A Happy Holiday
By Oscar Kasch
Thanksgiving marks a time of togetherness and gratitude for Americans alike. The holiday unites Americans from diverse walks of life under one meaningful banner – the value of giving thanks. Despite the unity Thanksgiving provides, many claim that the holiday is culturally insensitive in its depiction of American Indians.
The insensitivity of the depiction is undeniable, but these depictions are found in the teaching of Thanksgiving, not the actual holiday. In Kindergarten classes, children read illustrated books about the pilgrims and American Indians that got together for a feast. The image of both pilgrims and American Indians sitting together and giving thanks is powerful but has been re-enacted with children dressing up in completely stereotyped and inauthentic American Indian dress.
Despite these insensitive portrayals of American Indians, Thanksgiving is by no means culturally insensitive. Thanksgiving works as a unifying factor of America, not one that divides. Actual culturally insensitive celebrations, such as the Netherland’s Christmas tradition where people wear blackface, are extremely different from the simple celebration of Thanksgiving. Families are not coordinating who is dressing up as a pilgrim or who is dressing up as an American Indian in their family group chat.
The inkling of Thanksgiving that is actually culturally insensitive has been ruled out of people’s actual celebration of the holiday for a long time, and the problem of cultural insensitivity lies in the education children receive about Thanksgiving. Along with many other facets of society, schools must change the portrayal of Native Americans or any race for our country’s children to be something less stereotyped and culturally insensitive. Again, these responsibilities do not lay in the hands of Thanksgiving, but rather, the hands of educators.
Thanksgiving is a celebration that works to bind people, not divide them. If anything, Thanksgiving is a holiday that perfectly fits in the hands of social progressivism through its focus on unity and thanks. Leave Thanksgiving alone.
Thanks for Your Lives
By Mazin Omer
As very young children, we’re taught that the Pilgrims that landed on Plymouth Rock were generously given land by the peaceful “Indians” they encountered. In thanks, they supposedly invited the Natives to a large feast.
In elementary school, we would act out the first Thanksgiving based on these teachings. One group of kids would don paper headdresses and speak in insultingly broken English while being served turkey by the “civilized” children dressed as Pilgrims. In a strong display of unity, we would eat together while exchanging our appreciation for each other.
That Thanksgiving could not be farther from the truth. The fact of the matter is this: the Thanksgiving presented to our younger selves is at best historically inaccurate, and at worst, wildly insensitive.
The Thanksgiving we were taught neglects the suffering Native Americans endured at the hands of colonists. The Massachusetts Bay Colony wasn’t peacefully handed over to Pilgrims. It was forcefully taken after Pilgrims massacred the Pequots, the Natives living in Massachusetts. The bloodshed was so bad that many Native Americans now dub Thanksgiving a “Day of Mourning,” according to the United American Indians of New England.
After clearing out the land, Pilgrims then settled it. They were supposedly aided by an English-speaking Wampanoag tribesman named Squanto. While that much is true, our classes refuse to mention how he was later sold into slavery in England by the very Pilgrims he aided.
If Thanksgiving was really a large potluck, the Pilgrims would probably have switched out roasted turkey for smallpox, gravy for muskets, and stuffing for cannons.
Acting as though Thanksgiving stems from Pilgrim-Native American affection is nothing more than a bold-faced lie. Essentially, Thanksgiving erases the tribulations of an entire culture in order to craft an image of faux-happiness and peace.
If you want to have a nice day with your family, sharing thanks and eating rich meals, be my guest, but propagating the illusion of Thanksgiving being representative of peace between Native Americans and Pilgrims is simply offensive.