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USAT: After a summer of racial reckoning, is America ready to learn the truth about Thanksgiving?


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After a summer of racial reckoning, is America ready to learn the truth about Thanksgiving?

 

A fter a summer of racial reckoning, is the country finally ready to learn the truth about the 'first Thanksgiving'?

 

The traditional story of Thanksgiving, and by extension the Pilgrims  — the one repeated in school history books and given the Peanuts treatment in "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" — doesn’t start in 1620, with the cold and seasick Pilgrims stepping off the Mayflower onto Plymouth Rock. 

 

It also doesn’t start a year later, with the Pilgrims and the native Wampanoag all sitting together to “break bread” and celebrate their first successful harvest and a long, harmonious relationship to come. 

 

It doesn’t start there because those things never happened, despite being immortalized in American mythos for generations. 

 

The Pilgrims spent only a few weeks of 1620 in the Wampanoag village of Patuxet, which they would rename Plimoth (now Plymouth), and they certainly didn’t step off onto Plymouth Rock. As for that 1621 feast — the supposed genesis of today’s Thanksgiving tradition — there was a small feast, but the Wampanoag were not invited, they showed up later. Their role in helping the Pilgrims survive by sharing resources and wisdom went unacknowledged that day, according to accounts of the toasts given by Pilgrim leaders. 

 

The first national Thanksgiving Day did not invoke the Pilgrims at all. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared a Thanksgiving Day on the last Thursday of November, looking to reconcile a country in the throes of the Civil War. 

 

On a parallel track, the story of the Pilgrim forefathers coming to the New World and founding America for religious freedom gained steam, as New England Protestants wielded the myth to gain the top spot in the country’s cultural hierarchy, above Catholics and immigrants, according to historian David Silverman in his book “This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving.” 

 

As Americans looked for an origin story that wasn’t soaked in the blood of Native Americans or built on the backs of slavery, the humble, bloodless story of the 102 Pilgrims forging a path in the New World in search of religious freedom was just what they needed, according to Silverman. Regardless of whether it was rooted in historical fact, it became accepted as such.

 

Tradition dictates the Pilgrims’ story starts in September 1620, with the departure of the Mayflower, packed with colonists and sailors, leaving England to set sail for the New World. 

 

But starting there ignores years of European contact with the Native people of New England, and paints the Wampanoag and their neighbors in the broad stroke of simplicity, ignoring the complex regional relationships and politicking at play. 

 

Click on the link for the full article

Edited by China
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Thanksgiving, like Christmas, Halloween and any national holiday is not about history to me. It’s about what it is now and the traditions that I’ve established. So Thanksgiving is about being thankful for what you have in your life, and food, and football.

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Short answer is no. 'America' in general isnt ready for the truth of much of anything at the moment. We cant agree on things happening. No way we agree on something that happened 400 years ago. Thats asking a whooooooole lot of about half of the country.  

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I understand that the truth has its place and maybe there are ways to de-emphasize the Pilgram imagery over time. But what are we really doing here? For over a century CURRENT Americans of every race, religion, etc. have established their traditions with this holiday. As @Springfield mentioned, it's more about food and football to many. To me, it's the kick-off of the holiday season and more aligned with pre-Christmas than Plymouth Rock. 

 

I'm not trying to bury my head in the sand, I guess I'm just growing exhausted of every publication digging up specifics of something that happened centuries ago when the world was a completely different place. We can't honor founding fathers who may have owned slaves when that was a common practice. We can't honor any early Americans or settlers if we find that they treated the Native Americans poorly at any time. I get it...man is imperfect. But these things are bigger than honoring any one individual. 

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1 hour ago, Llevron said:

Short answer is no. 'America' in general isnt ready for the truth of much of anything at the moment. We cant agree on things happening. No way we agree on something that happened 400 years ago. Thats asking a whooooooole lot of about half of the country.  

You act as if its just America...

Try civilization as a whole. History was written by the victors, so of course there are 2 sides to the story. That doesn't make 1 side more correct then the other. 

We all know that the story of the pilgrims we were told in pre-school was not 100% correct.

As we grow up, our higher learning history classes clear that up for us. 

 

As for world history, look around....every civilization has this same issue. We just seem to be the only ones who can't seem to say the past is the past and leave it at that. 

As was mentioned above, Thanksgiving is about much more now. Its about family, and a special day to remember to give thanks for what we have. The sad part of all of this is that so many people need a reminder.

 

 

 

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  • China changed the title to USAT: After a summer of racial reckoning, is America ready to learn the truth about Thanksgiving?
2 minutes ago, Xameil said:

You act as if its just America...

