Thanks or No Thanks

Another perspective to create sensitivity

Callie Menke, Staff Writer

Chants fill the crisp fall air as crimson red flags and posters proudly declare Thanksgiving “The National Day Of Mourning.” Yet I sit at home, unbeknownst to it all, playing games and sharing laughs with family. 

 Although there was a huge feast from which Thanksgiving is modeled in 1621 between the English Colonists and the Wampanoag people, protests take place at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts for recognition of how 700 Native Americans from the Pequot tribe were brutally murdered in 1637. 16 years apart and two very different settings, from peaceful to horrific. 

For most Americans Thanksgiving embodies the act of giving thanks and being grateful for all you have. Families gather on the fourth Thursday of every November so they can sit elbow to elbow to share a meal and time together. 

For my family, it’s the anticipation of my aunt’s homemade noodles while we all play a game of Catchphrase and the smell of my dad’s delicious turkey wafting through the air. It’s familiar feelings and familiar places that make up this warm and happy celebration.

Thanksgiving is taught in schools to be a peaceful holiday where two opposing groups, the Native Americans and the Pilgrims, were able to come together for a celebratory meal. Elementary students everywhere trace their hands to make the classic, hand turkey. Kids everywhere start sentences with “I am thankful for…”

Before I was assigned this article by my editors, I hadn’t given Thanksgiving much thought. I had only associated my own personal experiences, traditions, and pleasant feelings with the holiday.  

In researching and writing this article I had the opportunity to learn more about the origins of Thanksgiving and how the day actually impacts others in a negative way. 

Unknown to many, Native Americans associate Thanksgiving with the historical atrocities against Indigenous people. This is the history that is often forgotten in the current retellings and teaching of the annual holiday.

Unlike the perfect pilgrim fairy tale we are taught in schools, the history behind the holiday couldn’t be more different.

The dark and brutal reality of the day led to a group called “The United American Indians of New England” naming the day “America’s National Day Of Mourning” in 1970, according to The day became an opportunity to come together and bring awareness to the mass genocide of Native Americans and the taking of their lands.

Most of us come together now on Thanksgiving for a different reason. We don’t gather with loved ones to memorialize the pilgrims’ horrendous actions against the indigenous. The majority of Americans don’t know the history of what happened at Plymouth rock, or the colonization of America. That’s not what people are celebrating. Because they were never taught the real history. 

The same can be said about Halloween. We don’t dress up in costumes to trick ghosts as people did in Celtic times. We dress up in costumes because it’s fun. It’s not that deep, we just want the candy. Not quite the same but it illustrates the point of how traditions and celebrations grow and change.

I have always enjoyed Thanksgiving as it is a time I am able to visit with family I rarely see. Nonetheless, upon researching, I now see the cruelty behind the history of the day and how it’s important to be conscious of the perspective that Indigenous Americans feel today. 

I think that it is important to acknowledge what happened to the Native Americans, but also see how with time the devastating tragedy has become far separated from the modern Thanksgiving that we celebrate today.   

Recognizing that there is a different perspective and attempting to understand it, can create a needed sensitivity as to why there are protests and public outrage.