Thanksgiving and Its Myths: Reconsidering Origin Stories and Indigenous Commemorations of 1620

This seminar will take up questions of origins, the histories they tell, and the stories they erase by examining how as institutions, local communities, and educators are reconsidering how to commemorate 2020 as the 400th anniversary of the Plymouth colonists’ settlement on Wampanoag homelands. We will examine the history and literature that commemorating Plymouth has generated, not just in 2020 but over the centuries, including “Wamsutta” Frank James’s suppressed 1970 speech, which he was invited and then disinvited to give by colonial descendants, and recent public history work by Wampanoag scholars and intellectuals like Paula Peters and Linda Coombs, who are recasting the timeline of colonialism altogether. We will consider how we might read colonial histories of Plymouth through a lens that foregrounds Indigenous actors and homelands, taking as our cue the Pequot activist William Apess’s critical rereading of colonial history in his 1836 “Eulogy on King Philip.” Finally, we’ll place the commemorations of 2020 in relation to the 1619 Project and its work to recast timelines of American origins to account for slavery. In this way, we’ll consider how the classroom can be a space for troubling origin stories and familiar narratives of America.