The Tofurkey is in the oven...

The Tofurkey is in the oven, and now it is time to talk about the history of giving thanks in America. It just so happens that I am currently reading a book entitled, "Lies My Teacher Told Me, Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong" [I can't get my computer to italicize in these posts. Sorry!]. It's a really fascinating book. I highly recommend it. A few days ago, I read the passages about Thanksgiving, and I'll quote my favorite parts here:

"Thanksgiving dinner is a ritual, with all the characteristics that Mircea Eliade assigns to the ritual observances of origin myths:
1. It constitutes the history of the acts of the founders, the Supernaturals.
2. It is considered to be true.
3. It tells how an institution came into existence.
4. In performing the ritual associated with the myth, one "experiences knowledge of the origin" and claims one's patriarchy.
5. Thus one "lives" the myth, as religion."


"The civil ritual we practice marginalizes Native Americans. Our archetypal image of the first Thanksgiving portrays the groaning boards in the woods, with the Pilgrims in their starched Sunday best next to their almost naked Indian guests. As a holiday greeting card puts it, 'I is for the Indians we invited to share our food.' The silliness of this reaches its zenith in the handouts that schoolchildren have carried home for decades, complete with the captions such as, 'They served pumpkins and turkeys and corn and squash. The Indians had never seen such a feast!' When Native American novelist Michael Dorris's son brought home this 'information' from his New Hampshire elementary school, Dorris pointed out that 'the Pilgrims had literally never seen "such a feast," since all foods mention are exclusively indigenous to the Americas and had been provided by [or with the aid of] the local tribe.'"


"The true history of Thanksgiving reveals embarrassing facts. The Pilgrims did not introduce the tradition; Eastern Indians had observed autumnal harvest celebrations for centuries. Although George Washington did set aside days for national thanksgiving, our modern celebrations date back only to 1863. During the Civil War, when the Union needed all the patriotism that such an observance might muster, Abraham Lincolm proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday. The Pilgrims had nothing to do with it; not until the 1890's did they even get included in the tradition. For that matter, they were not commonly known as 'the Pilgrims' until the 1870's."

pp. 89-90,
"Lies My Teacher Told Me" by James W. Loewen

Although, it's still nice to give thanks once a year. The Eastern Indians were definitely onto something.


  1. Interesting...

    Takes whitefolks to invent something like insensible like candy corn and elevate it to the status of 'food' though.

  2. Wow, did I have it wrong! I always thought that the Pilgrims were starving and the Indians brought turkeys and stuff for them, and that's why they were thankful.

    I wonder what really happened.