Our November Racial Justice Dialogue was focused on Thanksgiving, and the importance of recognizing the history of this holiday. Thanksgiving is a holiday that traditionally commemorates the harvest celebrated by the pilgrims in November of 1621, and is often associated with the image of a peaceful and harmonious feast shared between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people. Realistically, this was not the case, and it is important to acknowledge the more complex and troubling aspects of this time in our history.

There is no overstating the devastation of indigenous people by European colonizers.The colonization of the Americas by European settlers lead to the displacement, gross mistreatment, and, in many cases, the tragic loss of life among Native American communities. The arrival of Europeans brought diseases, violence, and the encroachment on Native American lands, which had devastating consequences for indigenous populations. 

Native American communities still live on reservations where they are treated unfairly. The US Census shows that the poverty rate on reservations is 28.4%, compared to 12.7% nationally. Approximately 36% of families with children on reservations live below the poverty line, compared with 9.2% of families nationally. According to nativepartnership.org, “Further increasing the concerns with reservation housing is the noticeable absence of utilities. While most Americans take running water, telephones, and electricity for granted, many reservation families live without these amenities.” Many Native American communities are still at the will of the US government and have yet to see reparations for the opportunities that were stolen from them hundreds of years ago. 

While traditionally, Thanksgiving is a celebratory day of thanks and gratitude, for many people, it is a day of remembrance and reconciliation, acknowledging our tragic history. 

by Ava Ferris, Grade 11, Randolph Technical Career Center