The student news site of Owatonna High School.


The student news site of Owatonna High School.


The student news site of Owatonna High School.



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Aza Lewis is a junior at Owatonna High School this year. This is her first year as a Magnet Staff. Lewis is involved in DECA, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Lewis also spends much of her time dancing competitively...

Ruby Garza is a senior at Owatonna High School and this is her third year on the Magnet staff. The reason Garza decided to continue being in Magnet was because she has enjoyed her experience in the class...

Andres Contreras is a senior at OHS this year. This is his second year in Magnet, this year he will take the role of editor and writer. Contreras is involved in Younglife and Wyldlife outside of school....

Societies current view of Thanksgiving and the history behind it

Designed by Norah Sletten
Thanksgiving holds tragic memories for the Native American population.

This year, Thanksgiving is on Thursday, Nov. 23. Every year, families across the nation celebrate this holiday with exuberant feasts and some high-tension football games. And some families know that the conversations around the dinner table can get controversial, putting a strain on family relations. 

While many families across the nation partake in celebrating Thanksgiving the question arises, how many families know the true history behind Thanksgiving? Today, Thanksgiving is a widely commercialized holiday. Depicted to be a celebration of family, thankfulness and delicious, comfort food, 79% of Americans agree that Thanksgiving is the superior holiday. The November holiday is also seen as an opportunity for businesses to rake in large amounts of money, with events like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Black Friday and Cyber Monday being aimed at the serial consumers of America, looking to make a profit off of them and their holiday spirit. 

The holiday is also widely celebrated in schools, especially elementary schools. A traditional celebration taught in elementary school includes students making hand turkeys and watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving while snacking on the untraditional feast that is had in the movie. Students are taught to rejoice in the peacefulness of the holiday, as they are used to seeing a friendly depiction of pilgrims and Native Americans coming together for a festive meal. 

Many OHS students have a fond memory of this classroom celebration. Senior Ava Kleeberger said, “I always looked forward to every Thanksgiving celebration we did when I was younger. When you’re in kindergarten, they don’t teach you about what actually happened.”

Due to the abundance of positive associations American culture has with Thanksgiving, leaving the historically accurate version of the holiday to be lost. The positive connotations people have with Thanksgiving perpetuate colonialism and bury the atrocities committed against Native Americans deep beneath American soil. 


Thanksgiving has been celebrated for close to four centuries, the first celebration being in 1621. The traditional story that is commonly told across America goes like this: the pilgrims living in Plymouth gave thanks to God for their survival and the Native Americans living nearby joined the celebration. The two groups joined together for a feast, and soon after the American colonies expanded, becoming the United States. 

Unfortunately, the original story is much more brutal and traumatic for the Native American population and culture. The Plymouth Plantation was established on a former Wampanoag village. A large majority of the tribe was wiped out due to diseases that were brought over by the Europeans.  Cape Cod Times covered the story of the relationship between the tribe and the Plymouth colony.  Paraphrased from the articles, the bones of tribe members were discovered in 1619, by Tisquantum – a member of the Wampanoag village. Tisquantum had been captured by a slave-trader, and had just made his way back to North America when he discovered the remains of his village that had been severely plagued by disease. 

Historians have said that the idea that the Natives were invited by the pilgrims to join the celebration, is a common misconception. Paraphrased from This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving, by David Silverman, Thanksgiving was more of a rejoicing for the pilgrims and less of a giving of thanks. This rejoicing was accompanied by feasting, target practice and competitive games.

An article from Education Connections tells the historical story behind Thanksgiving. This story tells that the Wampanoags heard the sounds of gunshots and thought that the pilgrims were being attacked, the tribe showed up to the celebration at the aid of the pilgrims. The pilgrims were highly suspicious of the arrival of the Natives, as they viewed them as aggressive. After recognizing each other as neighbors, the two groups spent the next three days in each other’s company. 

Native American history is American history. It is a group of people who were here long before the Europeans arrived, their story is our story.

— Mr. Patrick Churchill

However, this somewhat peaceful relationship did not continue. European settlers continued to celebrate Thanksgiving, but the celebration often took place after ruthless victories against the Native people. Two evident examples of the settlers’ violent colonization of the Natives took place in the years of 1637  and 1676. 

A Britannica article explains the conflict between the settlers and Native Americans that took place from 1675 -1676, during King Philip’s War. The war was the Natives last attempt to evade English colonization and reject their brutal authority. The 14 month long rebellion was named after the Wampanoag chief – Metacom. Metacom later became known as King Philip, hence the name King Philip’s War. Near the end of the war on August 20, 1676, Metacom was killed by an English soldier. Metacom was beheaded, and his head was exhibited on a spike at Plymouth Colony for close to two decades. 

In the Early American history class at OHS, students are taught Native history. Micaela Fast is a junior at OHS who is currently a student in AP Early American History class. Fast said, “Native American history needs to be taught in schools because it gives students a greater understanding of our nation’s history.” 


Today, Thanksgiving is spent as a National Day of Mourning for the Native American culture. Paraphrased from an article by the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, since 1970, those who observe this day recognize the struggles of their Native American ancestors and the adversity Native Americans still face today. This important day also advocates for Americans becoming educated around Native American history and the ongoing discrimination they have and are still experiencing. 

In past years, protesters in Minneapolis have gathered together to commemorate the National Day of Mourning. The Twin Cities holds a large Native population, a population that is facing a housing crisis. The protestors stood alongside leaders of Native-led organizations, and together they remembered the lives lost to the genocide of Native American people.

In the United States, political figures have started to recognize Native American history and the importance behind doing so. On Oct. 29, 2021 President Biden designated November as National Native American Heritage Month. The proclamation said, “Far too often in our founding era and in the centuries since, the promise of our Nation has been denied to Native Americans who have lived on this land since time immemorial.” The United States was built on the idea that all are entitled to equal rights. In acknowledging Native American history, the United States is taking a step towards furthering its promise of equality to all of its inhabitants. 

OHS teacher Mr. Patrick Churchill teaches various history courses. Alongside other members of the OHS community, Mr. Churchill recognizes the necessity in teaching all generations about Native American history. He said, “Native American history is American history. It is a group of people who were here long before the Europeans arrived, their story is our story.” 


In Minnesota, there are 11 federally recognized Native American tribes. This means that the United States has a government to government relationship with these 11 tribes, as tribes have the right to form their own government systems. To be an ally to the tribes inhabiting the state, learn about their history and how they have been treated by the United States government. To provide support, contribute to local Native organizations and movements.

Editorial Note: The use of the word “Natives” follows AP Style rules on the topic of Native Americans and Indigenous references. 


About the Contributor
Norah Sletten, Editor
Norah Sletten is a senior at OHS and this is her third year on OHS Magnet staff. Sletten joined Magnet because she has an interest in journalism. Alongside being a part of OHS Magnet, Sletten is involved in Owatonna Girls Cross Country, Rotary Club and Drama Club. Outside of school, she is a part of the Youth Oriented Leadership Organization (YOLO), a mental health and anti-tobacco advocacy group in Steele County. Sletten enjoys listening to music, hanging out with friends and working as a barista at Hyvee Starbucks. In her future, she hopes to attend Carleton College and major in Cinema and Media Studies.