Jane Kamensky, a professor of history at Brandeis University, wondered on the website Common-Place (in 2001) whether it makes sense to stir up the historical pot, "to plumb the bottom of it all - to determine whether the first Thanksgiving was merely a pretext for bloodshed, enslavement, and displacement that would follow in later decades."
"To ask whether this is true is to ask the wrong question. Thanksgiving is true to its purposes,"Kamensky writes, "And that's all it needs to be. For these holidays say much less about who we really were in some specific Then, than about who we want to be in an ever changing Now."
It seems odd for a historian to argue that history doesn't matter. A Thanksgiving which ignores the systematic destruction of Indian cultures which followed hot on the heels of the Plymouth feast not only does a disservice to indigenous peoples, it falsifies our understanding of ourselves and our history.
While few would suggest that Thanksgiving should become the occasion for a yearly guilt trip, we would do well to remember the price the first Americans paid for European expansion into their territories as we sit around the bountiful table with our family and friends. Only by openly acknowledging the sins of our collective past, is it possible to proceed toward a future that all Americans can feel thankful for.
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