Opinion

The real history of Thanksgiving

Ah, yes. Temperatures are dropping, turkeys are gobbling in the distance and the smell of pumpkin pie lifts the spirits. Thanksgiving has become an iconic American holiday, ingrained into the modern way of life since the days of the hand-shaped paper turkey crafts made in kindergarten.

As American schoolchildren, we are taught the history of Thanksgiving from our earliest days. From the moment Christopher Columbus stepped foot onto America to the feast enjoyed by both the Pilgrims and Native Americans, we have always been taught that Thanksgiving was a celebration of the harvest and to give thanks to all that the new world brought them. Even as our education continued into middle school or even high school, battles and uprisings between settlers and Native Americans were often brushed over; history classes still never painted the whole picture. I truly don’t remember an American history class where we learned about the harsh realities indigenous populations had to face.

The real story of indigenous and settler relations is that of mass murder, ethnic cleansing, sexual abuse and harassment. Yet, these somehow seem to be missing from our textbooks. It is curious that we learn about the Holocaust and other gross injustices around the world, but not about the ones here at home.

History in the United States' education system is softened, abridged, whitewashed. In a country where "Catcher in the Rye" and other literary novels are banned for their use of the f-word, it is not surprising that even history has been censored. We have been living in a system that chooses to keep inconvenient historical truth in the shadows, rather than to make students question or feel uncomfortable. Except, history is just that. It’s gruesome and uneasy and heavy; it cannot be forgotten or dismissed.

This country is quite literally built on the backs of the Native Americans and slaves. Populations have been marginalized as a subclass of human existence, yet it’s not spoken of. People may know it, but they choose not to talk about it. History is repeatedly brushed under the rug.

And so, during this Thanksgiving season, a time when history comes up naturally, it is vital that the good, as well as the bad, are recognized. Not only is this a time to give thanks for family and friends and the world, but also to give honor to those who suffered in the making of America. It must never escape us that the only reason we lead our lives in prosperity and joy is because of the eternal pain in others’.

This has been a public service announcement.

Kavitha Babu is a sophomore studying sociology and political science. Do you think the historical context of Thanksgiving is forgotten or ignored by modern-day Americans? Send all comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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