November is National Native American History Month, with Native American Heritage Day being celebrated on Friday, November 27. However, about 87% of states’ history standards do not include Native American history after the 1900s, despite their impact in the US.
For example, many people are unfamiliar with the true history of Thanksgiving. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the tribes in the New England area had celebrated autumn harvest feasts, giving thanks to their Creator, long before the pilgrims arrived in 1621. The Thanksgiving feast that the stereotypical myth refers to was when Wampanoag leader, Ousamequien, decided to reach out to the English for an alliance against tribal rebels, as the Wampanoags’ had been falling to an epidemic disease.
The alliance did not last long however, leading into the massacre of Native Americans. The continued storytelling of the Thanksgiving myth as a peaceful event that entirely skips reality harms Native Americans and the U.S as a whole by silencing the voices of Native Americans and their identity, as well as ignoring the harm inherent in our past.
As Thanksgiving approaches, you may be wondering what to do this November. Individuals and families recognize this history and its implications in various ways. For example, some individuals decide to simply use Thanksgiving as a time to meet with family, without participating in sharing the Thanksgiving myth. Some people reframe Thanksgiving as a day of atonement, in which they mourn the loss of Native American lives. Others celebrate Thanksgiving by acknowledging and learning about Native American tribes and the ones that lived in the area they now reside, as well as by researching current Native American issues.
Whatever you and your loved ones choose to do, I hope you continue to learn more about this history!