In full disclosure, you may not look at Turkey Day in the same light after watching this video of Native Americans reviewing Thanksgiving storybooks. When you think of this holiday, you probably conjure up images of your family piled around the dining room table, peering at each other over mountainous plates of turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and all of the other classic culinary accouterments. And, hey, there's nothing wrong with that. Come November 26, I'll be right there with you. What this BuzzFeed video proves, though, is that —somewhere between cramming in the crescent rolls and green bean casserole — it might not be a bad idea to reevaluate much of what we learned about this gluttonous holiday growing up.
The premise of the video is simple. BuzzFeed asked six Native American individuals to flip through several storybooks which are intended to explain the origin of Thanksgiving, and respond as they saw fit. Before anyone rolls out the "2015: The year everyone became offended by everything" memes on Facebook, it's worthwhile to note that while the individuals were quick to point out the erroneous things about the books, they were also generous in pointing out what the storybooks did get right. Still, this is one history lesson I won't be forgetting anytime soon. Let's take a look a six glaring issues these Native Americans pointed out, some admittedly more comical than others.
1. Squant-Oh No
In The Story of Thanksgiving, it reads, "One, named Squanto, stayed behind to help." Only that's not exactly how history actually unfolded. "Squanto was sold into slavery, and that's how he learned to speak English," one Native American clarified. Several others in the group couldn't help laughing at the implication Squanto stayed behind voluntarily.
2. Pigmentation Isn't Storybook Illustrators' Strong Suit
The very cover of The First Thanksgiving proved problematic, eliciting everything from outbursts of laughter to the declaration, "We've got a brown person and a pink person." Do you think Pantone has a special collection called "Stereotypes" these illustrators pulled from?
3. Native Americans Are Always Secondary
It defies logic but, as one person on the panel points out, "Natives are always the supporting characters in these books." Which, c'mon, doesn't make sense any way you slice it. The books are about a non-indigenous people arriving and settling a land the indigenous people already inhabited. There should obviously be more overlap.
4. America Wasn't a "Land That's Free"
Wellllll, not quite. "This land belonged to people," corrected one Native American on the panel. "Regardless of what you think and how you've constructed this idea of property." The truth, of course, is that the native inhabitants of the Plymouth Colony region had been living in the area for an estimated 10,000 years before the Europeans ever arrived.
5. Native American Storybook Fashion is a Farce
Poring over page after page of Native Americans dressed in barely there pelts and loincloths provided a solid laugh, if nothing else. "This is fall on the East coast. You think they're running around naked right now?" Touché. See also: The range of leopards does not include North America, storybook illustrators.
6. Native Americans Aren't Just Characters
The big takeaway here, naturally, is that Native Americans have been mythologized to the point of non-recognition in modern society. "Kids never really acknowledge that Native Americans are real," laments one panelist. And while they agree it's OK for children's books to be somewhat simplistic, there should be a happy medium by which older kids and adults are presented with a more realistic depiction of our nation's history of colonizing and otherwise oppressing marginalized peoples.
Watch the entire video below: