Thanksgiving brings together families and friends across the country, but for many Native Americans, it’s also recognized as the National Day of Mourning.
“We spread this myth that Thanksgiving was a time for Native Americans and Pilgrims to get together and have a happy meal and sit down and discuss what they were thankful for, when really that’s not what happened,” he said Anthony Michael Tamez, a member of the Chi-Nations Youth Council who is also First Nations Cree, Sicangu Lakota and Black.
The story behind Thanksgiving for many Native Americans is marked by the slaughter, disease, and land exploitation their ancestors endured. The false narrative people may have about Thanksgiving is often rooted in how it is taught in schools.
Nikki McDaid Barry said students should be taught the truth. Barry is a PhD. candidate in learning sciences at Northwestern University and incoming assistant professor of environmental justice education at UCLA. She is from the Shoshone-Bannock tribe of Fort Hall, Idaho, and of Paiute and Irish ancestry.
“In conversations with various schools about this, I’ve heard the pushback, ‘Well, that’s a really hard story for kids to get to know: genocide.’ And it is, but it is something that we [Native Americans] they don’t have the privilege of not knowing,” Barry said. “We’ve known our stories since we’re quite young, my kids know those stories and for them to be ignored and to be told a whitewashed version is actually bad for Native children.” .
The Chicago American Indian Community Collaborative recently rallied in Springfield in an effort to introduce legislation mandating the teaching of Native American history in K-12 schools across the state.