The other day I was explaining to Rosie that Thanksgiving, besides being a time for giving thanks for what we have and the people who support us, has a story to it that involves the settlers from a ship called the Mayflower, which came across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe, bringing people here to North America. I pointed out to her that if discussion of the Pilgrims comes up at school, she can mention that we are descended from people who came over on the Mayflower, so this is a family story for us as well as a national one.
Because of that, and because we are also of Native descent (my grandmother used to joke that she had ancestors that came over on the Mayflower, and ancestors who were there to greet them when they came, but honestly our native ancestors were probably from one of the more inland nations), it is important to me that my daughter learn an honest account of The First Thanksgiving, instead of the generic story that was invented in Abraham Lincoln's time and taught to me in school. She will learn that our ancestress, Priscilla Mullins, was from a Pilgrim family, seeking religious freedom in the new world, and also that our ancestor, John Alden, was not -- he was a carpenter hired to be a cooper on the Mayflower, who converted to Priscilla's family religion when they were wed, here in North America. (For more on them, see The Courtship of Miles Standish, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, also a relative of mine.)
So I was very interested to read Debbie Reese's recent essay, Some thoughts about Native American Month and Thanksgiving. I encourage you to go read it.
As well, I just reviewed some articles on the Wampanoag side of the First Thanksgiving story, and What really happened back in 1621, as well as what is done today by Native communities on Thanksgiving.
One thing I hope you will take out of this, in terms of telling this story to your own children, is that these weren't nameless generic Indians sitting down with the grateful Pilgrims. More than half the settlers from the Mayflower died that first winter, and more would have if they hadn't benefited from the pre-existing village in which they came to live (where everyone had died from plague brought by earlier Europeans), and in March of 1621 they signed a mutual protection treaty with Wampanoag chief Massasoit. So it was Massasoit and his men who were there at the "first Thanksgiving". Oh, and Squanto, about whom you might have been taught in school, who taught the pilgrims how to fish and plant crops here that year and was probably the reason they ultimately survived, and I am here today? His full name was Tisquantum.
"While many paintings of “the First Thanksgiving” show a single long table with several Pilgrims and a few Native people, there were actually twice as many Wampanoag people as colonists. It is unlikely that everyone could have been accommodated at one table. Rather, Wampanoag leaders like Massasoit and his advisors were most likely entertained in the home of Plymouth Colony’s governor, William Bradford."