There are always two sides to a story. Unfortunately, when it comes to the history of Thanksgiving, generations of Americans have been taught a one-sided history in homes and schools.
The dominant cultural and historical story has been told from the perspective of the white colonialists who landed near Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts in 1620. In this version of the Thanksgiving story, the holiday commemorates the peaceful, friendly meeting of English settlers and the Wampanoag tribe for three days of feasting and thanksgiving in 1621.
Every year, news outlets and social media are a-buzz with Thanksgiving themes.
There is little coverage of the fact that November is Native American Heritage Month or that the day after Thanksgiving, known to most as Black Friday, is Native American Heritage Day.
Thanksgiving is a time for celebration, good food, and giving thanks. So as we gather with family, crush unworldly amounts of stuffing, and enjoy a football game in the crisp autumn air, let’s also acknowledge the real history of the holiday and practice gratitude by giving back.
This year, we’re celebrating Thanksgiving and also Truthsgiving, a concept coined by Indigenous activist Christine Nobiss to dismantle common misunderstandings about Thanksgiving with…well, the truth. So in the name of Truthsgiving, here’s the true history of this holiday (and what you can do about it).
We’d like to thank IllumiNative for their collaboration on this piece and for providing resources and campaigns that increase the visibility of Native Nations and peoples in American society.
What’s the Real Story of Thanksgiving?
“The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans.”
- Wamsutta Frank James, Wampanoag activist and organizer of the National Day of Mourning