The Green Hope Falcon

The Truth About Thanksgiving

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The Truth About Thanksgiving

Turns out, Thanksgiving isn't all about turkeys.

Turns out, Thanksgiving isn't all about turkeys.

By David Whelan [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Turns out, Thanksgiving isn't all about turkeys.

By David Whelan [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

By David Whelan [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Turns out, Thanksgiving isn't all about turkeys.

Sonia Rao, Opinion Editor

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For many years, Thanksgiving has been an American holiday celebrating giving thanks.  The holiday traces its roots back to a vaguely documented Pilgrim feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the year 1621.  Many modern American schools and textbooks paint this day as a fairytale-like story of Pilgrims and Native-Americans putting aside their “differences” and celebrating a joyous holiday together.  However, those who have taken a thorough history class know that this is a children’s, black-and-white version of a tale that has many shades of gray.  

The Plymouth Pilgrims did indeed received help from the Wampanoag Indians in 1621, however, any friendliness between the Pilgrims and natives was extinguished in 1637 when Massachusetts governor John Winthrop massacred thousands of Pequot Indian men, women, and children.  Although not the first injustice against the Native population in American history, and most definitely not the last, Thanksgiving marked just one of many milestones down a trail of conquest, assimilation, plundering, and genocide.

Native-Americans have constantly been given the tail’s end of history.  From the very start of their story with European settlers, whether it was Leif Eriksson who made contact with the “Scalawags” in Newfoundland or Christopher Columbus discovering the “Indians” in 1492 (although the famed Spanish explorer never actually set foot on North American soil), they have been oppressed. They have been reduced from thriving, advanced civilizations of  an estimated 15 million to fewer than a million Natives living north of Mexico, their tribes broken up, their heritage erased, their ancestors massacred by systematic murder, starvation, and disease.

The Thanksgiving that we know of today became a national holiday in 1863 by a proclamation from President Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday of every November in an attempt to create unity between Northern and Southern States. Due to the civil war, the holiday was not practiced until the Reconstruction period in the 1870’s.  The date of the holiday was changed from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday in November by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 26th, 1941.  This change was implemented in order to lengthen the commercial holiday season and give the country an economic boost during the hard times of the Great Depression.   The holiday now  takes place the day before what is known as Black Friday, a twenty-four-hour period where Americans succumb to greed in a mass of large crowds, long lines, and massive sales.  Unbeknownst to most Americans, this day [Black Friday] is also known as Native-American heritage day.

Green Hope junior Brittney Gonzalez, who has an indigenous heritage, says, “It is very important to me that people are aware of the hardships natives had and still face . Natives still have to fight for simple rights, such as having access to clean water.  It’s painful to watch these situations be ignored and pushed aside.  In today’s society it still feels like they’re invisible.” Next Thanksgiving, we should all take some time to think about the Native-Americans who suffered in order for us to be able to happily celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving.  

About the Writer
Sonia Rao, Editor-in-Chief

Sonia Rao is a senior at Green Hope High School and the editor-in-chief for The Falcon. In her free time she loves to read and play ultimate frisbee—...

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The Truth About Thanksgiving