The History of American Thanksgiving: Could we do Better?


Something not often talked about or even considered is the horrendous history behind American Thanksgiving. Many people do not know that Thanksgiving was initially celebrated as a feast to honour the defeat of the Wampanoag peoples, who were slaughtered by European settlers. During King Philip’s War, thousands of Wampanoag people were killed, sold to slavery and nearly exterminated. To date, there are suspected to be only 4000-5000 Wampanoag people alive in New England. Nowadays, people celebrate holidays and festivities without knowing what the original historical context was or what had actually happened when the holiday was first celebrated.

 For some people, Thanksgiving is a controversial holiday in which many do not celebrate, instead paying their respects to the Indigenous people who were killed because they stood proud and refused to give up the land that was rightfully theirs. Is it so taboo to believe that holidays, especially ones of negative historical events could be changed or revised? Maybe even ignored completely? It shouldn’t be taboo, but to many people it surely could be.

 Some people like to stick by their original historics and stay comfortably ignorant. It is known that ignorance is bliss. If you don’t understand the context you don’t have to feel guilty. However, if it is something that pains others, is it worth being ignorant? If others are being harmed so that you won’t have to feel guilty, is it still worth it? There are many resources online in regards to holidays, and if you are to celebrate, you can surely benefit from learning of the historical context. It has been hundreds of years since, however, the Indigenous people who died to settlers will never be forgotten.