t forget the pie.