Is Everyone Thankful for Thanksgiving?

Caroline M., Writer

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Thanksgiving. A holiday based on food, family, politics, and gratitude. The day consists of waiting for the turkey (or other options one serves as a replacement), watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or just sitting around with your family. Some families travel to see their relatives, and horrendous holiday traffic awaits them both to and from their destination.

No matter what way a family celebrates, Thanksgiving is a day to appreciate all that has been given to us. Indeed, our nation would not be here without the Pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower in 1620, and their bond with the Native Americans, who were already present on their new land. The history seems foggy: when one reaches around middle school, this story is proven false, covering up the actual lesson in order to preserve national tradition. Although Thanksgiving has an overall positive message behind it, the popular celebrations serve to mask the true history of the holiday; furthermore, Native Americans should be honored on this holiday.

While Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks, some Native Americans see the national holiday as covering the truth of their ancestors’ story. Mahtowin Munro, co-leader of the United American Indians of New England, spoke to The Final Call newsgroup, saying that Thanksgiving glorifies the Mayflower story and that modern celebration of the holiday can cause self-esteem issues among today’s Native Americans. The celebrations I participated in when I was younger seemed strange to me, as it was extremely focused on making sure that I knew that Thanksgiving was all about the Pilgrims. I remember being five years old and dressing up a Native American, wearing a paper bag with fake symbols on it and a paper and feather hat, taking pictures next to my friends who were dressed up as either a Pilgrim or another Native American. Even as a young child, I knew what I was doing was not correct, and I can see why this would cause actual Native Americans discomfort on this holiday. These types of celebrations generalize Native American culture, removing the real meaning of their traditions and basically making fun of the many tribes in America. By only considering Thanksgiving to be the Pilgrim’s story, these people unknowingly push aside half of the history of this holiday.

Coming from teachings outside of Bancroft, I felt like I was learning the wrong message. I was taught that the Wampanoag tribe was willing to help the new settlers by showing them techniques on how to build homes and grow crops, and then they all sat down to have turkey, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes covered in marshmallow. Everyone lived happily ever after from then on. Everything I knew about Thanksgiving had strayed away from the original meaning of the holiday to belittle Native American culture. Instead of appropriating their traditions, the story of Thanksgiving should be taught differently so that Native Americans are depicted as equal to the Pilgrims for founding the holiday. The settlers are not the only ones who make up a part of American history, so everyone involved in establishing our current nation should be honored on Thanksgiving.

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