Honoring Native People on Thanksgiving

23 Nov Honoring Native People on Thanksgiving

November is National Native American Heritage Month, offering many opportunities to move past one-dimensional representations of “pilgrims and Indians.” In the spirit of unity, we can instead focus Thanksgiving on common values:  generosity, gratitude, and community.

Most people do not know about the first Thanksgiving is that the Wampanoag and Pilgrims did not sit down for a big turkey dinner and it was not an event that the Wampanoag knew about or were invited to in advance. (source)

In September/October 1621, the Pilgrims had just harvested their first crops, and they had a good yield. They “sent four men on fowling,” which comes from…one of only two historical sources of this famous harvest feast. “Most historians believe what happened was Massasoit got word that there was a tremendous amount of gun fire coming from the Pilgrim village.  So he thought they were being attacked and he was going to bear aid.” (source)

When the Wampanoag showed up, they were invited to join the Pilgrims in their feast, but there was not enough food to feed the chief and his 90 warriors.  “He [Massasoit] sends his men out, and they bring back five deer, which they present to the chief of the English town [William Bradford]. So, there is this whole ceremonial gift-giving, as well. When you give it as a gift, it is more than just food,” said Kathleen Wall, a Colonial Foodways Culinarian at Plimoth Plantation. (source)

The harvest feast lasted for three days.  (source)

While today Thanksgiving is one of our nation’s favorite holidays, it has a far different meaning for many Wampanoag, who now number between 4,000 and 5,000. Turner said, “For the most part, Thanksgiving itself is a day of mourning for Native people…” (source)

Want to learn how you can honor Native People on Thanksgiving?  Check out the article 9 Ways to Decolonize and Honor Native Peoples on Thanksgiving.  The article provides additional links that allow you to seek the real history of Thanksgiving.

Join data2insight as we take another opportunity to celebrate and remember Native People!