The prepackaged, dominant culture narrative of Thanksgiving commemorates an occasion when Native Americans saved the Pilgrims by sharing food. The expectation is families will gather together, watch football, and eat excessively. This behavior is so ingrained that charitable nonprofits serving the food insecure and homeless, go to extraordinary lengths to provide people with a Thanksgiving dinner.
However, Thanksgiving is based on a lie. The facts are warped to focus on the Pilgrims and minimize the contributions of Native Americans. For many Native Americans, Thanksgiving is not an occasion to celebrate.
Even the term, Native Americans, obliterates the identities of tribes and individuals. To be specific, Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag tribe and Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe, were two people who had significant roles in the Thanksgiving story. And yet, Chief Massasoit and Squanto are most often left out of the narrative.
When we reduce a narrative or an issue to an oversimplified version, we lose veracity, details and nuance. When we assume a holiday like Thanksgiving is universally celebrated, we fail to acknowledge those who are not celebrating, or may be traumatized by the holiday. In our exuberance, we can inadvertently inflict pain.
Life is complicated. We all want to be seen and heard. We can still enjoy our celebrations and respect others by being mindful.
“The Myths of the Thanksgiving Story and the Lasting Damage They Imbue” by Claire Bugos
Smithsonian Magazine, November 26, 2019