The Thanksgiving controversy

Emily Hepner
Features Writer

The history lesson we were taught in elementary school may not be as heartwarming as we are lead to believe.
The history lesson we were taught in elementary school may not be as heartwarming as we are led to believe.

The single-digit countdown begins until the most gluttonous day of the year arrives. Mouths are watering at the thought of all the homemade food and our bodies are urging for a day or two of complete rest and relaxation that awaits in our Thanksgiving break.

In elementary school we’re taught a warming story on the holiday that focuses on a friendship between the Indians and the newly arrived Englanders, the pilgrims. These two groups came together to give their thanks for the harvest and a new life by sitting down to eat a meal together. But is an event that happened nearly 400 years ago really as simple as that?

The answer is, no. The very first Thanksgiving, which occurred in Nov. 1621, is vastly different than what we celebrate today. The History Channel explains that many of the cooking methods used on that day were most likely prepared by using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. So the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, with a side of stuffing was more than likely not what they were feasting on that historic day. There were also a lack of cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies and other sweets since the pilgrims would have required an oven and had experienced a sugar shortage by the beginning of the fall.

However, the history on Indian and Pilgrim relations is one that is a bit hazy. The story goes that after traveling for a month across the sea, the Pilgrims landed in what is notoriously known as Plymouth in 1620. After landing there, the Pilgrims struggled to survive due to a brutal winter and various diseases that developed from traveling and living on a ship for so long, explains the History Channel.

Once the winter was over, the remaining settlers moved onto land where an Abenaki Indian who spoke English greeted them. This Native American introduced them to Squanto, who was previously sold into slavery by an English sea captain. It was Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe, who taught the Pilgrims how to survive by teaching them how to catch fish, cultivate corn and extract syrup from maple trees.

After experiencing a rather bountiful harvest, Governor William Bradford decided to have a celebration and invited his Indian allies. This is the traditional story that is taught to school children, but many Native Americans and other argue that this story is a bit too warm. This comes from the fact that Native Americans had a long and violent history with the European settlers who came before the Pilgrims and killed millions of their tribe members. The United American Indians of New England have gathered in Plymouth ever since 1970 to have their National Day of Mourning to commemorate their ancestors that were killed during this time.

Today’s Thanksgiving has come a long way since its origins in New England. Thanksgiving is now one of the biggest entertainment days because of various football games and the infamous Macy’s Day Parade being aired on television. It is also the day before one of the biggest shopping days of the year, Black Friday.

With any holiday, it’s easy to lose the original meaning of what it means to celebrate that special day. While Thanksgiving may be one of controversy, the day has a warm meaning to most people.

“This is the happiest time of the year for my family and I,” said senior Jamie Tyre. Another student, senior Sarah Omlor, explained that growing up as an only child, Thanksgiving was the one day of the year she was able to be with all of her family, and has left her with a fond memory of the holiday.

Thanksgiving is a day to take a look around you and realize what it is that you are truly thankful for. Whether it is your family and friends, or the fact that you’re eating a nice warm meal, it is a day to appreciate these things. Have a happy holiday.