Thanksgiving? Or Celebration of Genocide?


Aileen Resendiz

Thanksgiving to Americans has always been thought of as a day to give thanks to those around us, and we’ve always been taught that this comes from when the Native Americans helped Pilgrims survive in the ‘New World.’ However, as people begin to look into the true history of what happened between the Natives and the Pilgrims, Thanksgiving can often be looked at as the celebration of a genocide.

Although there are different theories as to why Thanksgiving first happened – ranging from a feast celebrating the partnership between the natives and the English, to the killing of 600 men, women, and children of the Pequot tribe – the former is the more widely believed cause, and is the one we will follow. Still, both stories end in the brutal killing of Natives, and the fact that we continue to celebrate and recognize this violent history is where controversies arise.

The genocide of the Natives begins only a generation after the first Thanksgiving in 1621. The Wampanoags, who had aided the English in their survival, were beginning to die out from diseases brought over by the English. The colonizers continued to take more and more control over the tribe’s land, and eventually, the natives began to feel fed up with the unfair treatment. This led to a revolt of three Native men killing an English man, and after executing them, the English quickly declared war.

In this early war, also called King Philip’s War, it’s believed that around 30% of the English population was killed, and nearly half of all Natives in New England were wiped out. However, year after year, Pilgrims continued to celebrate with a three day feast that dwindled down to a single meal.

Since then, Natives have continuously been pushed off of their land, and have undergone unfair treatment even though they were here first. Thanksgiving is an annual reminder to Native Americans today of the killing of hundreds of their ancestors, and when somebody celebrates Thanksgiving, they turn away from the reality and history of our country. Although they weren’t taught the truth in school, they still have the responsibility of knowing America’s past, which includes the past of people of color. This Thanksgiving as you sit around the table with your family to give thanks, you might want to consider the question; what are you really celebrating?