November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving set the tone

Let's change the name of Thanksgiving

By Darryl Lorenzo WellingtonThe way we celebrate Thanksgiving in this country is--to say the very least--inappropriate.

Few people can even recall the name of the tribe that held Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims. We remember the Pilgrims, not the Wampanoag.

The Thanksgiving story subliminally invites us to believe that indigenous Americans have been offered a place at the table.

Thanksgiving is America's guilty holiday, a kind of camouflage, a symbolic excuse to ignore the elimination of whole populations of indigenous Americans by disease or war.

The Pilgrims displayed a distinct lack of generosity when Indians began dying from smallpox.

"It pleased God to afflict these Indians with such a deadly sickness, that out of 1,000, over 950 of them died, and many of them lay rotting above the ground for want of burial," wrote William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Colony.

No, the Pilgrims were not architects of all the injustices against Indians. But they set the tone.
Comment:  Wellington's suggestion for a new name is "Family and Early American Heritage Day," which is totally lame. I'd suggest something simple like "Harvest" or "Harvest Day." Then we could honor the Indians for their contributions to agriculture, the Pilgrims for their religious intolerance freedom, farmers for continuing to feed us, God if you believe in him, etc. It would be the same holiday as Thanksgiving, but rebranded to eliminate the Euro-Christian taint of self-congratulation.

For more on the subject, see Why Thanksgiving Pageants Are Wrong and Change Columbus Day or Thanksgiving?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was disheartened to see this image on a Thanksgiving promotion for a great product that I use almost every day:

http://agilewebsolutions.com/images/pristine/gift/pilgrim-indian.png

(It was from this page: http://agilewebsolutions.com/customer/thanksgiving_intro, which I don't think can be accessed without an account.)

Is there a web page I can point businesses to that offers a concise explanation of why it's important not to use this kind of stereotyped imagery?

Rob said...

I've addressed that topic many times. For instance, in Why Thanksgiving Pageants Are Wrong and Playing Indian for Thanksgiving. My Thanksgiving page has links to other resources. But I'm not sure any of the explanations are concise.

Let's see...why is a generic Indian wrong? Because it falsely represents the Wampanoag Indians who participated in the first Thanksgiving. Because it reduces hundreds of different Indian cultures to a single stereotype.