Thanksgiving Day (the last Thursday in November) was declared a national holiday by President Lincoln in 1863, during the dark days of the US Civil War (1861-65). It commemorates a harvest festival held in 1621 by the English settlers of the Plymouth colony, religious dissidents seeking a place in which to practice their particular form of Christianity free of government interference. Unfortunately the settlers had arrived in late December and half of their number died that first terrible winter. Massasoit, the leader of the local Wampanoag Indians, decided to share local agricultural techniques with the "Pilgrims", thus enabling the community to survive. The thankful Pilgrims included the Indians in their harvest celebration. Relations between the English at Plymouth and the Wampanoags continued to be generally peaceful for over fifty years.
Though the Pilgrims were modest and fairly tolerant people, other English settlers were much less patient in dealing with the Indians, whose Stone Age culture had little concept of private property. Until the late 20th century, Anglo-Americans (and by extension most European-Americans) regarded their ancestors' arrival in the New World as a heroic and positive movement of people. The days leading up to Thanksgiving Day often featured school pageants emphasizing peace, harmony and the golden prospects for all Americans.
By the 1960s, however, historians were looking more seriously at the negative impact of European migration. In today's cartoon a schoolteacher seems to have taken this reassessment rather far. Cartoonist David Horsey shows a fourth-grader of clearly European origins (his clothes are from the early 17th century) weeping in protest atshavingsto play the part of a Pilgrim, someone the teacher presents to the children as an "imperialist European invader". The little black boy, the Latina girl and the European girl (the "progressive" schoolteacher probably takes a feminist line about the oppression of women) all get to play the good Indians. This, Horsey seems to be telling us, is the "new world" created by simple-minded schoolteachers imposing their ideological views on American children: a celebration of harmony and hope has become an occasion to play a divisive blame game with history.(W. D. White)