A Discussion on Thanksgiving // my thoughts on the national holiday that celebrates the genocide of my ancestors

This post will either be a) awkward to write b) fun to write or c) a little bit of both. This is a personal topic to me so if you prefer something more lively and happy, go and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade or Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

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I haven’t been writing discussion posts as much as I probably should. I enjoy writing them and y’all seem to love reading them but they take a lot out of me. I have to be really passionate about a topic in order to write an entire 1,000+ word blog post on it. Thus, why I’m here today, the day before Thanksgiving, writing this post very last-minute.

You might or might not know but I’m part Native American. I don’t know how much of my blood is Native, but I share a lot of physical Native characteristics. My white side usually gets the most attention and many times online people have called me white instead of Native, even if I tell them that I am Native. I never truly know how to classify myself on documents because there isn’t a ‘biracial’ option. ANYWAYS. You can read more about my identity as being partially Native HERE.

Now onto the topic you came here for. Thanksgiving. The day of giving thanks. But, for what? Thanksgiving is typically described as a celebration of the Pilgrim’s “first harvest”. Thanksgiving is oftentimes fabricated as a day to celebrate the harvests of colonizers after their arrival in the States. However, what isn’t discussed is the Native Americans that grew the food for the Pilgrims and although they shared a peaceful meal together the Indigenous population was almost completely wiped out by the Pilgrims.

I don’t have an issue with Thanksgiving. I have an issue with the stigma that surrounds it, with the ignorance of what the holiday should truly be about. Thanksgiving should be a holiday to mourn Natives. Instead it’s glorified and used as a way to celebrate the Pilgrims (much like Columbus Day). Colonizers – ie: Christopher Columbus – came to America to colonize. When they realized that there was already a population of people there, they chose to wipe them out (with the help of diseases they brought), enslave them for their own gain, and make them convert from their Native ways to theirs.

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The way Native Americans were treated by colonizers is a disgusting aspect of American history but is also very important. We Native Americans to this day are seen as a thing of the past because such a large portion of us got wiped out through disease and mass genocide. Thanksgiving’s history shouldn’t be celebrated, yet it is.

Kids around the country dress up as Pilgrims and Native Americans during this holiday and participate in school plays that gloss over everything bad about the holiday. Pilgrims are made out to be the heroes in this story. You wouldn’t have kids dress up as Nazis and Jews and make them out to be friends, right? Well, this is a similar predicament.

Thanksgiving is a tradition and traditions rarely ever change. I believe that most people celebrate Thanksgiving for sports, food, and to spend time with family. That’s great and all, but we still have this shadow looming over the holiday. It’s not something that can be ignored.

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The genocide of the Native population isn’t something to be celebrated. Which is why, instead we should mourn all of the Indigenous peoples that suffered and died due to the colonizers. I’m not saying that Thanksgiving should be a sad holiday – not at all – it’s a great holiday that’s so very American. It celebrates eating too much food, yelling over sports, and you get stuff you don’t really need for dirt cheap that same Friday. There’s no holiday more American. Besides Independence Day. Which also has it’s problems. But it’s also my birthday so I can’t complain.

I have always celebrated Thanksgiving growing up. Of course, I didn’t always know what I was celebrating. I just knew that November was the month where we sat down and ate a lot of food haha. Over the years I became more and more aware of the holiday. We would choose either a Pilgrim hat or a Native headband with feathers to craft in Elementary school and wear it around for the rest of the day. I thought that Thanksgiving must have been a day where Pilgrims and Natives worked together for the food they ate and were thankful for the harvest and getting to eat together. What I didn’t know was that the Natives harvested the food and ate with the Pilgrims… just to be massacred right afterwards.

Finding out the true meaning behind Thanksgiving, to me, was like figuring out that Santa Claus wasn’t real. I never saw the holiday the same again. Of course we typically make a few signature dishes a year on Thanksgiving and we watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Dinner with family usually occurs and it’s nice to spend time with family.

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Thanksgiving is an important holiday. Whether you recognize the history behind it or just like to see family you don’t see often, it shouldn’t be erased. We all celebrate Thanksgiving in different ways and we all celebrate for different reasons. I have a more personal tie to the holiday than the average person so I always feel a shred of guilt and sadness ‘celebrating’ a holiday that has such a terrible history for my ancestors.

I am fortunate to be here right now and I’m thankful for that. I am fortunate to be as privileged as I am. I am thankful for my family and everyone else that has left a positive impact on my life. I’m thankful for a lot of things. I send all of my love out to the Indigenous people that are out there today living their lives the way they want, not the way the government or others are trying to force them to.

I am proud and thankful to be Native American.

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This post was in no way to make your holiday season depressing or any less enjoyable but I felt inclined to write about this since it’s personal to me. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving – I hope you get to see your family and friends and eat a great meal ❤

How do you feel about Thanksgiving? Are there any holidays that are personal to you, whether it’s good or bad? What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? Let me know!

