Myth-Busting The Native American Thanksgiving Story

Myth-Busting The Native American Thanksgiving Story

When you think of Thanksgiving, what images come to mind? Probably of buttoned-up religious refugees offering some of their roasted turkey to half-naked Indians, wearing exotic headdress. 

Local filmmaker Ernest Whiteman III, who is Northern Arapaho, challenges that representation.

In 1621, the indigenous people of Massachusetts would’ve been Wampanoag. And as education coordinator for the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in north suburban Evanston, Whiteman is putting on a series of presentations on how the first Thanksgiving is chock full of myths that make indigenous people look like savages. 

For example, early narratives about Thanksgiving imply that the pilgrims taught the very concept of thankfulness to the Wampanoag. The inaccuracies aren’t just about moral character, either. That turkey and stuffing they supposedly ate — chances are it was venison and mashed pumpkin. 

Whiteman joins Worldview to discuss more myths and the resulting legacy around the first Thanksgiving.