Celebrating Thanksgiving: pride or privilege?

Jess Oakley, Reporter

Growing up, I was taught that Thanksgiving was when the American Indians and pilgrims got together in the first fall to celebrate surviving and the Indians taught the pilgrims how to tend to the land and survive in the new world. This is a blatant whitewashing of history. Thanksgiving is not a day of celebration and coming together. Despite what the history books tell you, there was not a whole tribe of natives that came to greet the pilgrims when they got off the boat. What actually happened was that most of the pilgrims stayed on the boat for the first winter. Most of them died from scurvy, malnutrition, and outbreaks of disease. When the remaining religious dissenters from England got off the mayflower in the spring, they were weak and about to die off. It was the famed and beloved Squanto that met the pilgrims and taught them how to tend the land. Squanto was a member of the Patuxet tribe, who had been stolen from his land and his people slaughtered by disease brought by the foreigners.  Squanto had been sold into slavery by and English sea captian before escaping to London. From London, Squanto spent a few years and a journey back to his homeland. When he returned, his tribe had been gone for years. 

Squanto acted as a go-between for the English settlers and the Wampanoag tribe that lived closest to them. The chief of the tribe created an alliance with the settlers to protect each other from the French and other various tribes that threatened to take their land or resources. The reason the Wampanoag were at the original thanksgiving feast was because they heard the Englishmen using their guns and came to see what they were doing. They weren’t invited, and the feast was full of tensions between the two groups. In the end, the Thanksgiving feast was  little more than a strained dinner between two different peoples. 

After the ‘first Thanksgiving,’ there was less and less trust between the Wampanoag people that th English colonials. Thousands of new settlers from England poured into the region as more and more of them left England for a new life in the new world. As the English colonies expanded, they started encroaching on the land and resources of the Wampanoag. In the end, there was a bloody war that killed the chief of the Wampanoag and divided the indeginous people of the land further from each other and the colonial power that was starting to rise in their land. 

While not everyone knows the full history of Thanksgiving due to it being so white washed in the past centuries, we can all still learn from the past. The happenings and prejudice against the indeginous people of America has led to the slaughter, movement, incarceration and dehumanization of indegenous people for centuries. I cannot in good conscience celebrate a holiday that has let the white European people of America feel like they have a good relationship with the indegenious people that their ancestors and government have failed. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit reservations and indigenous areas the hardest. Nearly 40% of the positive infection rate of covid in New Mexico is indeginous peoples. If you can, this Thanksgiving I ask that you give back to the indegnious people of the nation and help with COVID relief for those greatly impacted by it.

Facebook Comments Box