As people gather around to be thankful for their friends and family, the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday are rarely questioned.
Many learn that Thanksgiving celebrates the alliance between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans.
Tisquantum, or Squanto as the Pilgrims called him, was an enslaved Native American who escaped to London and returned to his homeland. He taught colonizers how to grow crops and survive which lead to their settlements to thrive. It also set the tone for the 50-year-old alliance the colonizers had with the Wampanoag tribe.
However, this is only a bubble of the actual history between Native Americans and colonizers.
The history between Native Americans and colonizers is filled with massacres and years of bloodshed.
The number of indigenous people living in America as well as the number killed through colonization has been argued by historians for years. Because of the erasure of their culture and people through forced assimilation, no one truly knows how many indigenous people were living prior to European involvement.
It is difficult to pinpoint a population as a minor change in the number creates grand differences. A population of 100 million can shift to become 125 million if numbers are increased by a fraction. Deaths can grow or fall between 90 million or 112 million depending on those numbers.
Historians roughly estimate that 90 percent of the Native American population was killed because of diseases brought from Europe and the number only continues to grow if you include wars. Indigenous people died protecting their lands that were continuously stolen by Europeans by greed and the push for westward expansion.
Thanksgiving overshadows this harsh truth and glamorizes colonialism by painting colonizers to be helpless and innocent. Many people didn’t even know that Tisquantum was the last person alive from his tribe, the Patuxet, because when he escaped from his enslavement to return home, everyone had died from diseases.
The facade of a peaceful harmony is broken by the millions of graves that were never able to be paid respect to because there was no one left to carry on that ritual or mourn their loss.
Celebrating Thanksgiving seems harmless but the passiveness is what allows the history of Native Americans to be erased.
There should be an effort to tell the truth about Thanksgiving and rectify the holiday to honor the indigenous people who died at the hands of colonialism.
Cindy Rivas Alfaro is a sophomore journalism major who can be reached at [email protected].