As a society in the United States, we generally paint the picture of an ideal Thanksgiving. It’s a celebration of gratitude, where families and friends come together and express their appreciation for one another. There’s always great food along with a sense of love and happiness. This idealization is however only a picture, and as a society, we generally focus on the image that looks best. We don’t pick the one that’s most accurate because that wouldn’t be appealing to the eye. 

In other words, we lie to ourselves, with the ideal vision of Thanksgiving being one of the largest lies. While it’s comforting to believe that the holiday is all about gratitude and appreciation,  a more accurate description would be genocide. Thanksgiving celebrates a time period when about 95 to 99 percent of the Native American community was completely wiped out, exterminated by colonialism.     

Native American Reservation
Photo taken by: Raven SiJohn

Now imagine a more modern image, one where the descendants of colonialism celebrate that slaughter, using thanks as a way of masking the destruction. According to research conducted by organizations such as Reclaiming Native Truth, it’s a damaging and harmful time for the modern Native American community. It contributes to the feeling of invisibility that Native Americans experience in this country, which is problematic for mental health. Invisibility makes a person feel trapped and oftentimes eliminates the ability to reach out and communicate with others. It creates low confidence and self-esteem. This feeling often occurs on a more micro level, people feeling cast out by others. Specifically, in regards to the Native American community, this feeling is occurring on a macro level, with what seems to be almost the entire country turning their backs on history. It’s not uncommon for schools in this country to simply not address Native history. Or if they do, it’s often inaccurate and improperly told. 

In addition, the society also turns a blind eye to blatant issues in the Native American community that occurs today. Native Amereicans are the most likely group of people, more than any other race, to be killed through police violence. Native women are about 2.5 times more likely to be raped, or suffer any form of sexual violence than another ethnic group and a staggering 97 percent of those women have experienced violence by an individual that is of non-Native descent. Such factual evidence assists in proving the point that the Native Americans were and are to this day being mistreated. It goes unnoticed in our society where it seems the only focus is on the one day in the midst of all the blood shed and oppression, Thanksgiving.  

National Day of Mourning for the Native American Community.
Photo taken by: Liberation Staff

All of these modern stats and figures, combined with a dark past, contribute to the feeling of invisibility in the Native American community. Based on research conducted by organizations such as Reclaiming Native Truth, that invisibility truly affects the mental health of those in Native American communities. So this Thanksgiving, take time to think about the past and present and understand how celebrating this holiday affects people.      


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