Opinion: Is Thanksgiving a worthy holiday to celebrate?


Credit: Katya Luzarraga

WSPN’s Jeffrey Zhang discusses the controversy of celebrating Thanksgiving due to its infamous history.

Jeffery Zhang

When most people think of Thanksgiving, they think of a time when they can relax as they eat stuffed turkey, with mashed potatoes and gravy. But why, after the genocide of millions of Native Americans, should Thanksgiving still be celebrated? Well, it should, but not in the way that it has been traditionally.

For many living in the United States, Thanksgiving is a major holiday. A poll showed that as of 2021, Thanksgiving had a popularity rating of 81%, 4% more than the popularity percent of Christmas, making it the most popular holiday in the United States.

It’s not hard to understand why many people would like Thanksgiving. From spending time with family members to delicious food, or even just a school break, there are many reasons why Thanksgiving is so widely celebrated.

A lot of my best memories are from Thanksgiving. I’ve eaten my fair share of turkey and mashed potatoes, yet I’ve never thought to question why Thanksgiving could be so hated. However, for many Native American people, their memories of this holiday are not associated with happiness or joy. Instead of celebrating, they participate in the National Day of Mourning, where they remember the atrocities and the harm done to their ancestors.

Millions of Native Americans have been massacred and the U.S. government has launched over 1,500 wars, attacks and raids on Native Americans. Not only did millions of Native Americans die, but the U.S. government adopted aggressive policies of “forced assimilation” that obliterated the social fabric and culture of Native American tribes. Most notably, thousands of Native Americans died during what became known as the “Trail of Tears.” The U.S. army forcibly removed 60,000 Native Americans from the East in exchange for new territory west of the Mississippi.

Many Americans aren’t aware of the harm that’s been done to Native American communities and tribes. In a survey of 28 states with federally recognized tribes, only 43% required Native American history to be taught in schools. If school systems in the U.S. continue to ignore teaching children about Native American history, Native American history and culture will be buried and forgotten.

So with the knowledge of the genocide and displacement of Native Americans in the past, should Thanksgiving still be a holiday? Should Thanksgiving be completely removed as a celebrated holiday? No. Thanksgiving has had a massive positive influence on citizens in the U.S., and completely removing the holiday would do more harm than good. Instead, when Thanksgiving comes around again, I think schools in the U.S. should teach students about Native American history and culture. It doesn’t have to be some long lecture or structured unit. Even just incorporating little things, like following how Native Americans carry out cultural traditions would be an improvement.

To set things straight, I’m not Native American. And I don’t even think I can consider myself educated about Native American culture. But what I can do, and what many other U.S. citizens can do, is educate ourselves about Native American history and learn about their culture. The next time Thanksgiving comes around, just take a moment to remember the history of Native Americans.