Thanksgiving story misrepresents impact on indigenous history

4,118 and counting: that’s the number of indigenous children who have been found disgraced in unmarked graves in Catholic and Christian church-based residential schools as reported by the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission. These children had been stripped of their culture and religion on top of being denied the most basic of human rights. These “schools” were made to “kill the Indian and save the child.” 

In these, what should more realistically be referred to as concentration camps, the children’s heads were shaved, their native languages were beaten out of them and they were refused any of their religious practices, but not only were they refused the practices they also were not allowed to speak of their home or anything that related to the culture they knew and loved. 

The conditions were horrible at these literal hell holes: quarters were cramped and cold, illness was rampant and abuse of all kinds plagued those imprisoned in them. 

Not only were they physically, emotionally, and psychologically abused, but like some sick SNL joke, many of the kids who did manage to escape this fate reported being abused sexually by the priests. Thankfully, some kids did escape back to their families or at least to someone who gave them back their culture. 

In the end, however, we are here to talk about the souls who never left the grounds of these sick, sadistic, hellholes. These were not people who had done anything wrong. They weren’t even grown. Children as young as four years old had been ripped away from everything they loved during atrocities like the trail of tears and then beaten by “good Christians” in conditions damn near the same as the holocaust all because greedy politicians wanted their land and the recourses under it. 

So why the title “Thanksgiving is Dead?” Well, because this is the last straw. Europeans invaded this land, drove out its people, committed multiple genocides both of culture and blood, and then dared to scream at others coming to these shores for sanctuary all while celebrating a holiday that preaches the “love and peaceful relationship with the native people,” as if they do not know subconsciously that the blood they drained from the bird that now sits proudly in the center of the table is symbolic of all the blood that their ancestors drained from those innocent people. 

These bodies we are only now finding have been there for years because they knew what they were doing was wrong. If they were saving these children, then why were they buried in unmarked mass graves and forgotten about? White guilt is a controversial topic, but in the end, it is not up to anyone else to work to remedy the wounds these atrocities have made. Thanksgiving is a strictly American holiday, the peak of Americana, and that is horrible because it symbolizes how these atrocities were committed and then “erased” and covered up and glorified with a holiday. You can sit there and say that you know the history, but you disown it, and instead, you call it “Turkey day;” a day to seat and eat and say thanks, but ignoring that history and the people whose communities are still suffering from it is not only ignorant but downright disrespectful. 

A quote from the Indianapolis Public Library’s blog says, “Indigenous Peoples in America recognize Thanksgiving as a day of mourning. It is a time to remember ancestral history as well as a day to acknowledge and protest the racism and oppression which they continue to experience today.”

Thanksgiving is a disgrace, a stupid little Band-Aid slapped onto a gunshot wound. How can we expect pardoning a turkey, fighting over politics, screaming over when Christmas music is appropriate, and whatever other dumb tradition you have to fix or help anyone? We can’t. 

Once a thriving and proud culture, indigenous people have faced cultural dislocation, homelessness, racism, systemic abuse, fetishization, heightened levels of substance abuse systematically pushed by the American government, and more than half of these then also lead to a higher chance of mental health issues or were side effects of the other half. Not to mention the poverty that comes for the majority of people living in government reservations. 

The point is if you truly actually feel that you need to have some celebration, do it on any day but the 25th and don’t talk about the pilgrims or any of those colonizers that pop culture and the American government has idolized for years. Instead, just have a nice family dinner and do something for the indigenous communities in the area you either live in or visit for the season. Donate to a good cause, attend a vigil for some of the victims and pay your respects, wear orange and stand with their communities. 

Here is the link to a blog called Mitu, things that matter. The article details 10 charities that help indigenous peoples and communities if you can please look them over and donate or encourage others to donate. Give someone something to be thankful for.

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