 

You read that. I didn't write it. I was answering the question in the OP/ title. 

 

2 minutes ago, Xameil said:

Try civilization as a whole. History was written by the victors, so of course there are 2 sides to the story. That doesn't make 1 side more correct then the other. 

We all know that the story of the pilgrims we were told in pre-school was not 100% correct.

As we grow up, our higher learning history classes clear that up for us. 

 

As for world history, look around....every civilization has this same issue. We just seem to be the only ones who can't seem to say the past is the past and leave it at that. 

As was mentioned above, Thanksgiving is about much more now. Its about family, and a special day to remember to give thanks for what we have. The sad part of all of this is that so many people need a reminder.

 

Im not even sure what point you are trying to make honestly but if you were just quoting me as a jump off point, thats fair. I do it to others all the time. 

 

I get that Thanksgiving means different things to different people. 

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Just now, Llevron said:

 

You read that. I didn't write it. I was answering the question in the OP/ title. 

 

 

Im not even sure what point you are trying to make honestly but if you were just quoting me as a jump off point, thats fair. I do it to others all the time. 

 

I get that Thanksgiving means different things to different people. 

Sorry if I misinterpreted you. Just when you typed 'America' in general isnt ready. I thought you were referring to Americans not being ready, and Americans thinking the rest of the world is so much more socially advanced...well...I travel to alot of those "more advanced" areas and quite honestly they aren't.

But yes I did also spring board off of that as well ;)

1 minute ago, Spaceman Spiff said:

Think we beat Dallas Thursday? 

Lol yes

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I'm okay with people focusing on the modern meaning of a particular holiday.  I'm also fine with people trying to go back and look at historical inaccuracies or aspects that were overlooked or even offensive.  

 

In either event, I would rather not have people perpetuate inaccurate narrative about a holiday just because it's the way it always has been, especially in a school setting.  At least not without appropriate correction or commentary.  I was surprised to see that they are still using Jean Ferris' First Thanksgiving painting in instructive material for elementary school in Fairfax County.  Setting aside the many paternalistic and Pilgrim centered (some might say downright offensive) portrayal of the natives and pilgrims, it is rife with historical inaccuracies.  That shouldn't get a pass just because the painting has been around for a while in school books.

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6 minutes ago, Xameil said:

Sorry if I misinterpreted you. Just when you typed 'America' in general isnt ready. I thought you were referring to Americans not being ready, and Americans thinking the rest of the world is so much more socially advanced...well...I travel to alot of those "more advanced" areas and quite honestly they aren't.

 

I actually used to think that not too long ago but after talking with you guys I started to look into it and saw that was not the case. I actually changed my view a lot when it came to that stuff. America, in my mind, is striving to be the example in that regard and is probably closer than most. Thats not to say we dont have improvements to make. But thats the promise imo. We try and make it work, and then show the world it can. And its not easy. Obviously lol. But to me thats what the shining city on the top of the hill is. 

 

This thanksgiving thing is a weird part of that and im not sure how it fits yet. But its a part of it. 

2 minutes ago, bearrock said:

I'm okay with people focusing on the modern meaning of a particular holiday.  I'm also fine with people trying to go back and look at historical inaccuracies or aspects that were overlooked or even offensive.  

 

In either event, I would rather not have people perpetuate inaccurate narrative about a holiday just because it's the way it always has been, especially in a school setting.  At least not without appropriate correction or commentary.  I was surprised to see that they are still using Jean Ferris' First Thanksgiving painting in instructive material for elementary school in Fairfax County.  Setting aside the many paternalistic and Pilgrim centered (some might say downright offensive) portrayal of the natives and pilgrims, it is rife with historical inaccuracies.  That shouldn't get a pass just because the painting has been around for a while in school books.

 

This is what i mean by its a part of it. We need to be able to address this stuff AND enjoy our holiday if we want. Thats the point of this experiment 

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Truth has an edge to it, that’s how it cuts through the bull****. I’d rather know the truth of things even if it hurts or is stressful/discomforting. Thanks for posting this OP. 
 

When your traditions are built on candy coated manure, it’s better to face that honestly and build back something better. I’m going to use this new information and make sure I spend time honoring the native Americans who met in good faith and make sure those sentiments are stronger in me than the fear, selfishness, and greed that makes others use people and take them for granted like the pilgrim leadership did. 

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3 minutes ago, Fresh8686 said:

Truth has an edge to it, that’s how it cuts through the bull****. I’d rather know the truth of things even if it hurts or is stressful/discomforting. Thanks for posting this OP. 
 

