I learned about Thanksgiving in my Cape Cod elementary school about 45 miles from Plimoth Plantation. New Englanders take that early American history very seriously, and the celebration of Thanksgiving has always been dear to me. It was taught to me as a coming together of Pilgrims and American Indians, before the two sides embarked on a bitter war that waged for two centuries.
Some teachers are now using Thanksgiving to teach about the atrocities of the European settlement of America. There's a fine line here that begs for explanation. The first Thanksgiving supper was, by all accounts, a peaceful one of sharing (actually, there's only one written account of the feast itself, but there's nothing else to suggest that there was hostility between the English and the Wampanoag Indians). The celebration of that meal should reflect the meal itself.
However, the treatment of the American Indians by the Europeans was at times atrocious. The worst atrocity committed by any president was the Cherokees' Trail of Tears, which was an illegal expulsion of the Cherokee Indians from Georgia by President Andrew Jackson (the first Democrat elected president). Many American Indians certainly committed crimes against the Europeans, but to nowhere near the extent that the Whites slaughtered the Indians.
I think it's important that our children understand that history. But I also think it's important that our children be allowed and encouraged to celebrate the positive moments of our history, not just wash over them because bad things happened, too. This Thursday, I'll be thinking of my ancestors on both sides of the struggle (my family goes back to the American Indians and the early settlers of 1620 and 1621), and I'll be thanking them for their contribution to what has become this country I so love.