There are few things as patently American as Thanksgiving. With football, pie, and family, the holiday is a recipe of Americana traditions and unbridled nationalism. Yet, the holiday's origins are slightly more nefarious than its current iteration.
As writer and scholar Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz explains in "The Myth of Thanksgiving," the concept of Thanksgiving as a way to reflect on colonial settlers' relationships with Indigenous people and honor the founding of the U.S., does not derive from historical fact, but rather as a conditioned myth. While "Thanksgiving" became a national holiday by President Lincoln, the holiday begins to shape into its current form during the Great Depression, when economic and social chaos necessitated feelings of national unity.
Of the holiday, Dunbar-Ortix writes "But this idea of the gift-giving Indian, helping to establish and enrich what would become the United States, is an insidious smoke screen meant to obscure the fact that the very existence of the country is a result of the looting of an entire continent and its resources." She finishes her piece by challenging readers to a new tradition of Thanksgiving-one where the colonist practices of the U.S. are critiqued and the history of Indigenous people are celebrated.
What are ways in which Thanksgiving can serve as a platform for honest and critical thinking about America's origins and history? Beyond the holiday, how can we work to draw more attention to the history and lives of Indigenous communities?