What you didn’t know about the history of Thanksgiving

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Photo By: Mathew Ingram

Kate Couch/The Broadside

It’s no secret that Thanksgiving this year is going to look a lot differently. Especially with all of the chaotic things that are happening on the news and the announcements that our governor Kate Brown has made this week; it definitely seems like we are turning brother against brother this turkey day.

However, despite these obstacles at the end of the day even if you can’t spend this Thanksgiving with loved ones this article is sure to warm your heart with the real history of Thanksgiving.

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Though many people understand the basic history of Thanksgiving a lot of people don’t know why we have certain traditions that we do. Have you ever wondered why we eat turkey on Thanksgiving? Though it’s uncertain whether the turkey was eaten while we broke bread with the Native Americans it is eating by most households in the 21st century.

Turkeys are eaten by nearly 90% of Americans on Thanksgiving according to the National Turkey Federation. The Native Americans shared fowl which is a type of bird. Many historians believe the bird could have been turkey but it’s not guaranteed. At the turn of the 19th-century turkey became a very popular special occasion meal. By the 20th century, presidents would even pardon a certain Thanksgiving turkey, further instilling this tradition in the American home.

Many have been told since grade school that Thanksgiving is the celebration where the Native Americans taught us how to fish and garden and we celebrated together with a feast coming together and mending our differences. However, this is not the entirety of the story.

The Smithsonian wrote an article last year entitled, “The Myths of the Thanksgiving Story and the Lasting Damage They Imbue,” exploiting the truth of Thanksgiving. Its contents are quite surprising. In it, the author Claire Bugos writes, “Much of that story is a myth riddled with historical inaccuracies…telling and retelling of these falsehoods is deeply harmful to the Wampanoag Indians whose lives and society were forever damaged after the English arrived in Plymouth.”

We formed an alliance with the Wampanoag people in 1620. For the Wampanoag, it was to further protect them from Narragansetts whom they were at war with. This alliance was in the form of the familiar feast we know and love. Unfortunately, because of American settlers, the Wampanoag people were exposed to disease, and their resources were exploited.

The once strong peace and balance broke into a war between the Americans and Native Americans. Bugos says “King Philip’s War (or the Great Narragansett War), devastated the Wampanoags and forever shifted the balance of power in favor of European arrivals. Wampanoags today remember the Pilgrims’ entry to their homeland as a day of deep mourning, rather than a moment of giving thanks.” 

Though these events were unfortunate, Thanksgiving has become much more than the history of how it started. Thanksgiving truly has become a day where we look around and realize the many things and people we are grateful for. Though at times it feels America isn’t the best place to live, we truly are blessed to live in a free country with the resources and wealth that we have.

So whether you’re eating turkey around a table with loved ones or Top Ramen in your apartment this Thursday, make sure to take a step back and really think about what you are grateful for. Gratitude and joyfulness really are the best stress relievers and as finals are creeping up on us it’s something we could all use.

Happy Thanksgiving from the entire Broadside team!

 

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