I’m pretty sure at this point in our lives we’ve encountered a news site, blog post, or chatty person telling us not to celebrate Thanksgiving, because it perpetuates the myth of friendly colonists that made nice with the indigenous people of North America. We know this isn’t true. Enslavement, rape, disease-ridden blankets, and the robbing of their native language are only among the few of the tortures Native Americans faced upon the arrival of the colonists. Yet America finds it totally o.k. to acknowledge a day for families and friends to come together, to indulge in a feast of food, to close banks, schools, and many businesses for the day, and worst of all, encourage us all to be “thankful” for what we have. Many people choose to blindly consume until lethargy on this day, marking the importance on a feathered bird and disregard how this day even came about.
But to be completely fair, most of these articles/posts/soap box speeches have been from people who are not of Native American descent. I wouldn’t imagine any Native American individual would argue that the seizure of their land was a good thing, but there’s light to shed on the truth to Thanksgiving. Did pilgrim and native sit down after a collaborative harvest season to enjoy their splendor? No, but there is history of civility amongst the two communities (at least at the beginning) where the English relied on the natives for survival, and the natives aided in their survival.
Many Native American communities acknowledge Thanksgiving in a similar manner to the Euro-American holiday, but the idea of thanks is conceptualized differently. There’s a Christian back force behind Thanksgiving, which isn’t present in Indigenous celebration. The latter gives thanks to where we came from and we they are, namely in mother and mother earth. Rather than celebrating a Thanksgiving, there is a state of thanksgiving in a spiritual sense that does bring together communities and families (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com). However, this is not to say that every person of Native American descent it pro-Thanksgiving. There are many who refuse to celebrate the day, and instead use the time as a Day of Mourning.
Now I’ll pose a few questions for you. What do you make of the day? Do you have a family get-together that’s unrelated to the American Thanksgiving? Do you refuse to recognize the American holiday and take the side of anti-Thanksgiving? Do you acknowledge the fact that this country was built on the aid and eventual abuse of the Indigenous populations? How do you define the day now? A day of mourning? A day of commemoration? A day of honor? A day of condolence?
With the acknowledgment that this country was built from the spilled blood of the indigenous, we breathe life into their descendants. We give them back a stolen story, and although nothing could ever make right the horrible wrongs that occurred, we can give them the respect they deserve.