While for most non-Native Americans, Thanksgiving Day is a time for gratitude, feasting, and football, for many Native Americans, it’s a reminder of the genocide committed by millions of their people, of their dead ancestors, of racial slurs. So, in your opinion, do Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?
There are always two sides to a story. Unfortunately, when it comes to the history of Thanksgiving, generations of Americans have been taught a pretty good and peaceful history. These include stories of pilgrims and Native Americans sitting together at a friendly feast. However, these stories are more based on fantasy and the truth behind it is not so good especially for the Native Americans.
Want to know do Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s go back in the history of the first Thanksgiving!
The Truth About the First Thanksgiving
Learning about history is an important part of knowing how to act today and better understanding the question: “Do Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?”
The dominant cultural and historical story has been told from the perspective of the white colonists who landed near Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts in 1620. In this version of the Thanksgiving story, the holiday celebrates the peaceful, friendly meeting of English settlers and the Wampanoag tribe over three days of public holidays and Thanksgiving in 1621.
The main version of the Thanksgiving story paints a picture of the courageous Christian settlers of the New World and with the help of some friendly Natives, seeking a way to create a new life for themselves.
Well, at that time the two communities were relatively friendly with each other.
The original feast would not include many of the foods we see in Thanksgiving today. The main meat would be venison that the Wampanoag group hunted because the Pilgrims didn’t have enough food to feed the group.
The truth about this first Thanksgiving, however, must not skip the fact that these early public statements about peace and friendship were mocked by European settlers, who eventually abolished a violent and stealthy way a huge percentage of the Native American population both there and throughout the entire country in the years to come.
From a population of nearly 100,000 in the years directly after the Pilgrims’ arrival, epidemics and other factors reduced Wampanoag’s population to less than 30,000. When people hear about the black plague, they think of the terrible death toll in Britain and other parts of Europe. The same thing happened in the Americas to a greater extent.
Some were also enslaved during these dark years. This practice and the wholesale slaughter of indigenous communities continued from this point throughout the country’s history.
While at school, few teachers had the opportunity to tell students about the massacres of indigenous tribes like the Pequot that took place in the years that followed. Nor do they mention the English settlers who robbed the Wampanoag tombs and stole their food to survive their first years on this new continent.
Do Native Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving?
For Native Americans, the decision to celebrate Thanksgiving came down to personal preference and more serious reflection on what really happened all these years ago. There are many opinions on the question: “Do Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?”
Some people completely reject Thanksgiving
Many Native Americans say that this day is not a holiday but a celebration built on lies, an act they’d rather spend on self-care instead of turkeys and sweet potatoes. Some people even call this day “Day of Mourning” or “Unthanksgiving Day”.
They consider any modern Thanksgiving celebration to be rooted in disrespect and a bad thing to do. It is also not surprising that many people expressed their attitudes immediately after the historical truth was revealed.
If a Native American child is forced in school to stick a headdress with construction paper and be taught the European pilgrims welcomed them to their feast in the spirit of friendship and brotherhood, em, that’s just another example of perceived historical whitewashing.
Others still agree to celebrate Thanksgiving
While some Native Americans have chosen to reject Thanksgiving altogether, many embrace the holiday’s positive messages and choose to dismiss thoughts of the day’s complicated history.
This is because the idea of giving thanks is central to Indigenous heritage and culture, and in this way, Thanksgiving is simply an opportunity to appreciate the good things of life like family, community and the wealth of the land.
Long before the settlers arrived, the native tribes celebrated the harvest and the gifts of the Earth’s abundance. Native American spirituality, both traditionally and today, emphasizes gratitude for creation, care for the environment, and recognition of the human need to be in communion with nature and others.
Thanksgiving as a holiday is rooted in the Native American philosophy of not expecting anything in return. During the first celebration of this holiday, the Wampanoag tribe provided not only food for the feast, but also teachings on agriculture and hunting (corn, beans, rice and turkeys are some specific examples of foods introduced by Native Americans).
How Do Native Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving?
Many Native Americans watch football and eat turkey with their families on this day in November. The modern cultural aspects of the holiday have infiltrated all groups of people whether they have anything to do with the first Thanksgiving or not.
While modern schools seem to focus on the Pilgrims as the origin of Thanksgiving, Native Americans would be more likely to look at both sides of the story.
Some people have adopted Thanksgiving as a time to express gratitude for their ancestors and the contributions Native Americans made in the early years of their existence. Others focus on family, friends and simply coming together to enjoy the good things in life.
Now, you know the answer for the question: “Do Native Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving” as well as the truth about the first Thanksgiving.
Finally, whatever the origin, Thanksgiving is an occasion when we can gather with friends and family and eat delicious food. This is great, isn’t it?
So, does your family celebrate Thanksgiving? What have you prepared for Thanksgiving this year? Do you give Thanksgiving gifts to your loved ones? Share it with us in the comments below!