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Opinion: Thanksgiving Celebrations Show Disrespect to Native Americans

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Besides turkey, loved ones, and a big dinner, one of the first things that comes to mind about Thanksgiving is Pilgrims and Indians. As a kid, I remember making turkeys, Indian head gear, Pilgrim outfits, and reenacting Thanksgiving as a peaceful gathering where we all got along. There was no mention of the genocide. No mention of the terrible actions the Pilgrims did to the Native Americans afterwards. It was like a cover up: hiding the truth. It wasn’t until I was much older when I learned those same Pilgrims slaughtered those Native Americans. Why would we celebrate the beginning of the end of Native Americans?

Raymond Strawn III

Depending on who you ask, you may get different definitions about Thanksgiving. Some may say it is a time where family and loved ones get together for a big dinner and share what they are thankful for that year. I don’t have an issue with this, and it’s the only aspect of Thanksgiving I agree with. Another definition of Thanksgiving is the time when the Pilgrims and Native Americans came together and shared a feast, ignoring the genocide of the Native Americans. This is the part of Thanksgiving that I have an issue with, and I strongly believe we need to change. We should honor the Native Americans and remember the devastating destruction their people faced. Celebrating Thanksgiving from this perspective is a disrespectful gesture towards Native Americans.

One argument that can be made for celebrating Thanksgiving is that it is an American tradition. I don’t care about traditions. I’m willing to be open minded and critically think about traditions we practice and modify them. To those who argue for tradition, my counterargument is that there was a time where it was a tradition to have slaves, and a tradition where women couldn’t vote. Another argument that could be made to celebrate Thanksgiving is that the majority of Americans celebrate it. I counter that with the idea that the majority of people once thought that the world was flat. Sometimes traditions and the majority are outdated, and we need to evolve and better ourselves. This is another example of such a time.

I don’t have a problem with wanting to celebrate with our families and loved ones and express what we’re thankful for; that’s a great idea. If that’s the part of Thanksgiving you want to hold on to instead of abandoning it completely, making some changes is a great start. The two issues with Thanksgiving are ignoring the genocide of the Native Americans and the horrors they faced, and deceiving kids to push an alternative history that makes Americans look better. Because of the lies and deception, ever since I lived on my own, I modified the meaning of Thanksgiving. I only focus on the family aspect and don’t deny the genocide that occurred.

When I celebrate, most years I don’t eat turkey; we either have chicken or steak. I make sure to remind my family about the truth of our history. Lastly, we express what we’re thankful for. I’ve also decided to add a new tradition after thinking about this topic and writing on it. Every Thanksgiving from now on, I will ask my family to give a moment of silence to all the Native Americans for what happened to them. It may be a small gesture, but I believe it’s important to do. I’m willing to change, to ensure I pay respect to the Native Americans. You may not feel comfortable completing abandoning Thanksgiving or you may want to hold onto the positive attributes of Thanksgiving, which is acceptable. If you want to continue celebrating, I suggest paying homage and remembrance towards the Native Americans. But the more respectful thing to do is no longer celebrate Thanksgiving.

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