As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, two members of the Wampanoag Tribe held a gathering on Saturday entitled The Thanksgiving Myth Busted.

Seated on sheepskin in front of a crackling fire at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury, David Vanderhoop of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe and Ramona Peters of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe encouraged the crowd to consider a different side to the Thanksgiving story.

“I extend an invitation for us all to be uncomfortable,” Ms. Peters said. “To listen with ears, but even more so with hearts.”

The traditional narrative of Thanksgiving involves the celebration of the Plymouth Pilgrims following their first successful harvest in 1621. A harvest they were able to reap because Squanto and the Wampanoag leader Massasoit taught them how to hunt and grow corn.

“You all had this story in school, about the first Thanksgiving and so did we,” Ms. Peters said.

And some of it may very well be true.

But according to Ms. Peters, during this first celebration the Pilgrims fired their guns and cannons to rejoice in their good fortune. Though it was not a sign of aggression, and peace would hold between the two communities in the region for another 50 years, it was a foreboding symbol of the tragic history that would come to unfold over the next four centuries.

That side of the history, Mr. Vanderhoop explained, began with a price tag on Native American scalps, reached a boiling point during King Philip’s War, and was almost concluded in 1890 — when 95 per cent of Native Americans had been either killed or removed from their native lands.

The history continues to the current day, Mr. Vanderhoop said, citing bleak statistics that include the high rate of tuberculosis, alcoholism, diabetes, motor vehicle accidents and suicide among Native Americans in the United States. It continues in his own town, that was once the most economical depressed in the Commonwealth, and it continues in his own head, with depression that he believes has manifested as a result of confronting the historic trauma, he said.

Thanksgiving as a national holiday was created by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 as a way to unite the North and South during the Civil War. But the Native history of Thanksgiving extends for generations prior to the institution of the national holiday and even generations prior to the 1620 harvest, Ms. Peters said. Thanksgiving was celebrated on more than just the fourth Thursday of November, she added. There were four celebrations each year to honor the four distinct seasonal changes and the four distinct bounties harvested in each.

And just like today, they were a time to come together, give thanks and reflect on the season.

“What I’m telling you is that Thanksgiving is about more than just a meal,” Ms. Peters said.

As the discussion drew to an end, the event became a potluck feast, with people of different backgrounds breaking bread together and talking with an enriched perspective of a complex, cultural tradition.