• Elena Caldera

Why is Thanksgiving Controversial?

November, month of sweater weather and preparing for the grand celebration that is Christmas, but November is also the month where families celebrate thanksgiving. While for some it's a festivity to appreciate things in life and be thankful; for others it's a day to celebrate the history of pilgrims and natives sharing a meal together. Yet if Thanksgiving has an innately good message, why is the holiday so controversial today?


Image of people celebrating the National Day of Mourning. Image obtained from Newsweek.

The Brief History…

Let’s first get into the history of Thanksgiving. The first thanksgiving to exist was initiated by Plymouth colonists, where they would celebrate the future prosperity in a new land and the harvested crops. It would last three days and they would invite Native American allies, who taught the pilgrims techniques to harvest. Colonies would celebrate thanksgiving for more than centuries. Until 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving Day a national holiday every November.


The Controversies…

Native American don't hate the positive message of giving thanks and sharing a meal with your loved one, but what they take issue with is how the history is told. The American view on thanksgiving is one that portrays the relations between settlers and indigenous people as friendly when in truth their colonization led to wars and the death of many Native Americans. For them, it serves as a reminder of how their land and culture were stolen. There is a push to change the old glorified narrative this holiday presents. Perhaps it can be done by rewriting the history and teaching it how it really happened. Instead of censoring crucial information in a children's textbook, everything should be kept to stop more misconceptions from propagating to a new generation.


Some activists want to transform the holiday into “National Day of Mourning '' a day that is centered in remembering the victims of colonizations instead of twisting their history. However, some people don’t agree on changing the old tradition on thanksgiving, perhaps there could be a middle ground everyone can come to but while the discussion remains, what will you do this thanksgiving now that you know the controversies?


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