Native American Heritage Month

A Brief History of Thanksgiving

When we hear “November,” the first thing that probably comes to mind is Thanksgiving, a treasured holiday celebrated by millions of people. Families gather around, lots of food and laughter, maybe even some football on the tv. November is also known as Native American Heritage month, where people celebrate Native American cultures. The history of Native American cultures is quite a tragic tale. During the long history of westward expansion, millions of Indigenous people lost their homes and families due to war and colonization, along with their cultures and languages.

After long and hard years of conversion and expansion in the 1600’s, Samoset, the leader of the Abenaki people, went to pay the settlers a visit. Another individual named Squanto, the leader of the Wampanoag tribe, who had previous encounters with settlers decided to speak to them. Later on that fall, English settlers were hunting for a harvest. The Wampanoag Tribe heard gunshots and gathered where the settlers were. After hearing the news of a harvest, the tribe assisted them in hunting. After days of hunting and gathering, the Natives and settlers all gathered for a feast consisting of vegetables and roasted meats. During this time, the Natives and settlers got along well; they played games and sang songs together. 

It is a common misconception that the English settlers were referred to as “pilgrims.” They referred to themselves as Englishmen who strived to expand their colonies. Even though the feast will never be forgotten, the harmony between the Natives and English settlers was only temporary. Indigenous people today do not share the same fondness as other Americans when it comes to Thanksgiving. In fact, they see the memories of their encounters as betrayal and massacres.

Modern day Thanksgiving is an opportunity for Indigenous people to look back at their history and appreciate how courageous their ancestors were. Thanksgiving was founded as a national holiday in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln. Now, we use it as a day to give thanks and remember the importance and spirit of working together.


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