Thanksgiving Myths

Meant to give the students a more accurate historical view of Thanksgiving and the holiday myths that exist.

Materials Needed


Art Materials


Activity Process


Students view two historical paintings of the First Thanksgiving and journal their observations.


Review the current idea of Thanksgiving from the dominant cultural perspective. The Norman Rockwell version of Thanksgiving.


  1. Put Smartboard images up and have students write their observations. Discuss the feature of the dominant culture Thanksgiving.
  2. Project the Thanksgiving Myths on the smartboard and review each myth- talking to the class about what they know, before unveiling the "truth" about the 11 myths listed.
  3. Have students respond to this newly realized reality of the first Thanksgiving on a provided worksheet or in a journal.
  4. Have students ask questions about other Holidays or events that may or may not be depicted accurately or from all the perspectives involved(Columbus Day for example). Create a list of questions and devise a plan for the investigation of "facts" students are interested in pursuing.


Using visual thinking strategies and critical response prompts, students look at pictures of Sam Durant's sculptural installation Pilgrims and Indians, Planting and Reaping, Learning and Teaching (2006). A contemporary piece of art that restages two amateurish dioramas from the defunct Plymouth National Wax Museum in Massachusetts juxtaposing two radically different versions of how the Jamestown Colony came to celebrate the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Have students identify the "myth" and the "truth" sides of the installation, based on what we've learned.


Student journal, conversation and interest in further investigating myths in history.Extended resource: Howard Zinn's A People's History

Vocabulary Words


Students came to realize that the historical view of Thanksgiving is based on a cultural myth started during the Civil war to encourage the country during a war time strife. They understood the concept of a cultural myth and understood what they are for, but how they can be non factual. They came to a strong realization that for American Indians, this time is a mark of sadness.

Grade Levels


Primary Content Area

American Indian Learner Outcomes

Content Standards


Language Arts


Social Studies