Rich Lowry / Nov. 26, 2020

Thanksgiving Is Not a Lie

Thanksgiving is increasingly portrayed as, at best, based on falsehoods and, at worst, a whitewash of genocide against Native Americans.

We live in a time of heedless iconoclasm, and so one of the country’s oldest traditions is under assault.

Thanksgiving is increasingly portrayed as, at best, based on falsehoods and, at worst, a whitewash of genocide against Native Americans.

The New York Times ran a piece the other day titled, “The Thanksgiving Myth Gets a Deeper Look This Year,” bristling with hostility toward the day of gratitude and noting that “the holiday arrives in the midst of a national struggle over racial justice.” (The paper is admirably consistent — a couple of years ago it ran an article headlined, “Everything You Learned About Thanksgiving Is Wrong.”)

When Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton slammed the Times piece, as well as the newspaper’s stilted and dishonest 1619 project, the Pulitzer Prize-winning architect of that venture, Nikole Hannah-Jones, replied with incredulity. “Imagine calling the 1619 Project debunked in order to defend a childish Thanksgiving myth,” she tweeted.

Childish myth? It’s true that debunkers can score some easy points.

The term “Pilgrims” wasn’t popularized until later. They didn’t wear dour clothes. They didn’t consider their iconic gathering in 1621 a formal thanksgiving, which would have been given over to solemn religious observances. And so on.

But the basic contours of the holiday are recognizable in that long-ago event. The settlers who had arrived in the Mayflower in 1620, and survived a brutal winter that killed half of them, feasted, enjoyed games, and marveled at the material abundance of their new home.

One of them, Edward Winslow, wrote a friend that “our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labors.” He noted that “among other Recreations, we exercised our Arms.” He concluded, “although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

It’s not inconceivable that they ate turkeys. Plymouth Gov. William Bradford wrote of that autumn, “besides waterfowl there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many.”

And they celebrated, as we’ve all always learned, with friendly Indians. Edward Winslow recorded “many of the Indians coming amongst us” and “for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer.”

Tribes in the region had been devastated by disease after contact with Europeans, but easily could have eliminated the settlement. Instead, the leader of the Wampanoag forged an agreement with them, with an eye to a potential ally against the rival Narragansetts.

Finally, the legendary Squanto did indeed provide essential assistance. He belonged to the Patuxet band that had lived in the Plymouth area and had been completely wiped out by the epidemic.

Finding his people gone (he had been kidnapped by an Englishman and sold into slavery in Spain before escaping), he joined with the Pilgrims and taught them indispensable skills, including how to plant corn. Bradford called him “a special instrument sent of God.” He was a translator, guide and, importantly, the chief envoy between the Pilgrims and neighboring tribes.

The peace with the Wampanoag lasted about 50 years. It’s a mistake to read future conflict back into the 1621 feast, a moment of comity and hopefulness.

As Melanie Kirkpatrick explains in her history of the holiday, New England colonies eventually established annual general thanksgiving days. Thanksgiving as we know it arose from these days and the memory of the 1621 event, with layers of tradition added over time (the formal date in late November, the cuisine, the association with football, etc.).

If we didn’t have such a day — to stop and express gratitude to our Creator, to be thankful for the abundance of this great land, to gather with friends and family — we really would have to invent it.

© 2020 by King Features Syndicate

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!


“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2021 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.