Appropriation or Appreciation? by Michael Eckles

Thanksgiving has been a joyous occasion for everyone to celebrate a good harvest since around t 1621. However is this joyous occasion really such a fun holiday for everyone?

Many are angered by what American schools teach about Thanksgiving. Schools are teaching young children the different cultures of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, but not about how the Pilgrims treated the Native Americans. According to the United American Indians of New England (UAINE), “The first official ‘Day of Thanksgiving’ was proclaimed in 1637 by Governor Winthrop. He did so to celebrate the safe return of men from Massachusetts who had gone to Mystic, Connecticut to participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot women, children, and men. About the only true thing in the whole mythology is that these pitiful European strangers would not have survived their first several years in “New England” were it not for the aid of Wampanoag people. What Native people got in return for this help was genocide, theft of our lands, and never-ending repression.” Because of this, the UAINE has declared Thanksgiving as a national day of mourning.

Another shocking part of the tradition of Thanksgiving is the spread of misinformation through holiday arts and crafts. These family activities usually depict the Pilgrims and Native Americans as the best of friends, although some are crude imitations of the Native American war bonnet. This teaches many young children about the history of Thanksgiving as it is told by the victors, but this is not the real story. Depicting Pilgrims and Native Americans as best friends, or making war bonnets the universal image of Native Americans is extremely offensive. It is shocking how the truth has been completely twisted to the point that it was almost erased from history.

The Sundial says, “What’s the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation? The latter is having genuine interest in learning about a people’s history, traditions, language, values and way of life. Appropriation is based on a superficial appreciation of a group and uses convenient parts of that group’s culture for commercial reasons. It is damaging because doing so ignores the experiences of minorities and marginalized people.” Many people of Native American descent are angered that culture industries are trying to sell products using and abusing the culture itself. People do not tend to like seeing their cultures misrepresented or misinterpreted.

The lie perpetrated by history is not entirely false, and should not be seen as entirely false. This lie, that Native Americans saved the pilgrims from starvation, and that we give thanks to them for their assistance is not completely false. Native Americans did save the pilgrims in the early years of colonization;  if they had not the people of New England might not have survived. However it is a lie, perhaps not entirely, but nevertheless it is a lie. Pilgrims and Native Americans did not peacefully interact with one another for the entirety of the centuries to come.

The real damage is not the result of one event, but from the effect of cultural appropriation throughout the ages. Fortunately, with the advancement of technology, many Native American people who resent appropriation can band together to tell the truth of Thanksgiving. Doing this is a large step towards ending the appropriation of all cultures. The real message to stop abusing the cultures of others through misinterpretation and appropriation.

To really appreciate any culture, one must learn the true history of that culture. That is all that any culture can hope to see from others; a genuine attempt to respect its customs, people, and traditions. Doing this shows that people do care for the culture of others, and it is important for every person and every culture to be treated equally. Do not appropriate, Appreciate.

Features, Michael Eckles

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