Opinion Flag

Oct. 14 of this year was Columbus Day, and it saw dozens of social media posts, including several from Eckerd students, saying how unimportant, offensive and overall disrespectful the holiday is. But people treat Thanksgiving differently.

The first Thanksgiving, when it took place in the 1600s, was actually meant to celebrate the return of European colonizers who had just massacred hundreds of Pequot Indians, according to an article in the New York Times. The colonization of America and brutal claiming of stolen land is not something to be celebrated, but rather something that should be regarded as a dark stain on American history. 

Columbus Day honors the explorer landing in America in 1492, but it also indirectly celebrates the violent colonization of America, the beginning of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the massacre of many Native American people. But many of these same people condemning Columbus Day will inevitably spend hundreds of dollars to go home to their families and celebrate Thanksgiving, or eat a hearty turkey dinner on Eckerd’s campus on Nov. 28 this year. Why does everyone seem to agree that celebrating Columbus Day is inherently wrong and disrespectful while happily eating pumpkin pie and making hand turkeys for the entire month of November? 

American teachers and parents preach that Thanksgiving is a day for being grateful. But after growing up and learning about the violence that ignited the first Thanksgiving and the real history of the popular holiday, perhaps it is time to reconsider enthusiastic celebrations of a day that recalls the slaughter and massacre European colonizers inflicted upon Native Americans. In an emotional video by “Cut” on YouTube, an anonymous interviewer asks a group of Native Americans what the Thanksgiving holiday means to them. Many used terms such as “sadness,” “atrocity,” “romanticized” and “inaccurate.” Many Native American people even describe Christopher Columbus as the “first terrorist in America” in a similar word association video on Christopher Columbus by "Cut."

The fantasy history American children learn in school does not reflect the actual history of Thanksgiving. In addition to adults teaching children about the holiday through drawing turkeys and the Mayflower what the first Thanksgiving looked like, many children also decorate with feathers and glue Native American headdresses, but these childish crafts do nothing but appropriate indigenous culture and perpetuate an even greater disconnect between stereotypical images of Native Americans and reality.

Not only do these inaccurate historical references perpetuate stereotypes among young kids, they also drive Americans further and further away from the real meaning of Thanksgiving. 

There are many excavations in the Tampa Bay area that show the rich Native American history, like remnants of villages or ceremonial mounds, but several of them have been completely destroyed and paved over for the sake of city development, according to the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. 

Destroying genuine artifacts that honor Native American culture while still celebrating Thanksgiving is highly inconsistent. This disconnect suggests that many people do not actually care about celebrating indigenous people or their struggles. Instead, they would rather use their culture as a means of monetization by selling decorations and costumes that vaguely resembles pieces from a group of people of whom Americans annually celebrate killing and stealing from. 

So, before eating your Thanksgiving dinner this year, take the time to recognize what you are really celebrating, and the implications behind this romanticized holiday.

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