In a time where we’re radically undoing and exposing our cultural fuckups from the past, are we devolving by allowing our children to believe in a made up, inaccurate story about Thanksgiving? Year after year, are we lying to our children by deliberately going out of our way to avoid having a sad and uncomfortable conversation? If we teach our children that truth is a golden pillar of self-responsibility, don’t we owe it to them to live authentically?
Once I learned of the more accurate events surrounding the first Thanksgiving, I started my quest to discover an age-appropriate way to divulge this information to my daughter — and I found very little support.
As I researched, I kept encountering more and more censorship of truth teller’s stories, until I found a recount of a speech that was to be given by Wampanoag Indian Frank James at the 1970 Plymouth Rock celebration.
“Today is a time of celebrating for you — a time of looking back to the first days of white people in America. But it is not a time of celebrating for me. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my people. When the Pilgrims arrived, we, the Wampanoags, welcomed them with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end. That before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a tribe. That we and other Indians living near the settlers would be killed by their guns or dead from diseases that we caught from them. Let us always remember, the Indian is and was just as human as the white people.”
James’ speech was an honest and real account of what happened to create this Hallmark holiday. The short of it being that white settlers massacred entire groups of men and sold women and children into slavery — their land and humanity stolen.
Now how are you supposed to tell kids that?
Based on my research, I’ve put together what I believe to be a professionally and personally appropriate true Thanksgiving story suitable for young children:
Before the Pilgrims arrived, Indians shared land and goods with each other, free from borders.
When the Pilgrims came, however, things changed. The Pilgrims had a hard time learning how to live in the conditions of their new land that was so far away from their homeland of England. The Indians, with their large hearts and giving spirits, saw them as friends rather than threats, and welcomed them, teaching them how to gather food, grow crops, and build homes.
The Indians and Pilgrims liked each other and decided to celebrate their friendship with a meal called Thanksgiving. It was so fun it lasted for three days!
It would be nice to say that the Pilgrims and Indians remained friendly with one another, but sadly, this is not true. The Pilgrims eventually disrespected the heritage and cultural values of the Native Americans and started a fight to take over their land.
While it is important to remember the happy times, it is also important to remember those which were difficult. Sometimes humans make wrong decisions, and we must learn from our struggles and mistakes so that we can prevent them from happening again. And, despite whatever happens, we must be thankful for what we have. Just like the Pilgrims and the Indians showed their thanks with the first Thanksgiving, we must show our gratitude daily, not just towards our loved ones… but to all people everywhere.
How do you explain Thanksgiving to your children? Please share your experience in the comments below.
Christine Dionese, co-founder of flavor ID is an integrative, epigenetic health and food therapy specialist, as well as a wellness, lifestyle, and food journalist. She has dedicated her career to helping others understand the science of happiness and its powerful effects on everyday human health by harnessing the power of the epigenetic landscape. Christine lives, works, and plays with her family in Southern California.
Illustration by Juliet Romano Design.