Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of year for family and friends to gather around a dinner table full of good food; however, it has a very dark history that many Americans don’t know about. In grade school, students learn that Thanksgiving reminds everyone to be thankful for what they have and the important contributions of people such as the helpful Indians who gave Pilgrims food and farming tips to survive the winter. While that interpretation is true, many Indians suffered from the diseases that the Pilgrims brought to the Americas. For many Native Indians, Thanksgiving marks as a day of remembrance and grieving. Since 1970 the United American Indians of New England established Thanksgiving as its National Day of Mourning. It begs the question: Should we really be celebrating Thanksgiving since it’s a National Day of Mourning for some?
Celebrating Thanksgiving has been a very difficult decision for most Native Americans. Some celebrate the holiday such as Jacqueline Keeler who is a member of the Yankton Dakota Sioux. She views Thanksgiving as reconciliation for the atrocities that her people experienced such as mass murder, enslavement, and loss of land. If her people survived this long, then it’s time to move past what happened back then. While I appreciate her open heart, it does not excuse the misunderstood meaning of Thanksgiving. I would like to draw attention to the way students celebrate this Holiday. When people celebrate Thanksgiving, they hold parades that focus on balloons, turkeys, and Broadway plays. It does not talk about the influence that the Native Americans had on the people and this affects the young people. For young children, they are very vulnerable to misinformation and that teachers and parents should play a role in educating young students about Thanksgiving and its significance because native people died on this day at the hands of some of their ancestors.
Some Native Americans do not celebrate because they view it as a National day of Mourning. Some Indians groups such as the Wampanoag, remember Thanksgiving as the time where Europeans plundered their resources and crops. The Europeans enslaved their people when the Wampanoag were willing to share their resources to the Pilgrims suffering from disease and lack of food. Frank James spoke out at a banquet in 1970 about the atrocities that the Native Americans went through. Some Native Americans have argued that Thanksgiving celebrates the genocide of its people and the holiday belittles their traditions and customs that they can no longer celebrate in today’s world.
So, for this Thanksgiving take the opportunity to reflect back on the sacrifices people have done to help us. This includes family, friends, teachers, grandparents, veterans, and pets. I am very supportive of this idea of offering because we should be reminded to thank people who helped us in our careers and providing positive influences. Thanksgiving brings families together to spend quality time together as it becomes more difficult to spend time with family and friends. As long as Thanksgiving focuses on this message, I have nothing against the holiday. I do acknowledge that Thanksgiving suffers from the same issue as Columbus. Both holidays remind Native Americans of the horrific atrocities that they experienced.