In the early 1600s, the “New World” promised prosperity, freedom and a new life for many residents in England. Dazzled by the potential of starting over and worshiping the way they desired, they were inspired to voyage to what is now the east coast of the United States.
After a treacherous three months, the settlers finally reached what is now the state of Massachusetts. With harsh winter conditions and inadequate supplies, the “pilgrims” stayed aboard their famous ship, the Mayflower.
After the weather finally broke, the pilgrims moved ashore where Native Americans later greeted them. The Native Americans were very helpful, and the two groups created a bond.
The Native Americans helped the pilgrims establish their village, harvest corn and catch fish. This way they could create a new, sustainable community.
Months later, around this time of year, the pilgrims had their first harvest and planned a meal accordingly. As we often imagine, the pilgrims and the Native Americans shared a peaceful, happy dinner where they gave great thanks for the help the Native Americans provided.
While this story may have unfolded the way we always imagined, it sure didn’t last long. Not long after, the pilgrims and the settlers who followed them took Native Americans’ land and committed genocide against their people.
Yet, we still celebrate this holiday annually, never considering the atrocities many of our ancestors committed against those who helped them survive. Instead, our meals don’t resemble what they likely had at the first Thanksgiving and our history books skim over the ramifications of pilgrims’ actions.
In 2016, we celebrate Thanksgiving with feasts and parades, but many native populations are mourning the losses of their ancestors and culture.