As Thanksgiving approaches, America is preparing with turkeys, trips and traditions.
However there is more to the Thanksgiving story that is often overlooked. Some schools have been known to teach students the tall-tale version of the Thanksgiving story. With an inaccurate story presented in some schools, it is important to create room for more discussion or an additional perspective. Malia Rodriguez, a junior at Ashland High School, is a part of the Yaqui tribe of the U.S-Mexico border and participates in traditions from both the Lakota and Navajo tribes. Growing up with indigenous roots, she was presented with her ancestral truth through stories, traditions and long talks with her family members. With this brings the opportunity to rewrite the story and inform others on how they should be celebrating Thanksgiving.
When talking about Thanksgiving, Rodriguez sees a lack of honesty in the history, but also an opportunity to explain her perspective. “I think there is a misunderstanding around the day, and while some aspects are true, the history books tore out vital pieces of information.” She also believes that its okay for the youth to know that not everything our country did in the past was perfect. Without acknowledging the mistakes our country has made, it is unlikely to improve or change. Knowing the truth helps us understand why we should celebrate differently. “I feel this holiday is more about how the pilgrims and natives could coexist when in reality it was the natives who helped the settlers only to be brutalized later,” says Rodriguez. Keeping this side of the story in mind and acknowledging it throughout the holiday season is the first step.
Like most on Thanksgiving, Rodriguez still spends the day with her family. They choose to eat turkey and have a feast, but her family doesn’t forget the genocide and devastation her ancestors experienced during these times. Rodriguez and her family pray for the past generations and give thanks for the progression Native Americans have seen since then. She feels this day is commonly thought of and nationally celebrated as a day of peace, while in her heart she sees its history is rooted in greed and power and cruelty. “It is a way of keeping a connection and stabilizing our resilience.” Thanksgiving can be a day of humbling yourself instead of celebrating a falsely presented story.
Rodriguez knows how important traditions are and doesn’t believe they should change, but would like for more families to recognize what this day means for her. “I believe how the day is celebrated is wonderful, I just wish there could be a better understanding about what they are truly representing.” Rodriguez also believes it is possible to celebrate both the indigenous and European side of Thanksgiving because she feels they don’t need to be seperate. As long as the story is told from all parties’ perspectives and we choose to celebrate both the indigenous as well as the Europeans in this story, Thanksgiving can still be spent around the table with friends and family.