Paintings created hundreds of years after feast aren't historically, factually accurate
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If only there had been a camera at the First Thanksgiving...

Many of today's stereotypes about the feast and those who attended began with paintings created long after the 1621 event was over.

“The images often tell you more about the time they are created than the time they actually are depicting,” says Jenny Pulsipher, a Brigham Young University historian.

 One example is a popular painting of the First Thanksgiving, done in 1915 by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris, an American painter.

He depicted the Indians wearing elaborate feather headdresses common to tribes in the Great Plains, not those in Massachusetts.
 “In the early 20th century, people thought that all Indians looked like Plains Indians,” said Pulsipher.  People tended to assume “all Indians are the same when really Indians are just as diverse as Europeans are,” she adds.

The Ferris painting also shows the natives without shirts.
“They wouldn’t have been half-naked, either, because this is November and it’s cold,” Pulsipher says.

The Wampanoag are shown sitting on the ground as a Pilgrim woman hands them food.
At the time the painting was done, many Americans considered native peoples uncivilized — “so you have to feed them on the ground,” Pulsipher says. “Obviously, it’s implying that the ones who are standing are superior

A modern painting of the First Thanksgiving might feature both groups sitting at a table or together on the ground. The Pilgrims and Wampanoag enjoyed a cooperative relationship at the time, Pulsipher says -- “not one people dominating over another.”

Another popular Thanksgiving painting was done by Jennie A. Brownscombe in 1914. It depicts the Pilgrims' outfits more realistically. The clothes are simpler, without Ferris's “best dress” black outfits on the men or ruffles on the women’s hats, Pulsipher says.

Most striking about Brownscombe's painting is that you don’t immediately see any Indians; they are sitting in the background.
This indicates the then-popular view of the “vanished” Indian, that these peoples had once lived in America but were now gone. Yet the Indians living near Plymouth in the 1600s “way  outnumbered the Pilgrims,” Pulsipher says, “and they outnumbered them at the Thanksgiving meal,  too.

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