By Melanie Reding, Associate Director, Adirondack Diversity Initiative
Like many contemporary holidays and celebrations, Thanksgiving has become a holiday where oversimplification, misrepresentation and myths tend to dominate the narrative. The history and significance of the day is often overshadowed by commercialism and merry-making. Holiday shopping and Black Friday sales, which increasingly begin on Thanksgiving Day, have become a distraction from the celebration of family and togetherness.
Furthermore, when it comes to Thanksgiving, there is a deep and tragic history that for centuries Americans have refused to accept — choosing instead to perpetuate a harmful myth. Unlike the depiction in the 1912 painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, the relationship between the Wampanoag Tribe native to Massachusetts and the Pilgrims of that “First Thanksgiving” was anything but the school-taught myth of happy little Indians and Pilgrims sitting together enjoying a meal. In my school days, the lesson was taught with construction paper feathers, pilgrim hats and books where “I was for Indian” was accompanied by colorful images of smiling party guests.