Thursday, November 22, 2007

Deconstructing the Myths of “The First Thanksgiving”

'What is it about the story of “The First Thanksgiving” that makes it essential to be taught in virtually every grade from preschool through high school? What is it about the story that is so seductive? Why has it become an annual elementary school tradition to hold Thanksgiving pageants, with young children dressing up in paper-bag costumes and feather-duster headdresses and marching around the schoolyard? Why is it seen as necessary for fake “pilgrims” and fake “Indians” (portrayed by real children, many of whom are Indian) to sit down every year to a fake feast, acting out fake scenarios and reciting fake dialogue about friendship? And why do teachers all over the country continue (for the most part, unknowingly) to perpetuate this myth year after year after year?'

Indeed. Judy Dow (Abenaki) and Beverly Slapin go on to discuss, in great detail and with footnotes citing sources, several myths about the settling of the land we call the United States of America, and myths about the Thanksgiving feast. These myths are:

Myth #1: “The First Thanksgiving” occurred in 1621.

Myth #2: The people who came across the ocean on the Mayflower were called Pilgrims.

Myth #3: The colonists came seeking freedom of religion in a new land.

Myth #4: When the “Pilgrims” landed, they first stepped foot on “Plymouth Rock.”

Myth #5: The Pilgrims found corn.

Myth #6: Samoset appeared out of nowhere, and along with Squanto became friends with the Pilgrims. Squanto helped the Pilgrims survive and joined them at “The First Thanksgiving.”

Myth #7: The Pilgrims invited the Indians to celebrate the First Thanksgiving.

Myth #8: The Pilgrims provided the food for their Indian friends.

Myth #9: The Pilgrims and Indians feasted on turkey, potatoes, berries, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and popcorn.

Myth #10: The Pilgrims and Indians became great friends.

Myth #11: Thanksgiving is a happy time.

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