When I was growing up and went to school the week before Thanksgiving, I remember being taught that the reason why we celebrate Thanksgiving is that peaceful Native Americans saw struggling settlers and offered them a hand in learning the ways of living on this new land. As a show of gratitude, they held a large feast together to celebrate the “Indians” for their help. Despite the major inaccuracies and outright lies, I wish that history could be this simple and peaceful. Yet it was not.
Sadly, it was not until I was in high school that I finally learned that there was no large feast celebrating peace between the pilgrims and Indigenous people. I learned that it was much more violent, bloody, and not at all what my teachers taught me.
Now that I look back on my education, my school severely let me down and failed to teach me history. Just because our history is full of pain and suffering does not mean that we should turn a blind eye to what happened. Acknowledging what happened will not only help us become better humans but respect the land that the European colonizers stole from the Indigenous people who have been here for thousands of years before the so-called “pilgrims” set sail to find The New World. I understand that teaching the truth may be difficult for younger children but that does not mean we should flat out lie to them either.
Most might assume I am taking a Critical Race Theory approach to this topic, but I am not. I am talking about teaching our next generations the truth about our history and how the founding of America did not begin with white Europeans. The truth is simple. The truth does not indoctrinate our youth. The truth unlocks a world of exploration and knowledge, not fear.
As hundreds of years have passed and the once-dominant culture of the Indigenous people and their tribes has been forgotten and covered in turkey and stuffing smothered in gravy.
My intention for writing this is to not make you feel bad about celebrating Thanksgiving but to think about what led us to this moment. I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving my entire life and probably will continue to celebrate it because it’s usually the only time to be with a family that I don’t get to see often. However, if you do choose to celebrate Thanksgiving, don’t lie to the future generation about what it means and how America came to be. There were no “pilgrims”, they were invaders and colonizers who stole land from people who had called this land their home for thousands of years. There was no feast, there was wars, bloodshed, and enslavement.
I am no historian nor do I pretend to be one. History is complicated and we are learning new things every day from archaeologists finding indigenous settlements, historians deciphering journals from thousands of years ago, and even people reciting stories that were passed down from generation to generation.
However, despite our sad and cruel past, history is something that we need to recognize and become aware of. Indigenous people deserve so much more than the white-washed culture white people have claimed as truth. This holiday season should be different. We should try our best to make a difference in little ways by simply educating ourselves and others about history. It’s just that simple.