If you went to an American public school its most likely you learned that Thanksgiving is a celebration of the first meal the pilgrims of Plymouth had with local indigenous people. But Andrea Riley-Mukavetz who is a college professor covering Thanksgiving and Native American history in her classes at Grand Valley State University and is also Ojibwe says there is a different way to talk about this holiday, a way that honors indigenous people.
“And so whether we are talking to our young people or our college aged students or even just to each other, I think that we need to be more historically accurate about what Thanksgiving is.”
The feast of Thanksgiving wasn’t always a part of traditional American holidays. Riley Mukavetz says that it wasn’t actually until the civil war that we began celebrating when President Abraham Lincoln advocated for the celebration of Thanksgiving to encourage unity during a time of civil unrest.
“How we need to think about Thanksgiving now is why we continue to tell this story of pilgrims and Indians to our children when there’s been so much historical information out there of what really happened, about the genocide of indigenous people. “
She says that for many Native Americans, Thanksgiving is a day of mourning and honoring that is about reframing how we think about who the land belongs to and In West Michigan, the land belongs to the Ojibwe, the Odawa and the Pottawatomi.
“I think in general we can use that Thanksgiving story to address not just the historical inaccuracies but also our people’s insistence on keeping native people in the past when we are very much in the present.”
Michelle Jokisch Polo, WGVU News.