ERIE, Pa. — As the nation observes Native American Heritage Month and Thanksgiving, some people are reflecting on the origin of the holiday.
Some people say the portrayal of Pilgrims preparing a big meal to express gratitude to indigenous communities is a distortion of what happened.
Edward Jolie, assistant professor of anthropology and archaeology at Mercyhurst University, believes the first “Thanksgiving” in 1621 had more to do with diplomacy than a feast about friendship. Jolie, who shares heritage with the Oglala Lakota in South Dakota and the Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma, sees the holiday as an opportunity for people to come together.
“It’s taken on new meaning and new symbolism in subsequent centuries, but I think it’s useful to reflect upon those early encounters and think about how it shaped much of the way non-Indians and Indians today engage with one another,” he said.
Jolie said Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday; but within the diverse indigenous communities, there are Native Americans who do not celebrate “Thanksgiving” or prefer to observe it as a day of mourning.