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Thankful for Change

Meaning of Thanksgiving shows progress

Caroline Zimmerman, Media Student

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I think the meaning has changed from the historical narrative, so now it’s a time for people to get together and gather with friends and family which is fun,”

— Toure Grimes

Mashed potatoes, turkey and pumpkin pie. This is what is on the mind of many Americans on a modern Thanksgiving day. But, Thanksgiving’s meaning has changed from the original intent.

“I think we are reactionary and not revolutionary in terms of change sometimes,” said history teacher Toure Grimes. “There are movements of the moment I would say, if that makes sense. And so I think all of history should be, just because there’s an official date doesn’t mean that you’re condoning it.”

Columbus day was removed as a national holiday and replaced with Indigenous Peoples Day in 55 cites according to TIME. Christopher Columbus killed thousands of Native Americans, and completely destroyed the Taino people. Despite this, Thanksgiving is still celebrated among the American population today.


“Columbus Day is just celebrating one person who wasn’t necessarily the best person,” McDaniel said. “He was a really bad person, actually. But I think we still celebrate Thanksgiving cause it’s taken on a new meaning, it’s not just about early European settlers.”


But, Thanksgiving’s meaning has strayed away from this early idea of celebrating the fall harvest between Native Americans and European Settlers.


“I think the meaning has changed from the historical narrative, so now it’s a time for people to get together and gather with friends and family which is fun,” Grimes said. “I think with anything in the past sometimes of historical meaning or the original intent is often lost.”


The meaning of Thanksgiving has broadly deviated from the original intent of the holiday, becoming a holiday about togetherness.


“With Thanksgiving we show that we are thankful for things in our life and even though there are bad things that happened, it brings families together,” said sophomore Bailey Oldridge.


The main consensus seems to be celebrating family.


“My family is very spread out throughout the United States,” Grimes said. “And so we just take the opportunity if possible, often it’s not possible, to get together and spend some time with each other. And expressly with basketball it’s really very difficult to do that. Typically, it’s the only day I’ll have off.”

In the United States Thanksgiving has been celebrated since 1621, according to History.com. It has been celebrated as a day of thanks, but the original intent behind it seems to have escaped many Americans minds because of the way it is portrayed in modern media including animated movies.

“I don’t know if Charlie Brown counts as a good source for information,” said sophomore Amaya Starks.

The first Thanksgiving was meant to be a celebratory feast in honor of the early European settlers first fall harvest with the Native Americans. But as times changed, Europeans treated Native Americans with an increasing hatred and violence.

“I do not believe they were treated fairly,” said freshmen Konnor McDaniel. “Especially because they were forced out of their land and forced into ghettos where they still remain today, and they still don’t have as many rights as we do.”

These occurrences of mistreatment continued for hundreds of years after the first Thanksgiving. Such instances including the Indian Removal Act.  

“I want to say 1830, when they were given the executive order to be removed from their tribal lands by Andrew Jackson,” Grimes said. “Jackson gave the order with the intent he expressed was to protect and look after the Indians. But removing somebody from their home, it’s difficult to see how that is in someone’s best interest.”

Mistreatment of Native Americans continues to this day. 22 percent of Native Americans, (out of 5.2 million,) live in reservations today. They also live in third-world like conditions, according to Nativepartnership.org.

“I’m not really sure how many Indigenous Peoples live on reservations,” McDaniel said. “But I just know they have a lot of poverty and they suffer higher rates of violence and other underprivelagements, and other people not liking reservations too much.”

While many Americans seem to know a small quantity of these statistics, there are still inconsistencies among the overall treatment of Native Americans.


“I probably don’t have the background knowledge about the conditions that they currently live in,” Grimes said. “I’ve seen a few documentaries or read a few articles about the schools that exist there, how often they have to travel to great distance. I know technology is also not readily available.”


The Huffington Post claims that only a select few states emphasize the teaching of tribal history. Despite this, some students feel that Native American history is already emphasized far enough.


“Yeah I think we should emphasize it a little bit,” McDaniel said. “But it’s not underemphasized.”


While teachers feel Native American history is not touched upon enough.


”We cover it in APUSH but we don’t get into specifics,” Grimes said. “You learn, you discuss a little bit about the differences that existed between nomadic tribe, but it’s not in great detail.”

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