If you’re like most Americans, you’ll be spending your Thanksgiving with family and friends. You may also be anticipating (or dreading) the inevitable political debate that will ensue once the name *Trump* comes up. But you might be caught off guard when your liberal friend makes the claim that “Thanksgiving is a celebration of genocide.” Way to ruin the mood right? So what’s the truth?
Here’s what you should know about this beloved American holiday in order to respond accordingly:
There have been multiple “ceremonies of thanks” recorded by the European settlers. The one historians generally look to as the “first Thanksgiving” took place in the fall of 1621. The story starts with the arrival of the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock. The 102 settlers had endured a harsh 66 days at sea aboard the Mayflower and were devastatingly unprepared for the unforgiving winter in Massachusetts. A commonly held misconception is that the pilgrims fled England from religious persecution. In reality, they had already been living in tolerant Holland for over a decade. They immigrated to America for:
“The glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith.” -Mayflower Compact
It was the pursuit of holiness that brought them to America.
They had originally planned on landing on the Island known to Natives as “Manhattan,” but they were blown 250 miles off course to the North. Luckily, Plymouth Rock turned out to be the ideal location for their settlement site. This was because it was the location of a deserted Indian village where they found stored supplies of corn, fresh water, and cleared land.
The village had been wiped out by plague just before the Pilgrims arrival. One of its lucky survivors, Squanto, showed up a few months later and welcomed the Pilgrims. By then, half of the settlers died due to a plague, drought, and a difficulty growing crops. Squanto was the single best human being on the continent to come to the Pilgrims aid. He already knew how to speak English and embraced Christianity, he helped plant new crops, and he even helped the settlers negotiate a friendly trade agreement with the local Wampanoag tribe. No wondering Governor William Bradford wrote that Squanto:
“…became a special instrument sent of God for our good. He never left us till he died.”
This agreement ensured that the Pilgrims would protect Wampanoag from warring tribes like the Narragansett and provide them with British goods. In return, the Natives would give the Pilgrims the skills necessary for survival. Their alliance lasted for half a century and is the best example of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.
After the harvest was a success, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast where 53 thankful settlers joined 90 hungry Wampanoag warriors, including their chief “Massasoit.” The natives brought with them five recently hunted deer as house gifts. The Pilgrims provided turkey, waterfowl, fish, and the vegetables they harvested. During the next three days, the colonists and natives participated in a friendly sports competition. The sport of choice wasn’t football, but shooting! Both groups shared a fascination with guns.
While there are many examples of hostility between Natives and European Colonists, the story of Thanksgiving isn’t one. Instead, the 50-year alliance between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag is the single best example of peace between the two groups. Any argument that claims that the interaction between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag was anything but friendly, is simply fake news.
With that being said, you may be wondering why the left aims to shroud this American holiday, along with others, with a cloak of guilt. It comes down to the fact that the left is ashamed of our history. In the eyes of liberals, American history is something that should be erased and forgotten about. Not embraced.
Our history is the root of what it means to be an American. We look back to it to see where we’ve come from and who we are as a nation. Like anything, we should accept the good, the bad, and the ugly. We should be proud of what makes us the great nation we are, not guilty. It’s the good, the bad, and the ugly that got us here. Just as the pilgrims.
The message we should take from the Thanksgiving story should be that people of every culture and era can gain more from gratitude than guilt. We should look to this holiday as a representation of setting our differences aside and coming together to share our gratitude for the things we care about, and to reflect on how far we’ve come.
Check out this video for more on the truth about the first Thanksgiving:
(Disclaimer: Many of the facts I referenced came from the video link above.)