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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Reflect on Thanksgiving’s racist past with a justice-oriented, COVID-conscious celebration

As COVID-19 disproportionately impacts Indigenous people, The Editorial Board urges you to consider the historical context of the holiday

Thanksgiving isn’t just tracing hand turkeys, watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” or stuffing your face with pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving is a racist holiday with a dark, bloody past. While the Editorial Board acknowledges that the holiday has positive elements—such as bringing families together to share a meal or creating an outlet for people to express gratitude—it’s insensitive to disregard its harm on Indigenous people. 

With the many changes COVID-19 has brought to this year’s holiday, why not drop other traditions as well. We should change the outdated “pilgrims and Indians” narrative of Thanksgiving to honor Indigenous people. Though promoting the values of generosity, gratitude and community is more important than ever, celebrating Thanksgiving while ignoring its impact on Indigenous people naively glorifies a history of colonialism and suppression. Instead of commemorating the harmful, euphemized narrative, consider ways to celebrate a respectful Thanksgiving.

The Editorial Board urges you to study the real history of the holiday and reflect upon it. Educate yourself about the development of the Thanksgiving myth from Indigenous people’ points of view. Read stories written by Indigenous people and share positive representations of them. 

It’s important to acknowledge that we live on stolen land by educating ourselves about whose lands we are in. For people living in Davis, you live on land of the Patwin people, which today have three federally recognized tribes: Cachil DeHe Band of Wintun Indians of the Colusa Indian Community, Kletsel Dehe Wintun Nation and Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. 

At the Thanksgiving table, you can revamp your dinner by adding food sources used by Indigenous people or foods native to the America’s. As a way to formally recognize and pay respect to Indigenous people, you can include a Land Acknowledgement at the beginning of your meal. 


Instead of just expressing gratitude towards family and friends, you can show gratitude to Indigenous people by donating to organizations like the California Heritage Indigenous Research Project. The Editorial Board asks you to consider donating if you’re able, especially with any potential funds saved from smaller Thanksgiving gatherings this year. 

By changing the way we celebrate and adopting a more accurate story of the holiday, we can drop the traditionally whitewashed version of Thanksgiving. We are still living in a pandemic, one that disproportionately impacts Indigenous people to an extent we may not even know. It is crucial that as we reconsider certain traditions, we ensure that we hold holiday gatherings with caution and that we are conscious of Thanksgiving’s problematic history. 
Written by: The Editorial Board

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