Teaching the Real Thanksgiving Story

© Tammy Mcallister

© Tammy Mcallister

A lot of parents debate whether to teach the real Thanksgiving story to their children, or the version that is a combination of facts and myths. The real story can seem a little dark and not particularly festive. Really, the theme of the Thanksgiving holiday, giving thanks for all that we have in our lives, is the important part of the less truthful story. So if you decide you would like to tell your children the real story, here’s a quick breakdown of facts you can give them:

  • The first technical ‘Thanksgiving’ in America was likely long before the one we consider the first. This is a very old and pretty much universal tradition. Which almost makes it a more precious experience that we take part in.
  • Try not to perpetuate stereotypes about Native Americans. If you feel reenacting Thanksgiving is important to your child’s understanding, research appropriate and historically accurate costumes. Don’t just go for the war bonnets. It’s also great to teach about specific Native American tribes, like the tribe that was local to your area or the tribe that was involved in Thanksgiving.
  • The real Thanksgiving was not such a happy experience. There was cooperation between the Pequot Nation and the Massachusetts Bay colonists. This is where we get the story of Squanto teaching the colonists to grow food. However, the real day of Thanksgiving came after the colonists and Pequot allies killed 700 unarmed people after some of them questioned the peace treaty Squanto had negotiated. Thanksgiving was in celebration of this “victory.”
  • While the true story may not be truly happy, the theme of the story we tell today remains. Giving thanks is important and it is a tradition that brings us all together.

For more, check out US History on SD Accelerate and have a very happy Thanksgiving! Sign up now for our free two month trial here.