Thanksgiving is one of those filler holidays that doesn’t really have a purpose, but it’s fun and gives everyone an excuse to take off work and enjoy a little gluttony (or a lot). It doesn’t have a religious reasoning behind it, like Christmas or Easter,—it is more like Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day: celebration for the sake of celebration.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Thanksgiving. For me, like many, it is time spent with family, expressing a quick note of gratitude, and eating the kind of food that I look forward to all year long.
However, this year should be handled gently. Thanksgiving, like much of America’s history, has questionable origins. We have all heard the story of the ‘Pilgrims and Indians’ coming together to share a meal. It is romanticized every year through cartoon pictures of turkeys and children’s arts-and-crafts.
However, I would like to take a few minutes of your time to let you know why others are celebrating Thanksgiving differently, or not at all
For many Native Americans, or indigenous people, Thanksgiving isn’t a day of celebration, it is a day of mourning. It isn’t a day of indulgence and giving thanks, it is a day to remember the millions of indigenous people who were killed by colonialists – the very colonialists labeled as “Pilgrims” in our romanticized story of Thanksgiving.
No matter how accurate the story is that settlers and indigenous people sat down for a meal together like friends, we all know that the events that followed are true: mass genocide of entire tribes.
The Dakota Access Pipeline
While this violent history has existed during every celebration of Thanksgiving since its beginning, this year there is even more reason to not celebrate. Social media has been filled with news about the Dakota Access Pipeline.
This pipeline has been protested by those indigenous, and not, for months. It is seen as a clear disrespect and disregard for indigenous life and their basic necessities, like clean water. This pipeline is just another example of the lack of empathy for indigenous life and their claim to what they consider sacred land.
This is why I ask you to spend this Thanksgiving truly embracing the story of this holiday. Don’t sit down, stand up. Stand with your indigenous brothers and sisters. Share a meal with them. Don’t let this day pass without acknowledging the mistreatment of our fellow human beings. Give thanks that your very necessities aren’t being threatened. Understand and acknowledge that not everyone is celebrating.