Thanksgiving Reconsidered

November 26, 1970. In Plymouth, Massachusetts, on the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival, protestors gather under a statue of Massasoit, the Wampanoag leader who had made peace with the Pilgrims, and partook in the legendary Thanksgiving meal. This protest was organized by Wamsutta Frank James, a Wampanoag activist who wanted to draw attention to the full story of Thanksgiving – a story of fear, violence, and oppression that spanned generations. America’s reckoning with the truth of Thanksgiving, James argued, would empower indigenous people to fight for their equal rights. This protest – a National Day of Mourning – continues to this day, now led by James’s granddaughter. So what is the true story of Thanksgiving? And why is it so important for us to remember?

 

Special thanks to Kisha James, Paula Peters, and David Silverman, author of This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving.


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