Honey, We Need to Talk: Thanksgiving

By The GlimmerGlass Editorial Board

The aroma of secret stuffing recipes, pumpkin pies, and roasted turkey filling the air can only be indicative of one thing. Bridging the gap between Halloween and Christmas, we are about to hit the second biggest holiday in America’s beloved trifecta – Thanksgiving.

The prospect of friends, family, food, and fun is what makes this day a classic. It is one of the few holidays that champion the values of togetherness and thankfulness.

Though many families have their own special tradition designated for this holiday, the most traditional of all is that of people coming together to share a feast.

It is often taught that Americans do this in remembrance of the very first thanksgiving, which involved the communing between the pilgrims and Indians after English settlers arrived on Plymouth Rock.

Many schools and churches reenact this day in history by dressing children up in costumes that include white smocks and bonnets for the pilgrims, as well as face paints and feathers for the Indians.

As darling as a picture this may make, it is completely falsified. Not just the skits put on in Sunday schools, but the skits we participate in every year when we come to celebrate an event that never happened – or at least, in the way that it has been known to happen.

Many American Indian Activists refer to this event as the American Indian Holocaust. Native Americans across the nation remember the English settlement as a time of great sadness and despair.

According to Richard Greener, writer for the Huffington Post, “the first Thanksgiving Day [occurred] in the year 1637, but it was nothing like our Thanksgiving today. On that day the Massachusetts Colony Governor, John Winthrop, proclaimed such a “Thanksgiving” to celebrate the safe return of a band of heavily armed hunters, all colonial volunteers. They had just returned from their journey to what is now Mystic, Connecticut where they massacred 700 Pequot Indians. Seven hundred Indians – men, women and children – all murdered.”

With the aid of textbooks implemented by public schools, the true events of Thanksgiving Day have been mostly eradicated from popular culture for nearly 120 years.

Not only have the American people forgotten the details of the true Thanksgiving Day, but even the facts concerning Europeans’ first settlement in America are murky.

There are textbooks being used in classrooms today that still assert that Christopher Columbus discovered America. To be clear – a land that is already inhabited by people cannot be rediscovered, reinhabitated, or reclaimed. Christopher Columbus may have discovered that America existed, but he did not discover America.

What happened to the Native American people after the pilgrims invaded was not a cause for celebration – it was a tragedy.

According to nativeamericanroots.net, European diseases such as smallpox, influenza, the measles and the bubonic plague wiped out hundreds of thousands of Indians over the course of the two centuries that followed the English settlement.

Many American Indian Activists refer to this event as the American Indian Holocaust. Native Americans across the nation remember the English settlement as a time of great sadness and despair.

Yet, America refuses to honor, respect, or even recognize the suffering that was inflicted upon the Natives.

We have successfully romanticized the genocide of a people. Yearly, we celebrate the slaughtering of those who are indigenous to the land that Europeans invaded and claimed as their own.

It is ironic that in the very same month that we have proclaimed to be a dedication to the Native American people, that we also celebrate a holiday that has been historically warped and distorted in such a way that spits in their faces.

Fortunately, there are progressive peoples who recognize this bitter irony and aim to uproot it. Seattle, Washington and Minneapolis, Minnesota are two of the most recent cities to change the highly famed “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous People Day.”

According to CNN, Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant said, “Learning about the history of Columbus and transforming this day into a celebration of indigenous people and a celebration of social justice … allows us to make a connection between this painful history and the ongoing marginalization, discrimination and poverty that indigenous communities face to this day.”

Though the disparities faced by indigenous communities occur year round, there is one day out of the 365 that marginalization peaks at an all time high – the day which is the most “American” holiday of them all.

Shifting the attention from Columbus to the American Indians is only the beginning. As blissful as Thanksgiving seems on the surface, it represents something much darker. When we come together in remembrance of the pilgrims joining together with the Indians, we insult every life that was lost.

So while we must maintain the value of thankfulness, and should indeed celebrate in gratitude with one another, we need to value respect and honor even more.




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