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The Thanksgiving of the Past: History Teachers Explain

Hand-drawn Thanksgiving turkeys in the 100s wing

Thanksgiving has a controversial background that many Camas High School (CHS) students may not know about. Some students enjoy the holiday because of the food rather than the actual reason for the celebration. However, CHS history teachers shed light on the holiday to explain its rich history.

CHS student Nathanael Buzan helps peel potatoes for the Best Buddies Thanksgiving feast.

“I guess [Thanksgiving] is a day to say, ‘Wow, guys, we made it! If it weren’t for our teamwork, we would’ve died.’ That probably translated to the whole ‘being with your family on Thanksgiving’ thing because it represents how the Pilgrims and the natives had a good relationship,” junior Kolton Holtcamp said. 

CHS students have some knowledge about the holiday, but many do not understand its more profound history. 

“Thanksgiving is the idea that new European settlers needed help with the environment they were now living in and were helped by the Native Americans,” U.S. History teacher Bronk Williams said. “To say ‘thanks for the help,’ the Europeans and Native Americans came together and had a big meal.”

There are many theories on how Thanksgiving indeed came about. Some say it was a harvest celebration for which the Europeans received help from the Native Americans. Others say it was simply a peaceful meeting between cultures to share resources. However, many theories about the holiday and those involved in its creation are not entirely true. A simple yet significant misconception among Americans is that the Pilgrims had buckles on their shoes.

Best Buddies Thanksgiving meal in the Main Commons

“[Europeans] didn’t have enough to harvest, so they had to get help from natives in the area, and that’s how they came together, but it wasn’t necessarily peace, love and harmony,” World History teacher Jeanne Jarvis said. “Pilgrims also didn’t have buckles on their shoes.” 

Some CHS students do not know the background and view Thanksgiving as a time to enjoy a nice meal with family.

“I don’t know why we celebrate; I’m just hungry and want food,” junior Wren Crain said. 

Thanksgiving can be controversial, but it can also be an enjoyable time for people to gather with their family and friends. When celebrating Thanksgiving, it is essential to respect Indigenous voices and support Native communities. CHS hopes students had a cheerful Thanksgiving surrounded by family, friends and a good meal.

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Sophie Holtcamp, Copy Editor

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