Why Thanksgiving Needs to Be Modified


Lucas Ichio

Schools in America often fail to accurately represent American Indian culture, leading to cultural stereotypes and appropriation.

Anvi Kasargod, Sports Editor/Reporter

Thanksgiving. Eating turkey and stuffing, meeting with relatives and celebrating the “feast” that the Plymouth settlers are said to have shared with American Indians in 1621. 

However, the common misconception that the pilgrims joyfully shared a meal with the Wampanoag tribe to thank them for help with the harvest is actually far from the truth.

In fact, there is no actual evidence that the American Indians were even invited to the meal, calling into question the validity of the peaceful natives and pilgrims narrative altogether. 

While Thanksgiving is often taught in schools as being a beautiful cross-cultural celebration between the natives and settlers, this narrative glosses over the dark and deadly conflict inflicted upon the natives as a result of the white settlers’s arrival.

In reality, this portrayal of Thanksgiving in which pilgrims gratefully offered their “thanks” to the natives is a flawed retelling of historical events. It instills a white savior complex that suggests the settlers generously shared their feast with the natives, and it overlooks years of disease, massacres and land invasion. 

Rather than acknowledging the countless wrongs inflicted upon the natives during this time period, the peace-loving anecdote that is often taught about Thanksgiving brings about the false idea that the pilgrims aspired to have peaceful relations with the natives. This inherently does an injustice to all those who suffered the real consequences of colonization.  

   Several faults lie within the American education system as well, as young children are often taught abridged, softened or out-of-context versions of the pilgrims and natives’ encounter in school, and various children’s books simplify the story to a more pleasant version. 

In addition, elementary school children take part in arts and crafts, including making  headdresses, clothes and feathers that bear no resemblance to actual American Indian cultural clothing. These inaccurate historical references further perpetuate stereotypes that have been established in young children’s minds. 

Another example of gross cultural stereotypes regarding Thanksgiving can be seen in childrens’ movies such as, “The Mouse on the Mayflower.” The film instigates perceptions of the natives as uncivilized savages by portraying them with overly exaggerated caricatures, dark red skin and hostile facial expressions. This serves as a sharp contrast to the portrayal of white colonizers with more fair and angelic physical attributes.  

Nevertheless, there are many things that we can do to make way we celebrate Thanksgiving more culturally considerate. 

One culturally considerate example is how people have recently been referring to Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day to avoid celebrating it as a conquest over American Indians. 

Similarly, we can alter our Thanksgiving celebrations by removing the false pilgrims and natives narrative and acknowledging American Indians’ struggles and culture, without appropriating them. 

We should not  spread the false idea of unity in the past to encourage unity now in the present. We should use this holiday to focus on togetherness, acceptance of others, generosity, family, giving back to the community and, of course, delicious food.