For many people Thanksgiving is a time to come together, eat some food and spend time with family. For others it’s a time of mourning, a day of remembering lost ancestors.
To many Native American people, Thanksgiving is a symbol of the genocide and theft of the land that was rightfully theirs.
Thanksgiving is not a day of celebration for many Natives, many recognize the day as the “National Day Of Mourning,” and they take time to recognize their culture and remember those who have been lost.
For centuries people have taken land from Native Americans and some people still try to take away the small amounts of land Natives have left. We’ve forced Natives into living on small reservations for decades. The reason colonizers did that was to “establish tracts of land called reservations for Native Americans to live on as white settlers took over their land” and encourage Native Americans to “take on the ways of the white man,” according to history.com.
By doing that we have successfully removed thousands of Natives from their land and with that, removed the culture of the people that once lived there.
When we removed these people from their homes, we also took their traditions and culture with it. Confined to a small area, their traditions were warped or oftentimes lost. Throughout much of history Native Americans were forced to convert to Christianity, taught English and told to stop wearing traditional garments all in an effort to adapt them to “white culture.”
Along with the cultural loss of the Native Americans, so many people were also lost.
In 1492, there were an estimated 88 million Native Americans. By the 1700s after the population dropped to 18 million at most. In the 1890s it was at its lowest with 250,000 Natives left, that’s less than 90% of the population left after four centuries of colonization. That’s also four centuries of culture and traditions being erased.
What does all of that have to do with thanksgiving?
The first thanksgiving was a celebration of “finding new land,” but that brought about the death and mistreatment of millions of Natives. Although it may have happened centuries ago and many of us aren’t Native Americans, we should still respect and recognize thanksgiving as a mourning day for the millions lost.
If we don’t remember history, it will be forgotten.