There is research that suggests that a single shared meal did take place, but within a generation, Native Americans and settlers were at war with each other. Native communities were destroyed and that part of the story tends to be left out. Leaving out the Native perspective may seem more appropriate than teaching genocide to elementary-aged students, but that act of erasure has negative consequences too.
Not only did Christopher Columbus not discover the Americas — since it was already inhabited and he was actually in search of India and therefore lost — but he was what could justifiably be called a psychopath, since he oversaw mass murders, tortures and rapes carried out under his watch. In fact, he helped facilitate what is arguably the greatest genocide in known human history.
Chris Kott wrote:JMy family came over from Poland during and after the Second World War. My ancestors had nothing to do with anything on this continent until the mid-50s, so I don't have great-great-great grand-whatever's memory to uphold (or actions to excuse).
The dominant cultural and historical story has been told from the perspective of the white colonialists who landed near Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts in 1620. In this version of the Thanksgiving story, the holiday commemorates the peaceful, friendly meeting of English settlers and the Wampanoag tribe for three days of feasting and thanksgiving in 1621.
In the days around Thanksgiving, many teachers focus in on this happy story, helping students make American Indian headdresses out of construction paper and holding Thanksgiving reenactments in their classrooms.
Very few teachers realize that construction headdresses and school re-enactments create a lump stereotype that Native Americans all wear the same regalia. These school activities also encourage young students to think it is okay to wear culture as a costume. This makes it hard for students to recognize the diversity of Native American tribes and makes students believe it’s okay to mimic Native American traditional wear, without having an understanding of its spiritual significance.
some of the reasons why Thanksgiving is a complex holiday, and one that all Americans should approach with greater sensitivity.
History of the National Day of Mourning
The National Day of Mourning reminds us all that Thanksgiving is only part of the story. Native Americans, since 1970, have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts, to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving Day.
Pilgrims landed in Plymouth and established the first colony in 1620. As such, it’s the oldest municipality in New England. Many Native Americans, however, don’t celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. Thanksgiving, to them, is a brutal reminder of “the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture.”
No matter where you are in North America, you are on indigenous land. And so on this holiday, and any day really, I urge people to explore a deeper connection to what are called “American” foods by understanding true Native-American histories, and begin using what grows naturally around us, and to support Native-American growers. There is no need to make Thanksgiving about a false past. It is so much better when it celebrates the beauty of the present.
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