Turkey, pumpkin pie, stuffing, mashed potatoes and many other Thanksgiving “traditions” will be on the dining tables of many Americans next Thursday. Celebrating the “unifying moment of the Native Americans and pilgrims.” The legend of the Pilgrims and Native American fall feast is false, not only because there was no sugar or butter for the pies and no potatoes because food had not globalized to that point yet, but the whole essence of Thanksgiving has never been proven true and from the history of how colonizers treated Indigenous people, it is really not something that should be celebrated with large portions of food, family and football.
Tai Edwards, history professor, said Thanksgiving is an invented tradition and the story of a Thanksgiving feast happening with open arms between Native Americans and the pilgrims that most children learn in elementary school is far from true. Most scholars see this story as denying colonialism and that denial starts at a young age and may never stop.
“Thanksgiving is also something in scholarship that we talk about was an event that denies colonization and denies enslavement and denies genocide because the way we remember it is based on these supposedly simplistic ideas of unity that divorce people from the actual circumstances they were living in the past and the circumstances we are living in now,” Edwards said.
If you are unaware of the historical timeline of how colonizers treated Native Americans, you should become aware of how colonization is affecting Native Americans in the present and one example of this is COVID-19, something we are all trying to live through, but Native Americans are disproportionately struggling with the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has impacted Indigenous communities in the United States you’ll see a lot of the same stuff [as in the past],” Edwards said. “You’ll see problems with getting federal aid, you’ll see problems with infrastructure on Tribal land that the federal government has sort of failed to upgrade to the levels of non-tribal land.”
Denying or ignoring the past treatment of Native Americans including, but not limited to, genocide, allows one to ignore the present and Edwards says that as people living in an empire, ignoring and denying is failing the job we have.
“If you live in an empire as we do it’s our job to be aware of the colonialism that surrounds our history and how does that play out in our own lives so we can respond to that in ways that we think are effective,” Edwards said.
It is not the job of the Indigenous people to explain to us how our ancestors did wrong and how our leaders are still doing wrong, it’s our job to know our history and understand what happened and what is happening.
This nation has to stop denying colonization, ignoring colonization and celebrating colonization. It is a bloody and immoral part of our history that needs to be recognized and people need to be educated on the history. This will be a long process, but it can start with the stopping the celebration of a made-up holiday that denies the blood that is on the hands of our ancestors, denies the stealing of land and denies the enslavement of Indigenous people and the mistreatment from the government and the American people.
By Gracyn Shulista