No, The Pilgrims Didn’t Desecrate Native American Graves, And Other Myths You Shouldn’t Believe
Four hundred years after the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts in November 1620, this Thanksgiving promises to be the most isolated celebration in living memory. Thanks to the internet, however, virtual gatherings will be possible.
Thanksgiving in the age of the internet also means, for many amateur historians, debunking the many myths surrounding the story of the original Thanksgiving. This project of correcting the Thanksgiving legend has picked up steam in recent years. It is part of a more general trend of eagerness to set the historical record straight regarding anything related to the founding of the American colonies and of the later republic.
Such revisionist histories are nearly always written (or posted to the internet) with an agenda in mind. It is no different for Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims, in particular, have been especially susceptible to this sort of use. We see in them a mirror image of ourselves, or at least of our fellow countrymen.
Often regarded as the original settlers of what would become the United States (although they were neither the first explorers nor first settlers), the Pilgrims have been interpreted by later generations as the prototypes or forerunners of what the British colonies and American republic would become.
Once upon a time, the Pilgrims presented a positive, admirable role model, and people have often projected their own desired virtues onto the Pilgrims. More often today, the Pilgrims’ actions seem to portend the greatest evils of U.S. history. In such accounts, the side characters were really the chief agents or paragons of virtue, and the heroes you learned about in grade school were really the villains.
Complete objectivity may be an illusion, but the problem with overt agendas is that they rarely let the history speak for itself. To keep history from becoming nothing more than a political
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