Before you read this; please take note that it is very raw and from the heart.
Every year there is a day where families gather round to eat and spend time whilst giving “thanks’; this day is familiar to many around the world and is known as Thanksgiving. This day is not a day I can feel thankful for, it is a painful day for me and represents an ugly tradition. The public school system has failed students for decades by misleading teachings and lies. It seems many Americans walk around blindly to the truth of Thanksgiving, or refuse to face the truth, or just simply do not care. That in itself is painful for me. Do you know how many times I have been told to shut up, or get over it for voicing my feelings on this day? If I wrote each sentence ever said to me in a notebook – I would have had about two novels of unkind and derogatory words. You see the “story” that is told is that pilgrims and Indians sat around and had a feast together and lived in harmony. It is said that the first “Thanksgiving” was in 1620 or 1621 – that is a myth. The first “Thanksgiving” happened in 1637; despite what you have heard or what you were taught this is what really happened -- Governor Winthrop had a party with food for the return of his men who went to murder a whole tribe. Thanksgiving is about the day of genocide of my people, this is a day of mourning for us Native Americans. They stole our lands, and attempted to kill us off, and we are still here. People think we just went away, those who tell us to “get over it” are part of the problem. You see this day and even before this day we were victimized, and stigmatized. Today we are still here, we honor our ancestors, fight for our land rights, stand with each other despite what tribes we are from. We are strong and resilient. The past does not matter to many but it does to us, because it still hurts today. Our history is part of transgenerational depression from being displaced, facing death or serious harm for practicing our culture, having our lands stolen, our children stolen, and the list could go on. But, my point is we are still fighting our past, and we are still dealing with oppression. I spend this day making Native American foods, honoring my ancestors, and educating those who do not understand what really happened or why we continue to feel the way that many of us indigenous people feel towards certain ‘Holidays” in America. Let me share with you the voice of my twelve year old daughter and her thoughts on Thanksgiving. “It is a sad day, because they killed Native Americans and I am Native American. After killing my people they had a big feast to congratulate the men who massacred my people and took our homes. In my middle school this week they showed us a documentary “The true meaning of Thanksgiving,” and they did not really mention or show Native Americans, it was all about white people. In my head I felt that this was not right. I told my teacher how the documentary made me feel, and that this is a sad day for me. I think the stories they share about thanksgiving are weird because they are not true. One thing I wish I could tell every person who celebrates Thanksgiving is that you shouldn’t celebrate it if you do not know the true meaning or if you are not willing to think or learn about the true meaning of this day. I think people should have empathy and think about what it would be like for them if this was reversed. Spend a day in our moccasins.”
I hope after you have read this that you have a new understanding of Thanksgiving and what it means to indigenous peoples. We just want to be heard. “Listen or your tongue will make you deaf” Native American Proverb.
By Annastacia and Angelica Espinoza