LOS ANGELES — Thanksgiving was established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to remind Americans to be grateful for our prosperity, blessings, and freedoms – even in the midst of the Civil War. Unfortunately, this uniquely American holiday has been distorted into “a time for mourning” by many. In 2007, Seattle public schools officials instructed teachers that Thanksgiving should be considered a “bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal.”
In PragerU’s latest video, What’s The Truth About The First Thanksgiving, nationally syndicated radio host and bestselling author Michael Medved corrects these mistaken claims by setting the record straight about the first Thanksgiving.
Medved asserts that the revisionist narrative of Pilgrims as “arrogant oppressors” is wrong on every count. First, the Pilgrims did not flee persecution. They had been living for over a decade in the tolerant nation of Holland, free from the religious restrictions of the Church of England. Instead, they sailed to America to prevent their children from being “seduced” by the materialistic Dutch culture of the time.
“[The Pilgrims] risked their dangerous 1620 voyage to a wilderness continent not because they were running from oppression but because they were running toward holiness – fulfilling a fateful mission to build an ideal Christian commonwealth,” says Medved.
The Pilgrims planned to relocate in modern-day Manhattan, but strong winds blew the Mayflower 250 miles northeast to the coast of Massachusetts. After a giant wave deposited their flimsy scouting boat safely on land within sight of an ideal settlement location, they credited divine providence for their safe landing.
Secondly, Medved points out, the Pilgrims never invaded an Indian settlement. Instead, they stumbled upon a previously deserted Indian village with stored food supplies and a fresh water source. In fact, the Pilgrims wanted to pay the natives for the corn, but all the village’s inhabitants had died from a plague—most likely smallpox—before the Pilgrims’ arrival.
Within a few months, the Pilgrims encountered Squanto, one of the few survivors of the devastating plague. Miraculously, Squanto, spoke English and had already embraced Christianity. Pilgrim leader William Bradford called Squanto “a special instrument sent of God for their good.”
Squanto had grown up in the village but was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Spain. When he finally returned home, his friends and family had been wiped out by disease. After meeting the Pilgrims, Squanto helped them plant crops and negotiate trade agreements with Massasoit, the region’s most important Indian chief.
The celebration of the “First Thanksgiving” was actually a three-day harvest festival in October, likely inspired by the Biblical holiday of Sukkot, or The Feast of Tabernacles. Ninety Indian warriors joined the remaining 53 English Pilgrims who had survived the brutal New England winter, breaking bread together and competing in shooting sports. The Pilgrims provided vegetables, fish and perhaps a few wild turkeys, while the Indians brought five recently hunted deer.
While the Plymouth colony was overshadowed by the nearby Massachusetts Bay colony within a few generations, the Pilgrims left a legacy of unshakable confidence in God’s protection – not for special privileges, but for special responsibilities. “They saw themselves as instruments, not authors, of God’s mysterious master plan,” says Medved.
“The only reason to treat this beloved national holiday as “a time of mourning” is that some foolish Americans actually think that’s a good idea,” concludes Medved. “The Pilgrims knew better: they understood that people of every culture and every era can gain more from gratitude than from guilt.”
MEDIA NOTE: PragerU contributor, Michael Medved, is available for interview, as is PragerU’s CEO, Marissa Streit. Please contact MediaInquiries@theKcompany.co.
PragerU, founded by Dennis Prager in 2011, is a not-for-profit organization that helps millions understand the values that shaped America and provides millions of Americans and people around the world with the intellectual ammunition they need to advocate for limited government, individual responsibility and economic freedom. In 2016 alone, PragerU’s videos received over 250 million views, a figure that will eclipse 350 million in 2017. PragerU is a resource for all who value liberty. It is a threat to all those who do not.