In America there are two tales of Thanksgiving. There’s the story told to children around the country about how the Pilgrims shared a meal with the Native Americans, and then there’s the one told by actual Native Americans about the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1637, that followed the massacre of 700 Native Americans by English and Dutch mercenaries.
The second story is far more staining on the conscience of Americans and so we prefer to paint an image of the “Pilgrims and Indians” peacefully sharing a bountiful meal, and consequently instilling a sense of false pride.
Present-day Thanksgiving has evolved into a consumerist holiday that gives more attention to football and Black Friday deals than to the values of thankfulness or giving. It is a holiday diluted with literal “white lies”, that continues to celebrate the violence perpetrated against Native Americans.
It is important to remember that the native Wampanoag welcomed and assisted the European settlers with their first harvest, only to be nearly wiped out by the warfare and disease.
Modern Americans are now starting to acknowledge the long history of brutalization suffered by indigenous tribes. Many cities have begun to recognize Columbus Day as Indigenous People’s Day. This has helped generate a conversation about the treatment of Native Americans in the United States.
It is time to also use the holiday to accurately represent Native American history in mainstream America.
Though Thanksgiving is beloved by many Americans and represents a long-held tradition, it is important to remember that just because people have been doing something for a long time, doesn’t mean that they should continue to do so.
Let us not continue to perpetuate the spread of misinformation. It is time to instead use this holiday to educate others and tell the entire story.
The recent election already has families talking about politics around the dinner table, so why not use this Thanksgiving to bring up a conversation about the true history behind the holiday?
To those arguing that a discussion would put a damper on the celebration, please keep in mind what Spanish philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”