Seattle P-I Gives Readers Turkey of a Thanksgiving Story on Indian Angst

With just nine days until Thanksgiving, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer saw fit to find a way to rain on the holiday that pretty much any American can and does celebrate regardless of religious background or ethnicity. Yet on the hunt for unbridled leftist anger in her November 18 article -- "Making peace with Thanksgiving; Holiday still hurts for some Native Americans" -- the best the paper's Kery Murakami came up with was some local Indians who have "forged their own memories and their own meaning for Thanksgiving -- and none of it has to do with Pilgrims."Unfortunately for her readers, Murakami's reporting only furthered the myth that Thanksgiving celebrations today have any real historical continuity with the 1621 celebration. In point of fact, Thanksgiving traces back to President Abraham Lincoln's declaration of a such a holiday in 1863, which subsequent presidents followed and Congress enacted into law in 1941. From the History Channel's Web site:

Myth: The original Thanksgiving feast took place on the fourth Thursday of November.Fact: The original feast in 1621 occurred sometime between September 21 and November 11. Unlike our modern holiday, it was three days long. The event was based on English harvest festivals, which traditionally occurred around the 29th of September. After that first harvest was completed by the Plymouth colonists, Gov. William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and prayer, shared by all the colonists and neighboring Indians. In 1623 a day of fasting and prayer during a period of drought was changed to one of thanksgiving because the rain came during the prayers. Gradually the custom prevailed in New England of annually celebrating thanksgiving after the harvest.During the American Revolution a yearly day of national thanksgiving was suggested by the Continental Congress. In 1817 New York State adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom, and by the middle of the 19th century many other states had done the same. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln appointed a day of thanksgiving as the last Thursday in November, which he may have correlated it with the November 21, 1621, anchoring of the Mayflower at Cape Cod. Since then, each president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the date for Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November in 1939 (approved by Congress in 1941)

Murakami would have had a perfectly legitimate news story had she tackled the penchant that public schools, particularly in the elementary grades, tend to have to present a fable-filled storybook version of the history that doesn't correspond to reality. Instead the P-I reporter set out to chronicle bitterness at America. At least we can be thankful that what she found, on the main, were Native Americans who dismissed such bitterness and resentment as ultimately counterproductive:

For all the negative associations, Wolfe and other Native Americans say they've forged their own memories and their own meaning for Thanksgiving -- and none of it has to do with Pilgrims."We usually go to my aunt's house or my parents' house," he said. "We all get together and share stories. Me and my cousins usually get into mischief. We have a big dinner. There's so many of us, we can't fit at any one table."Wolfe said: "I think for most American Indians, it's just a time to spend with family. But you have that thought in the back of your mind. You like getting together but you almost wish there was another reason."There was another reason to go to the dinner -- at some point, he had to move on or be lost in bitterness. Eventually, he stopped being part of a study group with other Native American students."I was catching myself with pessimistic attitudes and negative thoughts. There was nothing I could do about mainstream society whitewashing the history. I could complain about how technically my family should own hundreds of acres in the Midwest. But I could get a good job and buy some of that land back."
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters