Considering Thanksgiving

Just for a moment, let’s think of America’s indigenous peoples as fully equal human beings.

If you ask the Wampanoag people, they will tell you that the “First Thanksgiving” actually involved not “finding corn” but in stealing it and looting childrens’ graves.

Ok, so I have lots of feelings about Thanksgiving, but honestly, Nezua at the Unapologetic Mexican does the job for me. He explains the mythology behind this holiday, the bullshit that was taught to all of us as children and still is taught to children to this day, though we know it is false. I really want to examine this. I really want other people to join me in critically examining this holiday.

But using Thanksgiving as a time to teach children about both the myth and the damage done behind the Myth is crucial. And I capitalize “myth” that second time because this is not about being contrary or “radical” or anything. Thanksgiving is probably the most popular and earliest-given justification for invasion, murder, imperialism, occupation, and “othering” that we know of in this country.

You tell ’em, Nezua.

Here’s another resource to get some facts on this holiday’s suppressed meaning, such as:

Fact: For many Indian people, “Thanksgiving” is a time of mourning, of remembering how a gift of generosity was rewarded by theft of land and seed corn, extermination of many from disease and gun, and near total destruction of many more from forced assimilation. As currently celebrated in this country, “Thanksgiving” is a bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal returned for friendship.

That reminds me of when Seattle Public Schools started, and then closed four years later, an Office of Equity, Race and Learning Support. Among the several reasons that the office was closed this year was when [director Caprice] “Hollins was roundly criticized after she sent out a memo to teachers that listed “myths about the First Thanksgiving” and noted that “for many Indian people, ‘Thanksgiving’ is a time of mourning … As currently celebrated in this country, ‘Thanksgiving’ is a bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal returned for friendship.” ” From the Seattle P-I.

Not only did she get fired for telling the whole story behind this holiday, the whole Office of Equity was summarily closed. Wow. Did she falsify her facts? No. All she did was respect indigenous children as fully equal to other children, and tell some tough truth about a beloved American tradition. This is a good example of people, in this case Seattle Public Schools, sticking their fingers in their ears and screaming “La La La La La!” Amongst her other misdeeds is that she sent some students and teachers to a white privilege conference. THE HORROR!

So celebrate your family, friends, and good eatin’ today, but keep in mind the real lessons this holiday has to teach about imperialism.

UPDATE 11/28/08- Check out this rad post on stuff white people do.