Thanksgiving & Our Historical Narratives…

What is the US holiday “Thanksgiving” all about? We are, of course, taught in grade school about Pilgrims, Indians, and a great feast to celebrate the survival of white Europeans in the dangerous New World (anthropologists love to talk about feasting, eh?). Now the holiday has come to mean family get togethers, football games, televised parades and, of course, lots and lots of food.

On the other hand, to others, such as some Native American activist groups, Thanksgiving has become a site of contention–pointing toward the beginning of the attempted genocide of the North American Indian….Some have labeled it a “National Day of Mourning.” For instance, check out this protest in Plymouth in 1998:

For more on the “National Day of Morning” check out this wikipedia entry:

Several scholars have dissected the history of the holiday and how it has become a part of our collective cultural memory…

Take a look at Catherine Clinton’s recent article in the on-line journal History Now to get a handle on how the holiday came to be….it has a much more recent origin than some might imagine:

Because I’m an archaeologist…I also will point out that James Deetz took a turn at dismantling the historical veracity of our conception of the first Thanksgiving in his posthumously published The Times of their Lives: Life, Love, and Death in Plymouth Colony (Deetz and Deetz 2001). You can read the excerpt courtesy of the Plymouth Colony Archive Project:

Happy Turkey Day….or National Day of Mourning!!!!!!

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Categories: history


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