As we prepare to stuff our turkeys and accept friends and relatives into our cantons, it’s important we remember what this day is really about. Your social media pages have probably been flooded with memes decrying the idea of European “discovery.” While many of them are true, what was lost is much more precious. Our Indigeneity. Too many times we confuse what we are thankful for with materialistic things that give our life identity and meaning. We forget about nuestra historia that also enriches our futuro. The Thanksgiving holiday is one that has been colonized over the centuries. The point is we erroneously celebrate this day based off of inaccuracies we've been taught our whole lives.
As the narrative is told countless times, Native Americans are portrayed as being rescued juxtaposed to their Pilgrim counter parts. This tale couldn’t be any more false. Today, Texas schools are doing a better job conveying the reality of this holiday pero there’s still room for improvement. European immigrants are stilled viewed as a “settler” and still celebrated for their “accomplishments.” The indigenous narrative is only mentioned as a background role in this telling.
I think back to when I was a chavalón in elementary school. I was asked to bring a grocery bag (back then they were brown and made from paper) so that I’d be able to use it to make my “Indian head band.” I was excited to do so because after all, the things I was learning in school eran la verdad. In retrospect, the mere assumption that the pride Native Warriors possessed to dawn this type of garb could be relegated to symbolism made by a throw away bag is extremely offensive. There is great honor in in wearing a Head-Dress and dismissing it as trash has become how we view our Indigeneity. This gesture imposed on innocent minds lends to the existing idea that nothing in my indigenous history is worthy of deep consideration. We’ve done this long enough and what’s more, it hasn’t gotten any better since we have Mexicanas/os using Indigenous themed apparel to dress up for Halloween further misappropriating nuestra cultura. The message we send to other ethnicities when we do stupid shit like this is that it’s okay for them to do it and it validates the internalized racism many of them feel. Especially in ‘Murica.
Ironically, a movie intrigued me enough to ask questions at a young age. There’s a scene in Addams Family Values where Wednesday, the daughter, challenges the traditional idea of how the first Thanksgiving went down. There is some offensive language and symbolic authenticity but the message is clear. Natives did not know what was in store for them and their futures.
Even with today’s easy accessibility to information, the History.com website, a prominent source for historical narratives, refuses to acknowledge that turkey was an element present in the Americas long before the arrival of European invaders and it was the Natives who introduced it at the first Thanks-taking. They prefer to align the importance of this meal by placing wild fowl of various kinds along side the prestige of the turkey again, alienating the rich history it has. The Washington Post has a much more historically factual account of this. Quick fact: the turkey wasn’t just a bird, it was a symbol of respect in first nations. It was a gift in many occasions reflecting the stature of an event or individual. Even for all the assistance given to the immigrants, not but 20 years later they returned the generosity by bring disease and treachery that wiped out most of the indigenous population. Still the greater image eludes us.
Traditionally the first Thanksgiving explained that “Pilgrims” were escaping religious persecution and were aided by Natives. But the narrative that Natives and European refugees lived in harmony and celebrated “friendship” from that point on is a meager attempt at a white-washed version of those events. This is what little Mexicanas/os are learning in their schools. We aren’t acknowledging this as the holocaust that it is? We don’t have to condone Thanksgiving because it’s become a part of who Mexican Americas are today pero, we don’t have to forget how we got here either. Ours is a deeply seeded heritage that has been the target of extermination for centuries but we don’t address that. As parents, we trust in the institution of education to teach our kids what they need to know. But there’s a huge disparity between the cultural aspect of their education and the reality they are living. [I’ll get into textbooks in Texas in an Editorial coming soon]
Schools aren’t obligated to teach students about their history or cultura. They simply have to meet the education standards that their state sets for them. Since working in education, I’ve seen many Principals that have agency in their position simply disregard cultural relevance in education for the sake of advancing their own careers. It’s sad when standardized test scores are what reflect their version of “success” while the students in their halls are failing at life. The same goes with language. Gloria Anzaldua once stated that “Language is twin skin to identity.” That couldn’t be truer but we’ve grown so distant from speaking Spanish for many reasons and we rely on the schools to teach it to our kids eventually.
I’ve said this chingo times in my bogs and Editorials. We live in an information age. Knowledge is at our fingertips and we knowingly chose to ignore it!
Take the time to educate yourself on ANYTHING! Don’t fall victim to the same mechanisms that have kept Mexican Americans in the dark on many important discussions. I bring this up now because this holiday and what it represents in the larger picture is distorted and Raza insist on perpetuating it’s falsities instead of learning and changing the paradigm to celebrate our own contributions.
We can’t be sheep forever. If we help advance the account that we’re uneducated and rely on others, the government specifically, for survival, we prove every stereotype true.
Have a great holiday, remember the Indigeneity in you and it’s desire to resist. Perpetuate that and not the White Supremacist ideology that keeps us living quiet and being the propellant for someone else’s agenda. Everyone under the sun has an opinion but forget that, develop a voice.
Educate your thinking and have a revolution in your mind.
Born in San Anto, raised by the barrio, educated by both.