By Kyle Olson
MILWAUKEE – When you sit down to your traditional meal of turkey and mashed potatoes on Thursday, just remember that you’re a hater.
At least that’s what the “social justice” teachers want us to believe.
Last year, in the far-left education publication Rethinking Schools, the late Michael Dorris suggested that the Pilgrims really viewed the Native Americans as “devils in disguise” and wrote:
“Considering that virtually none of the standard fare surrounding … Thanksgiving contains an ounce of authenticity, historical accuracy, or cross-cultural perception, why is it so apparently ingrained? Is it necessary to the North American psyche to perpetually exploit and debase its victims in order to justify its history? And do Native Americans have to reconcile themselves to forever putting up with such exhibitions of puerile ethnocentrism?”
All this rage because kids learn about a feast shared by early European settlers and Native Americans who lived nearby. What exactly was Dorris’ problem with Thanksgiving, or the modern version of the story?
He was apparently upset when he came across a children’s book with an illustration of the first feast, and a caption that read, “They served pumpkins and turkeys and corn and squash. The Indians had never seen such a feast!”
“On the contrary,” Dorris wrote. “The Pilgrims had literally never seen such a feast, since all foods mentioned are exclusively indigenous to the Americas and had been provided, or so legend has it, by the local tribe.”
Dorris’ anger extended beyond the menu and its origins.
“If there really was a Plymouth Thanksgiving dinner, with Native Americans in attendance as either guests or hosts, then the event was rare indeed” he wrote. “Pilgrims generally considered Indians to be devils in disguise and treated them as such.
“And if those hypothetical Indians participating in that hypothetical feast thought that all was well and were thankful in the expectation of a peaceful future they were sadly mistaken. In the ensuing months and years, they would die from European diseases, suffer the theft of their lands and property and the near eradication of their religion and their language, and be driven to the brink of extinction.
“Thanksgiving, like much of American history, is complex, multifaceted, and will never bear too close a scrutiny without revealing a less-than-heroic aspect. Knowing the truth about Thanksgiving, both its proud and shameful motivations and history, might well benefit contemporary children. But the glib retelling of an ethnocentric and self-serving falsehood does not do one any good.”
Now just wait a minute. In all due respect to Mr. Dorris, who was himself a Native American, his writing seems to suggest that there is something wrong with the traditional Thanksgiving story because white people of subsequent generations badly abused his people.
Nobody is denying our nation’s shameful treatment of Native Americans, and that fact gets plenty of play in schools and in the mass media.
But the Thanksgiving story we remember learning in school was one worth telling, even if its historical accuracy is questionable.
We remember learning how the Pilgrims came to America ill-prepared to deal with their new environment. One of their main challenges was hunger. They didn’t know how to farm effectively in the rocky soils of New England.
So they turned to the local Native American tribe, whose members taught them farming skills that produced a bountiful crop. Out of gratitude, the Pilgrims invited their neighbors to share in a celebratory feast.
In that traditional story, the Indians are the heroes. The ignorant white folks might have perished without their assistance. How is that story denigrating to Native Americans?
Yes, school children should learn about the Trail of Tears and other atrocities committed against Native Americans throughout our national history. But we fail to see how any of that takes away from the heartwarming and hopeful tale of two races working together and celebrating a common victory, even for just one day.
Regardless of the history of Thanksgiving, we know the holiday serves as a time for families of all races to get together and share quality time together. We give thanks to God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon us.
Or, as President Abraham Lincoln wrote in declaring the first official Thanksgiving:
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”
We think that’s reason enough to observe this holiday. We’re sorry if others don’t feel the same way.