Media contact: Cynthia Medina, [email protected], 848-445-1940

Rutgers Expert Available to Discuss the First Thanksgiving, Teaching Accurate Depictions of Pilgrims and Native Americans

Newswise — New Brunswick, N.J. (Nov. 20, 2019) – Rutgers scholar Camilla Townsend is available to discuss the history of the first Thanksgiving, and how to teach children a truthful depiction of the holiday’s history while still enjoying the positive aspects of its modern representation.  

“Thanksgiving is the one holiday that Americans of all persuasions share. It bears within it a lovely concept. Many Native Americans celebrate it with their friends and loved ones as well. However, the story that we tell about the Pilgrims and their friendship with the indigenous peoples is an element that we should consider revising—not so much because of inaccuracies about specifics, but because it encourages us to see only what is good in America’s history, and ignore what caused others pain,” Townsend said.

Regarding the first Thanksgiving holiday, Townsend said, “The settlers depended on the Native Americans. They lived near them and learned from them which native plants were good to eat and how to grow crops in varying climates. The indigenous peoples frequently traded with the settlers, and the two groups often ate together on feast days. Many even forged lasting friendships. When we teach our children the story of the first Thanksgiving, however, it is important not to forget the period of displacement and loss, the effects of which are still with the Native American community. We should have open discussions about what happened and what still needs to be done.”

Townsend, a Distinguished Professor of history at Rutgers–New Brunswick, is an expert in Native American history and the author of Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs (2019). She can be reached by contacting Cynthia Medina at [email protected].  

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Broadcast interviews: Rutgers University–New Brunswick has broadcast-quality TV and radio studios available for remote live or taped interviews with Rutgers experts. For more information, contact Cynthia Medina [email protected]


Rutgers University–New Brunswick is where Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, began more than 250 years ago. Ranked among the world’s top 60 universities, Rutgers’s flagship university is a leading public research institution and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. It is home to internationally acclaimed faculty and has 12 degree-granting schools and a Division I Athletics program.