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15 thoughts on “A Discussion on Thanksgiving // my thoughts on the national holiday that celebrates the genocide of my ancestors

  1. Pingback: November Monthly Wrap-Up // holiday season is here & not participating in nanowrimo | The Book Prophet

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  3. I was thinking about this a lot this year – growing up my mom read kids books to me and my siblings about pilgrims and Natives and I didn’t think much of it. Last year was the first year I realized that not everyone celebrates it, and why. It was also my first year really on the internet, which I find to be a big problem – why aren’t we taught about this SOMEWHERE down the line? School books or even in childrens books? Why did I have to get a Twitter to realize how it was viewed?

    I wasn’t sure how to say “Happy Thanksgiving” in an good way anymore – like you said, once you know about it you can’t just forget.

    Very well written post. I love your discussions 😘

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebookprophet

      Oh wow – thankfully (haha) you learned about it. There’s an educational problem in schools. They teach you about Native Americans, but they don’t teach you about the holidays they’re involved in, such as Thanksgiving and Columbus Day. Most of the time it’s made out to be a lot less… idk… bloody than it was. Which I get for kindergartners and first graders and such but at some point schools need to realize that given this is the history of America, even if it’s not a good history, it’s still our history and should be taught. Instead of making saying “Happy Thanksgiving” an entire deal I simply just say it because I know my own intention behind the words, which are to be thankful that I’m still here and to thank my ancestors, as well as what I have now. Thank you for the comment ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I am heartbroken and so frustrated when I see people “reenacting” the first thanksgiving because it is so disturbing and romanticizing the genocide of Native peoples!
    Personally, I don’t celebrate the first thanksgiving when I sit down to Thanksgiving. To me, the holiday is about celebrating the gifts we have in life, and a way to talk about America’s history, especially how it affected indigenous people’s. Also, I have to find a way to escape all the football talk because I do not ever care about American football 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebookprophet

      Yeah, it’s honestly a bit disgusting when I see schools put on Thanksgiving plays… the kids don’t know better but surely the adults should. I definitely agree – I celebrate in order to mourn my people AND be thankful for everything I have. Hahaha I don’t care about American football either. European football, or, soccer, is great though.

      Like

  5. I agree with you so much. I’m not American – I’m from a tiny country in Eastern Europe, but what happened to Native Americans has always been a black hurting hole in my chest, ever since I was a kid and read my first book about it. Especially with how their way of life was so much more natural and kind to the planet, as opposed to the hive of destruction that the Western culture has become. It’s heart-breaking.
    I sometimes also feel awkward about Christmas. Christmas has always been a favorite holiday – for the obvious reasons, as to any child! But my country was also originally Pagan. And then they converted it, and yes, of course there was tons of bloodshed. Maybe not genocide, but LOTS of bloodshed. So essentially, on Christmas, I am celebrating the loss of my culture as well. Even if that happened more than 500 years ago. Meh. And it feels weird too, cause like you say, in the end it’s not even that much about the holiday, as much as it is about family time and happiness. But the roots.. Especially because it was appropriated out of a Pagan holiday (just like Easter?) Ah. Why is the world so complicated.
    By the way, I did not know you were part Native! That’s so cool. That’s some ancestry I would be really proud of.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebookprophet

      Oh wow I had no idea – would you mind if I asked what country you’re from? Just so I’m more aware of this. No matter how long ago it was, it definitely still hurts when you think about your culture’s past especially if it’s one with a lot of bloodshed and cruelty. I wish the world wasn’t so complicated too *sigh* Anyways yeah I am! I don’t know why but I don’t talk about it much??

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  6. arubunwritten

    As a Brit I’ve always found the cognitive dissonance with Thanksgiving so baffling and ignorant. Sadly you’re right – traditions don’t change but I think you’re using your platform perfectly though, people should be made aware of the massacre that followed and not paint history as simply as ‘they shared a meal together.’

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebookprophet

      Urgh yes everyone always glosses over the fact that the Native Americans were MASSACRED. The holiday is always portrayed as them sharing a meal together… but that’s all that’s usually mentioned.

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  7. I’m in the UK so no thanksgiving here, and i don’t recall studying about this part of history in school either (pilgrims vs natives in america) in great detail, so first of all thank you for the informative post. Most of what i know are from movies and some books that were not school related. Even so i do feel kinda ignorant, because i didn’t know how it relates to thanksgiving.

    I think your analogy is spot on with the nazis vs jews won’t pretend to be friends either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebookprophet

      It’s probably not shared due to the fact that the Europeans were the ones that massacred the Natives. It’s not mentioned much in the U.S. either, probably because it’s such a sensitive topic. From what I’ve consumed movie-wise based on this topic it glosses over a LOT, unfortunately. Thank you for your kind comment ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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