Indigenous peoples’ history is more complicated than a holiday myth


JARED BALL, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome, everyone, back to the Real News Network. I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore.

With Thanksgiving coming up this weekend we want to talk about the myths related to this holiday. Although we’re taught at a young age that indigenous people and pilgrims sat together and happily feasted, the violent and colonial origins of this holiday are frequently ignored. And although we also historicize the land theft and the genocide against indigenous communities, let us not forget that this is something that is still happening today.

So here to talk about this with us is Tara Houska. Tara is Ojibwe from the Couchiching First Nation. She is a tribal rights attorney in Washington, DC, a cofounder of, and a contributor to Indian Country Today media network and the Huffington Post. Tara, welcome to the Real News.

TARA HOUSKA: Thank you for having me.

BALL: Can you talk with us a little bit about the actual roots of what we now call Thanksgiving here in the United States?

HOUSKA: Sure. I mean, I think the history of Thanksgiving actually comes from this understanding that the Wampanoag tribe sat down with the pilgrims and gave them gifts of venison, five deer, and they shared this kind of very friendly meal. The actual myth of Thanksgiving didn’t really come into being [inaud.] into the 19th century. But that’s kind of, I think that’s the event that people use as that kind of common storyline.

BALL: How do you think that, you know, a lot of people will obviously say that we gather to see our families, to eat a good meal, to watch football, to enjoy a day off from work. And we’re not actually celebrating the genocide of indigenous populations. How do you think that settlers and other groups of people, and other participants in this holiday, should orient themselves to work for indigenous justice?

HOUSKA: I definitely don’t think that people are celebrating the genocide of indigenous people. There are Native Americans that will celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow. I mean, I’m certainly going to be with friends and family and have a meal and watch football. It’ll be a great day. But I think that what you can do to actually counteract this negative history is by teaching the real history. And so I know for a fact that today across America, I guarantee there are hundreds of classrooms that are engaging in constructing paper headdresses and perpetuating this myth of happy Indians and happy pilgrims, and kind of overlooking the entire history of what really happened to indigenous people.

Real News Network for more

Comments are closed.