PRO/con: Should we celebrate Thanksgiving knowing what happened to the Native Americans?

Story By: Patrick Forrest, Rampage Reporter

Turkey dinners, cranberries, candied yams, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and family gatherings—these are all commonly associated with most Americans’ yearly celebration of giving thanks—Thanksgiving Day.

According to History.com, in 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.

Originally Thanksgiving was a holiday set apart to acknowledge and give thanks for the blessings that God has bestowed upon the nation of America. Many of the presidents have included this sentiment in their speeches and asked people to remember the blessings that God had given through the year. Today many people still celebrate this meaning of the occasion, but for the most part, Thanksgiving celebrations tend to have a greater focus on spending time with family or people that are important to you.

That focus is the most important piece of the holiday.

While in agreement that the treatment of the Native Americans was despicable, it is not the reason why thanksgiving is celebrated. Thanksgiving is really just a day to remember all of things that we have and is just another opportunity to help out those who may be less fortunate.

There is still a major problem with the holiday that needs to be brought up. Schools still teach children that Thanksgiving marks the day that Pilgrims met helpful Indians who gave them food, farming techniques and other strategies to overcome the bitter New England cold.

It is now clear that is not what happened.

The children color cutouts of happy Pilgrims and happy Indians that ignore the reality that contact between the two marked the beginning of the decimation of millions of Native peoples.

This is a systemic problem that will not be solved if it is continued to be covered up, and it must be corrected.

One suggestion comes from an organization called Understanding Prejudice which recommends that schools send letters home to parents addressing efforts to teach children about Thanksgiving in either a manner that neither demeans or stereotypes Native Americans. Such lessons will include discussions about why not all families celebrate Thanksgiving and why the representation of Native Americans on Thanksgiving cards and decorations has hurt indigenous peoples.

Understanding Prejudice also advises parents to deconstruct stereotypes their children have about Native Americans by gauging what they already know about indigenous peoples. Simple questions such as, “What do you know about Native Americans?” and “Where do Native Americans live today?” can reveal a lot.

In 1999 Jacqueline Keeler, member of the Dineh Nation and the Yankton Dakota Sioux finds occasion for hope.

“If we can survive, with our ability to share and to give intact, then the evil and the good will that met that Thanksgiving Day in the land of the Wampanoag will have come full circle.”  Keeler says.  “And the healing can begin.”

That is the attitude that Thanksgiving can bring, even in the toughest of circumstances a day of thanks can allow us to settle in and truly find the silver lining in the situations that we have in our day to day lives.

Many things have happened in the back story of many different holidays, and just because there are negative moments in that story we can never give up on the true reason of celebration.

Now if there is anyone out there that will openly have a feast to celebrate the killing of hundreds of people, then they should possibly take a look into stopping that celebration. But for many of us Thanksgiving isn’t about how many Native Americans were killed.

It is about taking some time to surround ourselves with family and food. And for some of us the day off and some football games don’t really hurt either.

So as Thanksgiving approaches just remember that, yes, there have been terrible occurrences that have happened before this date. But give thanks that you were not a part of them and try to think of those who have and see if there is any thing that you can do to help them.

That is the true reason for celebrating Thanksgiving.