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Wed Nov 21, 2018, 09:13 AM

Why Thanksgiving isn't necessarily a celebration: a Native American writer's take

Itís that time of year again. As the season turns, so does our attention to Native Americans. Itís Native American Heritage Month, and ironically, of course, the month we celebrate Thanksgiving. Or maybe it isnít irony but something else. Itís that we celebrate the holiday while trying to acknowledge the history of a people often remembered wrong. So the celebratory spirit feels wrong, because we still arenít willing to acknowledge what actually happened. Kids in schools dress up as Indians and Pilgrims as if it were a nice meal and a peaceable time generally, even after the fact.

Plenty of native people still celebrate the holiday, too. Everyone has the time off, and no one is against gratitude. Itís complicated. And I would never condemn a native person or family for having a meal together. The problem is deep and systemic. I donít have any good answers about what to do instead or whether people should continue to celebrate the holiday. Thinking about what actually happened is a good start. Talking about it, even if the meal still happens, is a good beginning. But what actually happened, and according to whom, further complicates things.

Itís hard to know exactly how to feel about months of the year singled out to celebrate any people or culture or history anyway. Itís sort of like being a Native American author or writer. White men get to be writers. White people and history according to them get the rest of the attention when itís not one of the months. And here I am, worried again about sounding mad or angry or bitter ó about what exactly? A celebration of my people?

Itís just that we recently watched native people getting shot with rubber bullets while praying to keep clean water and not have a pipeline get put into the ground. And, of course, we have a president in office whose favorite president in history was the worst for Native Americans, Andrew Jackson.


More by Tommy Orange and some book recs here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/why-thanksgiving-isnt-necessarily-a-celebration-a-native-american-writers-take/2018/11/14/c4516a2a-e2d8-11e8-ab2c-b31dcd53ca6b_story.html?utm_term=.1832179af7cc

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Reply Why Thanksgiving isn't necessarily a celebration: a Native American writer's take (Original post)
FSogol Nov 2018 OP
manor321 Nov 2018 #1
FSogol Nov 2018 #3
d_r Nov 2018 #5
wasupaloopa Nov 2018 #2
oberliner Nov 2018 #4
dameatball Nov 2018 #6
oberliner Nov 2018 #7
dameatball Nov 2018 #9
Docreed2003 Nov 2018 #8

Response to FSogol (Original post)

Wed Nov 21, 2018, 09:20 AM

1. These holidays are now secular and generic

 

Thanksgiving and Christmas in the modern world are secular generic holidays where the main thoughts are being off from work and being with family.

The holidays get more secular and generic every year.

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Response to manor321 (Reply #1)

Wed Nov 21, 2018, 09:30 AM

3. I agree. Thanksgiving gets hit hard on DU.

Too many DUers have bad experiences with family and family get-togethers.
Too many DUers can't forget or get past the childish myths we were told as kids.
IMO, we can't change the genocide of the past, we can only move forward and not repeat those mistakes.

Tommy Orange (I recommend his new novel) offers a good take on the holiday which I why I posted his blurb.

Myself? I love the holiday. I come from a small Irish-American Democratic family and we all get together, eat, drink, play board games and cut up firework. After this weekend, I'll be slightly heavier and sore from chopping word. I am very fortunate.

Hope everyone has a Thanksgiving as great as mine.

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Response to manor321 (Reply #1)

Wed Nov 21, 2018, 09:39 AM

5. Still it is a white washed history

We act like it was the beginnings of this happy friendship, but we don't say that the pilgrims decide to land there because there was a whole village with homes and cleared fields because the people who had lived there had already been wiped out by diseases the Europeans built. We act like "Squanto" was just a friendly magic Indian whiled teaching people to grow corn, rather than a man was abducted into slavery bY the Europeans and when he was able to return home found his whole family and village and the Patuxet people gone. We act as though the Wampanoag were just friendly folk who wanted to help the pilgrims rather than a sophisticated people making a strategic response in light of the epidemics that had decimated their population. We forget that that the pilgrims broke their treaty with the Wompanoag a few years later and took their land. And that was the beginning of centuries of broken treaties and taking of land. So it may be becoming more secular but I understand how native folks can certain have some mixed emotions celebrating it. To say the least
Especially how our society white washes and patronizes the whole story.

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Response to FSogol (Original post)

Wed Nov 21, 2018, 09:27 AM

2. Call the day what you want and do what you want. Call it family get togather day or nobody likes me

 

day.

Eat a big meal with friends or don't.

Read books about indigenous people so you know about them. It is especially interesting to me to read about the local indigenous people. For me it is the Chumash.

For a special treat I will honor the Chumash this year by going to their casino and have Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks Chumash for building such a fine casino, even though I don't gamble.

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Response to FSogol (Original post)

Wed Nov 21, 2018, 09:34 AM

4. Many schools do charitable food drives

 

And other similar activities (rather than "dressing up as Indians and Pilgrims" ).

There is a movement away from the mythology and towards the spirit of giving.

Students are often taught that it this is a time to reflect on what we are thankful for in our lives and how important it is to help others who might be less fortunate or in need of assistance.

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Response to oberliner (Reply #4)

Wed Nov 21, 2018, 10:14 AM

6. Helping out at a local food bank is another way to celebrate the holiday. It really doesn't take all

day, so you can still go home and have a nice dinner if you so choose.

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Response to dameatball (Reply #6)

Wed Nov 21, 2018, 10:17 AM

7. Good point

 

Doing so might also inspire a person to make that activity something they do year round, if they can.

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Response to oberliner (Reply #7)

Wed Nov 21, 2018, 01:47 PM

9. 3 hours after we mentioned this, there is a post about Obama volunteering at a food bank in Chicago

While Trump plays golf.

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Response to FSogol (Original post)

Wed Nov 21, 2018, 10:19 AM

8. Extremely thought provoking

It is sad to me that we can't seem to be honest with ourselves as to our true history. The entire concept of a "Thanksgiving Day" was pushed largely by one individual in the 1800's who relied largely on texts he chose to bend and blow out of proportion from the Pilgrim era. True, the intent may have been one of focusing on solidarity and giving thanks, but the true history is lost when we focus on mythology. I wish that Howard Zinn was required reading for American high schoolers.

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