When your traditions are built on candy coated manure, it’s better to face that honestly and build back something better. I’m going to use this new information and make sure I spend time honoring the native Americans who met in good faith and make sure those sentiments are stronger in me than the fear, selfishness, and greed that makes others use people and take them for granted like the pilgrim leadership did. 

Just remember that while you are demonizing the pilgrim leadership that just because the opposing side said something doesn't make it 100% true either....especially when there is an agenda present. 

 

Just realize that there are 2 sides to a story, and somewhere in the middle is the truth.

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4 minutes ago, Xameil said:

Just remember that while you are demonizing the pilgrim leadership that just because the opposing side said something doesn't make it 100% true either....especially when there is an agenda present. 

 

Just realize that there are 2 sides to a story, and somewhere in the middle is the truth.

 

Right, even in the linked story there were multiple accounts of the native tribes showing up with warriors or painted in red to intimidate the settlers. I don't think that, in the 17th century, either side was walking up and shaking hands and hoping for a genuine friendship. Both sides benefitted from an alliance. And, as happens in history, when the benefits of those alliance are no longer needed, they aren't maintained. 

 

If the natives had any inkling that they could just murder the handful of original settlers and be done with the white men, I believe they'd have done it. That doesn't make them bad, just doing what is necessary to defend what they believed to be their land. 

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8 minutes ago, TD_washingtonredskins said:

 

Right, even in the linked story there were multiple accounts of the native tribes showing up with warriors or painted in red to intimidate the settlers. I don't think that, in the 17th century, either side was walking up and shaking hands and hoping for a genuine friendship. Both sides benefitted from an alliance. And, as happens in history, when the benefits of those alliance are no longer needed, they aren't maintained. 

 

If the natives had any inkling that they could just murder the handful of original settlers and be done with the white men, I believe they'd have done it. That doesn't make them bad, just doing what is necessary to defend what they believed to be their land. 

For all we know, they already had experience with the Europeans. I doubt the Vikings who most likely came first stayed up in the Nova Scotia area, and history has shown, Vikings weren't exactly the most cordial.

Of course the 2 sides to every story thing...and for all we know the Vikings were the most pleasant of chaps...who fumbled the ball when the spotlight.....oh wait..thats a different Viking..

 

;)

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I couldn't give a **** about the Native Americans or the Settlers relationship problems from 400 years ago if im being 100% honest. 

 

But at the same time, I kind of equate it to those Texas History books from like 6 years back that said slaves enjoyed slavery and generally had a good time during that period of our history. Actually now that I think about it, its almost the exact same thing. And now i feel like a hypocrite. 

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Put "Mayflower" by Nathaniel Philbrick on your reading list. 

 

51ViKYMwfrL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

Philbrick is one of my favorite authors of history - or any genre - out there. 

 

Amazon's description of this NYT Top Ten Book of the Year and Pulitzer Prize for History finalist:

 

How did America begin? That simple question launches the acclaimed author of In the Hurricane's Eye and Valiant Ambition on an extraordinary journey to understand the truth behind our most sacred national myth: the voyage of the Mayflower and the settlement of Plymouth Colony. As Philbrick reveals in this electrifying history of the Pilgrims, the story of Plymouth Colony was a fifty-five year epic that began in peril and ended in war. New England erupted into a bloody conflict that nearly wiped out the English colonists and natives alike. These events shaped the existing communities and the country that would grow from them.

~~

 

 

I finished reading it a second time about a month ago. It is an amazingly detailed and compelling narrative of the time. Although he pretty much obliterates  - with facts - the traditional myth of the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving, he still portrays them in a somewhat heroic light for the hardships they readily took on.  It's a story of both triumph and tragedy well told.

 

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23 minutes ago, Llevron said:

I couldn't give a **** about the Native Americans or the Settlers relationship problems from 400 years ago if im being 100% honest. 

 

But at the same time, I kind of equate it to those Texas History books from like 6 years back that said slaves enjoyed slavery and generally had a good time during that period of our history. Actually now that I think about it, its almost the exact same thing. And now i feel like a hypocrite. 

So back in the early 90's when a young Xam was in High school, we had a foreign exchange student from Germany. We also had a great Social Studies teacher who did an amazing segment on the Holocaust. The German student sat in my class and had no idea what our teacher was talking about. She had never even heard of it...it wasn't in any of her history books...

We also had a girl in my class who had German heritage that stood up and said the Germans had every right to do what they did because the Jews were robbing the Germans....

 

Oh and edit: you're not being a hypocrite because you know there's another side of the story. Anyone who's seen Addams Family Values knows...Wednesday Addams did a great soliloquy on it...lol

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