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Opinion What do Native Americans really think about Thanksgiving?

17:06  24 november  2021
17:06  24 november  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

Biden pardons turkeys Peanut Butter and Jelly ahead of Thanksgiving

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The first Thanksgiving is generally regarded in history as a friendly gathering among pilgrims and the Wampanoag Tribe.

a person standing in front of a truck: Members of Blackfeet Food Distribution, Blackfeet Fire Management and Chief Mountain Hotshots put together and handout over 5,000 Thanksgiving meals, during a drive-up distribution event on Monday afternoon in Browning, November 23, 2020. © RION SANDERS/GREAT FALLS TRIBUNE Members of Blackfeet Food Distribution, Blackfeet Fire Management and Chief Mountain Hotshots put together and handout over 5,000 Thanksgiving meals, during a drive-up distribution event on Monday afternoon in Browning, November 23, 2020.

But as we learned from Eryn Dion in last year's edition of This is America, the first Thanksgiving actually has a fraught history, as the pilgrims later violated their agreements and attacked and encroached upon Wampanoag lands. This brutality was not uncommon — upon arrival in America, Europeans broke promises and inflicted violence, disease and assimilation against Native people nationwide for generations.

What really happened during the first Thanksgiving?

  What really happened during the first Thanksgiving? We've all heard the tale of the pilgrims and Native Americans and the first Thanksgiving feast. But how much of it is actually true?We've all heard the story of the first Thanksgiving; Pilgrims and Native Americans sitting down together to enjoy the fruits of their labor and feast in friendship. But did it really happen this way? Or is there more to the story?  First hand accounts of that day tell a much different version. So where did this version come from? We sat down with USA TODAY reporter Eryn Dion for the real first Thanksgiving story.

I'm Nora Mabie, a reporter focusing on Indigenous communities for the Great Falls Tribune, part of the USA TODAY Network. And, of course, you're reading This is America, a newsletter about race, identity and how it shapes our lives.

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The question we pose this edition: What do Native Americans think about Thanksgiving? The Great Falls Tribune surveyed more than 40 Indigenous people across 12 tribes. For some, Thanksgiving is a day to honor ancestors and be with family; for others, it's a stark reminder of oppression.

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Here's what Indigenous people said about Thanksgiving

(Responses are edited for length and clarity).

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Kasey Salois, 24, Blackfeet and Little Shell: Thanksgiving may have started out with the pilgrims, but we have made it our own. We can't change the past but we can't let it define us either. This holiday is less about celebrating the past for us and instead celebrating what we have and what we can look forward to. We do a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and we have a lot to be thankful for.

Jason Rosette, 45, Chippewa Cree: Thanksgiving means eating with your family, and because of that, I'm grateful. But I feel the truth needs to be told about how America was really founded. It was founded on the murder of my ancestors and the robbery of our land. The only way we can overcome historical trauma is by teaching the truth in schools.

David Coldwell, 63, Blackfeet: I used to celebrate, but I no longer will. Had I known the real history, I never would've celebrated. I didn't learn the truth in history class growing up. Native Americans weren't talked about.

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a group of people standing on top of a car: Members of Blackfeet Food Distribution, Blackfeet Fire Management and Chief Mountain Hotshots put together and handout over 5,000 Thanksgiving meals, during a drive-up distribution event on Monday afternoon in Browning, November 23, 2020. © RION SANDERS/GREAT FALLS TRIBUNE Members of Blackfeet Food Distribution, Blackfeet Fire Management and Chief Mountain Hotshots put together and handout over 5,000 Thanksgiving meals, during a drive-up distribution event on Monday afternoon in Browning, November 23, 2020.

Lilly Juneau, 18, Fort Peck Sioux: I celebrate it in the name of family and remembrance of my ancestors. It's also a sad day reflecting on the atrocities that happen to Native people.

Brandy Unruh, 43, Confederated Salish and Kootenai and Cree: I have mixed feelings on Thanksgiving. I have two sides because my dad's family came through Ellis Island, and my mom's family was Bitterroot Salish and Cree. Without them, I wouldn't be here, so I focus on the positive. I love the holidays because we get a break from work and school to spend time with our families.

Leslie Stump-Meyers, 35, Chippewa Cree: Celebrating the colonization of Indigenous people is sad. Instead, we celebrate by remembering what our ancestors went through and how they persevered.

Kirby Drake, 36, Crow: It's somber, but I like the food. I definitely don't partake in the common myths of the Natives and pilgrims being friends. Instead, I focus on gratitude.

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Matt Wacker, 49, Blackfeet, Haida, Tlingit and Cherokee: I give thanks for what my ancestors survived over many generations. I'm proud but also saddened by their struggles and the lack of acknowledgment by the broader population.

Sunni Grotberg, 20, Little Shell: I love Thanksgiving. I'm familiar with the horrific events after the first Thanksgiving, but I choose not to let hatred fester. I believe it's important to know and remember what happened in the past so we don't repeat the same mistakes, but it's equally important to forgive.

Sunni Grotberg (center and holding her son) loves Thanksgiving. While she acknowledges past atrocities, Sunni likes to focus on forgiveness. © Courtesy of Sunni Grotberg Sunni Grotberg (center and holding her son) loves Thanksgiving. While she acknowledges past atrocities, Sunni likes to focus on forgiveness.

Rachel Wilson, 44, Little Shell: My family celebrates Thanksgiving in honor of the kindness and generosity the Indigenous people showed the Europeans.

Heather LaMere, 38, Chippewa Cree: This holiday started out as a gathering between different nations. There were hidden intentions, but we, as Native Americans, have grown. I do feel happy and blessed by Thanksgiving, as it allows me to give thanks not only to my family and friends but to my ancestors as well.

Yolanda Swearinger, 64, Blackfeet: My family never celebrated Thanksgiving, so when I was in school, I found it odd — the idealism that the pilgrims and Natives shared a table with an abundance of food and we all got along. Our reality is so different, and nowadays, I educate my grandchildren on our history and what we Natives have done for this world.

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Jasmine RunningRabbit-Bercier, 24, Blackfeet: I love Thanksgiving. My family hasn't been together in years, and this is the first Thanksgiving we'll all be together. I'm excited and ready to be around my loved ones.

Carma Corcoran, 65, Chippewa Cree: I don't celebrate the holiday. It makes me angry and sad.

Debra Upham, 65, Blackfeet: I feel like it was the beginning of the end of our way of life. It started on the East Coast and quickly moved west. For me, it's just a meal.

Dion Ontiveros, 52, Chippewa Cree: We celebrate it as a gathering with family. Historically, this holiday is built on lies. Natives were murdered by the millions after helping and teaching the white men.

Ahanu Boyle, 20, Blackfeet: I don't like Thanksgiving. I still get together with friends and eat food, but we celebrate the resilience of Indigenous people instead, and we make Indigenous dishes.

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Nora Mabie is the author of the First Nations newsletter from the Great Falls Tribune. You can expect a special edition of First Nations on Saturday, where she'll highlight some Native artists we can support for Small Business Saturday. You can sign up for the First Nations newsletter here.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What do Native Americans really think about Thanksgiving?

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