To a local American citizen, the original Thanksgiving is the celebration of the colonists and Wampanoag tribe making peace and having a feast together. It’s a time to be thankful for what has been personally placed in their life and to be born in supposedly the greatest nation on Earth. However, the origins of America’s growth have significantly been covered up. In the majority of American schools, children are taught that the Pilgrims arrived in New England, America in 1620 and sought help from the Native Americans, which led to a glorious three-day feast to celebrate the peace and new friendship between the two groups. 

Many historians nowadays believe that, despite the peaceful depictions of the first Thanksgiving feast in historical paintings, Native Americans were not even included in any celebration. The pilgrims had extreme hate towards the Native Americans, viewing them as savages and sought to take the American land for their own.  There was no peace agreement between the Native Americans and the colonists. America thrives on stolen land.

On the Thanksgiving celebration of 1637, the Pequot massacre killed about 700 Native Americans, including women and children. Those who woke up and came out early for the equivalent annual Green Corn Festival were shot or clubbed to death by Dutch and English soldiers. After that, the colonists and their Native American allies continued to murder through each tribe, sending women and children above 14 years into slavery as the rest got murdered. After each successful raid and massacre, churches announced days of celebration and feasts to award the soldiers for their brutal murders. It was only until George Washington decided that only one Thanksgiving was celebrated per year instead of after every massacre, and Thanksgiving became a national holiday during the Civil War due to Abraham Lincoln. This declaration happened on the same day he ordered troops to fight against the famished Sioux tribe.

News Shopper: The Pequot Massacre, 1937The Pequot Massacre, 1937

Obviously, the real history of Thanksgiving has significantly been altered to fit the nationalist ideologies of American society. Even after 400 years with the progressive fight for human rights like the Civil Rights Movement for African Americans, Native Americans are still being oppressed for their beliefs and rights. The United States government made it illegal for Native Americans to practice their way of life until the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978, not to mention the cultural genocide that Native Americans have experienced and will never recover the same amount ever again. There are more than 90,000 Native Americans are homeless or under-housed, and Native Americans are the most impoverished minority in America with the majority not receiving free education and college unless they prove their blood quantum (A.K.A: the amount of Native American blood you have) to the government. Native Americans are the only race that has to prove they are Native American to get fundamental human rights.

Native American women, like Pocahontas, have been romanticised and fetishised so much, even though indigenous women are 12 times more likely to go missing or murdered than non-indigenous people. Pocahontas wasn’t even called Pocahontas. Pocahontas’ real name was Matoaka (Pocahontas was a nickname) who was kidnapped and forced to marry a European man when she was only 12-13 years old. She is considered one of the first indigenous women to go missing. With Disney’s white-washed film involving her and John Smith falling in love, the character and real-life figure of Pocahontas has been dramatically romanticised and also sexualised. Despite this so-called representation, four of out five indigenous women will experience violence in their lifetime.

Native American culture has also been highly appropriated by American society. For example, the traditional tribal clothing of indigenous people have been stolen and poorly replicated as Halloween costumes and dress-up for profit and sexualises Native American culture. Most of the items included in these costumes like headdresses and feathers have a very sacred meaning and were earned through rights of passage and honour. Native Americans are also the only race that's acceptably used as a mascot, even though Native Americans are real people. Regardless of the mass cultural genocide Native Americans have faced, their culture and traditions are still being parodied and spread like wildfire in everyday life. For example, tribal prints have commonly been used in shirts, jackets, decor, phone cases and countless other items. These patterns were designed for each tribe and have their own creation stories to them, and corporate companies stole these designs and slapped them onto their products like stickers.

News Shopper: The ColourPop Sandstone Collection Palette, which featured indigenous tribal prints.The ColourPop Sandstone Collection Palette, which featured indigenous tribal prints.

A recent example would be the ColourPop Sandstone Collection eyeshadow palette, featuring South-Western indigenous patterns, which was only used for aesthetic purposes and to appeal to more customers.

Another example of cultural appropriation would be dream catchers. Major companies have stolen these sorts of sacred items and selling cheaply-made knock-offs, putting it as their own for profit. To many non-natives, these dream-catchers are seen as something trendy only for room decor purposes. This is appropriation because they are sacred and came with teachings that have been passed down from generation to generation. Originating from the Chippewa tribes, they have been adopted by other tribes by means of trade and showing respect from one another, but white-leading corporations have taken these items for their own money. The continuation of selling Native American culture white-washes their traditions, beliefs and identity and continues the violence and obliteration of indigenous people.

What can we learn from this? As someone who is not Native American myself, I have educated myself on the history of Native Americans, and I also took down my dream catcher which has sat in my bedroom for many years before I learnt their proper history. It is very important to educate yourself on the history of other races and cultures and the true origins of Thanksgiving to avoid being tone-deaf to other races.