Opinion: Thanksgiving shouldn’t be a federal holiday

Jay Walker-Schulte, Entertainment Editor

Jay Walker-Schulte

Native Americans (or “Indians,” an incorrect pejorative that people still use today,) have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to how their history has been taught in the United States.

The slaughtering of Native Americans in colonial times has been framed as a sort of “necessary evil”—the destruction of “savage” civilization and a blossoming of European development.

The primary example of this erroneous history being taught as a proud American celebration is Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, as it stands now, should not be celebrated as a national holiday. Not only does its roots come from Native American massacre, but religion as well.

What we know as the “First Thanksgiving” is what’s commonly taught in schools.

I learned about Tisquantum–an archetype of the “noble savage” who so kindly and graciously aided the New World Pilgrims. When I was younger I figured he was just helping out of kindness, and that the event was a big ol’ kumbaya.

However, that was never the case.

Tisquantum (most popularly known as Squanto) was a member of the Patuxet tribe.

He only knew English because he was captured by an English explorer, Thomas Hunt, who sold him into slavery in Spain.

Eventually he escaped and returned to America around 1619.

Younger me learned that “Squanto” was the large reason for Thanksgiving and the two groups were doing exactly that: Giving thanks to one another.

But the first Thanksgiving was really nothing special. Although Tisquantum fostered a relationship between native tribes and the pilgrims, harvest festivals were already common.

It’s interesting that schools are willing to teach that sort of “bond” between the groups, but not events like the Wessagusset Affair of 1623, the Pamunkey Peace Talks of 1623, or the vast numbers of other examples of Native American massacre under the hands of Europeans.

Thanksgiving wasn’t a true federal holiday until long after the “First Thanksgiving”, when Abraham Lincoln recognized it in 1863.

He declared it to be a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” because of “… the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” in his Proclamation of Thanksgiving.

The holiday was nationally acknowledged directly due to the ongoing Civil War. It also occurred only months after Gettysburg, when togetherness was especially needed.

Interestingly, when the holiday was federalized Native Americans weren’t a huge part of it. It was meant as a morale booster during the war, more than anything else.

This becomes double trouble. Celebrating a religious holiday, with ties to genocide? In the current political climate, it’s interesting that the holiday hasn’t been abolished.

It’s disappointing that an important and shameful history has been erased just so we can all eat a lot for a day.

It would be okay to have a harvest feast take place yearly, but it’s inappropriate to still celebrate “Thanksgiving” while rooting it in the history that it has.

Even though the holiday is still celebrated, I wish that the real history surrounding it would be acknowledged.