The Devastating Reality of Thanksgiving

Angelina Abdelrahman, Editorial Writer

Thanksgiving is described as the centerpiece of society and American culture. The first Thanksgiving occurred in the year 1621 when the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts on the Mayflower Compact; after the Pilgrims’ first harvest in November, they participated in a celebratory feast. In elementary school we were taught that the first Thanksgiving was a moment of friendship, teamwork, and gratitude. Nevertheless, the history behind this American holiday is not described truthfully in school as settlement in America was a traumatizing and dehumanizing time for Native Americans; Thanksgiving’s history should not be seen as a harmonizing moment.

In an interview with the Smithsonian magazine in 2019, David Silverman, speaks about the truthful history behind Thanksgiving based on his book This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving: “The myth is that friendly Indians, unidentified by tribe, welcome the Pilgrims to America, teach them how to live in this new place, sit down to dinner with them and then disappear.”

There are many false statements within the Thanksgiving story, one of them being that when the English arrived in America, Native American history began. Native Americans had been settled in America and established a community way before the Pilgrims arrived. Stating that Thanksgiving was what sparked Native American life dismisses their culture and history.

“Before white settlement, at least 80 languages were spoken by a variety of Native peoples in what is now California,” Erin Blakemore comments in their article California Slaughtered 16,000 Native Americans The State Finally Apologized For the Genocide, that was published in June of 2019 by History.

Another false statement behind Thanksgiving and arrival of the English was that friendship sparked and they lived in harmony. This claim is false; Native Americans were being killed, tortured, and removed from their homes since Columbus made his voyage to the Americas in 1492. In reality, the arrival of the Pilgrims and the Puritans fueled the mistreatment of the natives. It was not a time of celebration and friendship it was a time of torture and genocide.

“European settlers killed 56 million indigenous people over about 100 years in South, Central and North America, causing large swaths of farmland to be abandoned and reforested,” Lauren Kent explains in her article European colonizers killed so many Native Americans that it changed the global climate, researchers say, that was published in 2019 by CNN.

Every year Americans establish this holiday as a joyful time of celebration and gratitude, but this holiday should be a reminder of the oppression and racism Natives experienced (and still experience) when the Pilgrims and other white settlers arrived. 56 million Native Americans were killed as a result of English settlement and America decided to establish a holiday that celebrates this time? This holiday is insensitive and disrespectful towards the history of Native Americans. This holiday should be altered as a time to celebrate the history of the Native Americans by being educated on the land that was stolen from them and their language and consider altering the Thanksgiving menu by replacing it with Indengious Peoples cuisine. Altering Thanksgiving tradition is only one step closer to honoring and respecting the history of the Native American people.