Saturday, November 7, 2015

Rethinking Thanksgiving

I recently read about the myth and the true history of Thanksgiving: Matthew Hughey’s "On Thanksgiving: Why Myths Matter." Now I wonder, how can we, in good conscience, continue to teach this myth and celebrate an event named after massacres of indigenous people?

The National Day of Mourning is the rightful name for this day in November made as a national holiday. This is the United American Indians of New England's website:  It is full of even more of the history that we often are not taught in schools.

For years, my family has treated Thanksgiving day as a day of gratitude in general, rarely thinking about the history of Thanksgiving...even while believing the convenient and biased myth we were taught while growing up.  Now, we can still do thanksgiving (note lowercase "t") this day and every day, but also discuss the true history of our nation and learn about the current issues for indigenous people.

Rather than dwell on the sins of the past, UAINE hopes the National Day of Mourning brings more awareness to the problems facing Native Americans today. Below examples are from this article:  National Day of Mourning Reflects on Thanksgiving’s Horrific, Bloody History
  • 28 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in poverty. 
  • The mortality rate for American Indian children between the ages of 1 and 14 has increased by 15 percent since 2000, despite the average rate in the U.S. having dropped by 9 percent during the same time period. 
  • The suicide rate among native youth ages 15 to 24 is 2.5 times higher than the overall national rate. 
  • Many native people lack access to decent health care; native people have higher rates of diabetes than anybody else in the country. 
  • Inherent racism still plagues American Indians with mascots and advertisements

For ideas about what we can do, we can read the attachment on on the home page about The National Day of Mourning, under: CAN'T ATTEND BUT STILL WANT TO HELP? I found this document very helpful.

I struggle with this now since the history is so unpleasant:  
What do I say to people wishing me a "Happy Thanksgiving!"?

I would like to say:
Do you know that some indigenous people and their supporters call this day a National Day of Mourning?

If there is interest, I can say more about what I have learned:
Many indigenous people and their supporters choose not to celebrate this day that represents invasion of lands and the genocide of Indigenous Peoples...
then point them to for more info.

But at least I will either say:
I don't celebrate Thanksgiving...or Happy Holidays.
Maybe it will lead to a conversation where I can tell them above.


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1 comment:

  1. I remember that we often talked about the awful treatment the Indians received but also we were thankful for how generous and kind they were. We are also mindful that we live on their very best farming land from which they taught white people how to grow foods. It's an unjust world and also kind.


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