Teaching the REAL Thanksgiving Story

 Thanksgiving is fast approaching! A holiday filled with joyous gatherings, delectable dishes, and faces full of smiles and laughter. Also, a holiday traditionally taught as a happy gathering between Pilgrims and Native Americans. 

While Thanksgiving may be a popular topic in history classes, and a favorite holiday to many, unfortunately, in many middle school classrooms, it is often taught historically inaccurate or incomplete.

As a history teacher, I struggle with how my students come to my class thinking they know the real story of Thanksgiving, that it’s about Native Americans and Pilgrims sitting down to a feast with everyone getting along. But the truth of it is that the events surrounding the feast were not as peaceful as we were led to believe. 

I think it is important for students to know the real story of Thanksgiving. I want my students to know about how the English settlers of Plymouth forcefully took land from the Wampanoag tribe, native peoples who inhabited Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. About how the English settlers then aligned with that very same tribe in order to defeat another native tribe, the local Narragansett. This 11-month bloody war became known as the Pequot War.

In history classes, I think it is important to present multiple perspectives of historical events because representation matters. What is lacking in the mainstream story of Thanksgiving is the Native Peoples’ perspective. 

To ensure I am giving proper representation, I wanted to bridge the two stories together to make sure students had the whole truth. To tell the whole story, I created the History of Thanksgiving resource, which includes a video and several primary sources that expose students to various accounts of what we now know as Thanksgiving Day. After these activities, many of my students are shocked at the events surrounding this treasured fall holiday. 

In this resource, students will watch a video that shares the general history behind Thanksgiving. Then they will read an article that details the story behind Plymouth settlers, and the Wamponoag People and what led to the Pequot War. After that, students will read 2 different perspectives on Thanksgiving. One is a primary source from Edward Winslow, a passenger and an original signer of the Mayflower Compact, and the other from a descendant of the Wampanoag tribe. Following this, students will compare and contrast the two perspectives. Finally, they will read a primary source from Sarah J. Hale, who campaigned to have Thanksgiving declared a national holiday, on how Thanksgiving became a national holiday. 

My favorite aspect of this product, like all my other products, is that it comes with a digital and paper format, making it perfect for a 100% in-person class, fully remote class, or even a hybrid of both. 

Upon purchase, you will receive a link to a Google Drive folder that contains ALL of the resources in this product, both digital and print versions. When you click to open the document, it will be VIEW ONLY. In order to edit the file to suit your own needs, you will need to go to FILE and MAKE A COPY in order to edit. Be sure to add the copy to your own Drive so you can access it and use it multiple times! 

To post this on Google Classroom, all you need to do is create an assignment and attach the file from your Google Drive folder!

I sincerely hope you and your students find this resource as educational, enlightening, and valuable as I do in my own classroom! 

Looking for just the Digital version of this activity? Click HERE!

History of Thanksgiving Also Included In: 

Holiday SUPER Bundle for November {Digital AND Paper}

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