Why I Don't Celebrate Thanksgiving
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Why I Don't Celebrate Thanksgiving

It wasn't just a feast.


Well, for one thing, I'm never in the United States when it happens. Most of the time, whenever my sister and I had Thanksgiving break, my family would go up to Canada to visit my maternal relatives. And since we were Vietnamese first and then American, we never had a traditional 'Thanksgiving Meal'. Instead of turkey, we'd have homemade pho and bi cuon. Although my family has living in North America for more than 30 years, we've kept our Vietnamese identity closer to us.

But really, there's more to that. The main narrative surrounding Thanksgiving seems to be that the pilgrims, otherwise known as the first 'Americans' came over to North America and the Native Americans welcomed them and celebrated their arrival with a magnificent feast. In this narrative, the pilgrims and the Native Americans lived in harmony with one another.

Here's the problem: Thanksgiving wasn't just a feast.

The Day of Thanksgiving was based on a series of massacres. In 1637, the first Thanksgiving feast happened after Dutch and English colonists massacred 700 unarmed men, women, and children of the Pequot Nation. They lit a Pequot's settlement on fire and encased the victims in. And if those victims tried to escape, they would be clubbed to death. Survivors either escaped to other tribes or were sold into slavery. Afterwards, the colonists had a feast to celebrate their 'victory' over the 'savage natives'. Actually, the colonists didn't just attack one Pequot settlement; no they conducted a series of raids and invasions on the Pequot tribe, killing thousands and selling the survivors into slavery. And after each invasion, the colonists had a feast to celebrate their victory. Eventually President George Washington suggested to have just one feast for each year instead of one after every single massacre and invasion.

So how does this have to do with me?

I may not be Native American, but I can sympathize with the frustration Native Americans probably feel over the lack of accurate representation of their history. Being the daughter of South Vietnamese refugees, I can't tell you how many times I've seen people glorify the US involvement in the Vietnam War. Throughout history though, Native Americans and their culture have been attacked, massacred, and discriminated against by the United States. And even today although many of us acknowledge the atrocity of those crimes, we still appropriate their culture (sports mascots, college mascots, etc.).

Thanksgiving is an example of that. Thanksgiving, the celebration, the holiday in and of itself is a caricature of Native American culture. We are celebrating the massacre of Native Americans. Even if we aren't focusing on the history of the holiday, we are celebrating a war crime in the form of food and gratitude and sports.

That's not okay. It's not fair to the descendants of the deceased and it's certainly not fair to the victims who perished.

Recently, there have been conversation about dismantling the effects of colonialism. How do we do that? Where do we even start?

Here's an answer: look around you. Is there anything you do or celebrate that may have been the result of the colonialism? If there is, get rid of it. Acknowledge the effects of it and cut yourself off from it. If we want to dismantle colonialism, we have to start with ourselves and see how we ourselves may contribute to it. Only then can we truly pay for the crimes we have committed in the past.

And besides, I don't need to have one specific day to be grateful for the people in my life. I do that everyday. I do that everyday for my parents by living my life to its fullest capability possible.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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