The fourth Thursday in November is usually viewed as a day to spend time with family, express gratitude, and watch sporting events, but Thanksgiving's history is pretty complicated. If you're anything like me, you were probably taught that Thanksgiving was a peaceful holiday where Native Americans and pilgrims from Europe hung out and had a delicious meal. It wasn't until college that I learned Thanksgiving actually has a pretty messed up history. Natives died in large numbers because the settlers brought both disease and violence, and the first Thanksgiving actually marked the start of a Native American massacre. So what do you do if you still want to take part in the holiday? For many of us, Thanksgiving is a family tradition and obligation, and you may be wondering how to observe the holiday while acknowledging its messed up history.
The misinformation surrounding Thanksgiving's history is so pervasive that the National Museum of the American Indian provides classroom lessons for teachers who want to give students an honest holiday perspective. If anyone you know chooses not to observe the holiday because of its history, don't guilt them or ask needless questions. Thanksgiving is a painful day for many indigenous people, and it's important to validate the frustration the holiday brings for people whose ancestors were wiped out by European settlers. If you do participate next week, consider being mindful of how hurtful the day is for some Americans — and encourage your family members to be mindful as well.