Rethinking Thanksgiving

Uploaded by FacundoElement on 19.11.2012

Thanksgiving. We all have a specific story we remember, from
history lessons we were taught in elementary school.
It was December, and very, very cold. The Pilgrims got lost while
sailing and ended up at Plymouth Harbor.
Upon arriving, they struggled to cope with a harsh
winter in New England. They were approached by Native
Americans who were friendly and taught them how to
survive the winter, how to grow corn.
The Pilgrims survived the first year, during
which time they were taught to hunt and farm.
At the end of the year, the Pilgrims and Native Americans
sat down together to celebrate the "First Thanksgiving."
You notice how the picture shows white Pilgrims,
fully clothed, while Native Americans are shown
almost naked, painted as uncivilized and savage?
This picture symbolizes inequality.
Educators who withhold the true history of the "First
Thanksgiving" are basically lying.
We have a responsibility to relearn,
to rethink Thanksgiving-what it is really
about, and to teach our children the truth.
We need to learn the different perspectives about that
history, and there are several resources to help us
educate about the first harvest, which happened long before
Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock.
Or about some of the earlier Europeans who came and brought
devastating illnesses, like Smallpox, which spread
like wildfire, tragically killing up to as many as
96% of Native Americans in some areas in New England.
Just imagine that horrible devastation.
Or about how Europeans lied to, stole from, raped,
made slaves of, and killed Native Americans.
Those are painful experiences, and the story has to be told.
Like the true story of Squanto, who was forced into
slavery and returned to his village to find that his
people were wiped out.
We strongly encourage you to learn more, read books
(some of which are actually banned!)
"Rethinking Columbus," ?A People's History of the United
States," "500 Anos del Pueblos Chicanos," and
"Lies My Teachers Told Me." All are good resources.
The story we learned in school is not the true story.
We have the opportunity to re-think the past, and
consider how this history impacts us today.
Some may feel history is in the past, let's move on.
But those events are patterns that continue even today.
Consider, for example, the people who can't afford
meals and how that is a result of economic and racial
injustice that has carried on through the years.
A big part of the untold history is related to mass
killings of Native Americans as a result of
diseases brought by Europeans.
That type of disregard continues today- in 1991,
miners and loggers brought disease to parts of
Brazil and Venezuela, killing up to 1/4 of the population.
You see, history repeats itself, and so it is crucial
that we learn the truth, tell the truth about
what has happened in the past.
We wondered how we could rethink and rediscover
Thanksgiving. We learned of a wonderful resource:
Rethinking Columbus.
This is basically a workbook, with essays, poems,
and suggested activities you can do as a group.
One chapter offers ideas for what you can do on
Thanksgiving, and we wanted to share those with you.
A day of mourning:
The history surrounding Thanksgiving is painful for
many people. Mass killings, ravaging land, oppression of
language, culture, religion. We mustn't ignore that.
Some have suggested that we re-name the holiday,
"Native American Day."
A day of giving thanks:
Way before the Pilgrims arrived, other people came to
America; people from Spain, Native Americans were already here,
and they already celebrated harvest season, giving thanks
to their God(s) and spirits.
Learn more about the harvest season
celebrations: the traditions, food, history of
communities across the world.
Think, too, about the food you have at the table,
who planted it? Who harvested it? Transported it,
placed it on the shelves where you bought it?
Consider those folks. Think, too, about
the food you have, and those who are going hungry.
A day of examination: think critically about images
presented in television, movies, magazines,
and even greeting cards. What message are they sending?
As a family or class, discuss what the pictures mean,
what story is being told. And challenge those ideas.
An example: Victoria's Secret recently featured a
model wearing a headdress. People wrote in to complain,
and an apology was issued. You can do this- pay attention
to images that show up between Halloween and Thanksgiving
and share your concerns where needed.
We all benefit from the opportunity to broaden our
consciousness and give more respect to all groups.
A day of communication:
Read the stories, poetry, history of
Native Americans, Chican@s, and Latin@s.
Invite those folks to your classroom, to your home,
and listen to their stories, learn the truth
about this part of history.
Do NOT host a "traditional Thanksgiving Pageant,"
where the same old lies are performed again.
If you're going to do a play, do the
real story, even if it is uncomfortable, and
take the time to talk about what really happened.
Thanksgiving is often a gathering of family, friends,
and this isn't a bad thing. At the same time
we need to think about our local and global communities,
We need to ask, "What are we really celebrating?."
We celebrating a time of mass genocide, of
diseases that killed many, and we are
celebrating oppression. We need to
think through those questions, and decide
how we will do things differently.
We have to think about poverty, and about
how turkeys are made to suffer,
tortured the purpose of mass production,
so you can have one at your table.
Join us in re-thinking Thanksgiving & celebrating differently.