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I cringe every year at depictions of the first Thanksgiving, with Pilgrims and “the Indians” harmoniously sitting down to break bread together.
It’s a nice thought, it really is, but it has little to do with truth.
In 1621, a small group of Pilgrims were celebrating a successful harvest, but the fact that 90 warriors were on hand was not a result of invitation.
The Wampanoag tribe that is often generically referred to as “the Indians” in the Thanksgiving story has much more interesting — and believable — version.
Tribal historian Ramona Peters recently gave the Native American account of the historic intermingling.
She said the Wampanoag showed up upon in a fact-finding mission after hearing gun and cannon fire. They had a treaty with the Pilgrims along the lines of we’ll watch your backs if you’ll watch ours, so the noise rightly had them concerned.
The shooting, however, was the Pilgrims’ version of fireworks today — they were in good spirits and letting off steam.
The tribe, still not so sure, decided to camp nearby. They hunted deer, duck and other game to feed the warriors, and there was probably some exchange of food between the two groups.
But the benevolent first Thanksgiving, as portrayed today, is largely fictional.
I have mixed feelings about such matters, largely as a result of my mixed blood.
I am 1/16 Shawnee, enough to be a legal tribe member and get certain government benefits.
I have never pursued any of them.
But I believe in truth, not saccharine portrayals of events to make one side or another feel better about what has passed.
And, believe me, I know that Native Americans were perfectly capable of atrocities in war and peace as the Europeans who immigrated here.
Despite its doubtful origins, I really am fond of Thanksgiving.
I believe in taking stock and counting my blessings.
I believe in gathering together with the people I care about to share whatever it is I have to share.
As you deal with your leftovers and company, if you have either, be thankful.
But be honest.
Besides, the truth is invariably more interesting.