All is Not Gravy – Honoring Genocide and Calling it ‘Thanksgiving’

This year’s Thanksgiving post comes from Olga González.

Olga GonzalezOlga González is an Indigenous Otomi/Yaqui woman. She holds a BA degree in Psychology/Chicano Studies and a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management. She is a community educator and activist who strives to create a world free from oppression. In 1998, she was the recipient of the Mayor’s Award for “Outstanding Denver Citizen Committed to Fighting Against Hate.” She is a wife and mother of three beautiful warrior girls. She is also a certified personal trainer and Zumba instructor and enjoys helping people to become healthier.


Every year on ”Thanksgiving,” I am troubled by the mass ignorance and denial of what the day actually represents.  Some people rejoice in the holiday by repeating the myth that was taught in school-the myth about a day when Pilgrims and Indians shared a meal together and gave thanks.  Nothing can be further from the truth!

“‘Thanksgiving’ did not begin as a great loving relationship between the  pilgrims and the Wampanoag, Pequot and Narragansett people.  In fact, in October of 1621 when the ‘pilgrim’ survivors of their first winter in Turtle Island sat down to share the first unofficial ‘Thanksgiving’ meal, the Indians who were there were not even invited!  There was no turkey, squash, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie.  A few days before this alleged feast took place, a company of ‘pilgrims’ led by Miles Standish actively sought the head of a local Indian leader, and an 11 foot high wall was erected around the entire Plymouth settlement for the very purpose of keeping Indians out!

Officially, the holiday we know as ‘Thanksgiving’ actually came into existence in the year 1637. Governor Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony proclaimed this first official day of Thanksgiving and feasting to celebrate the return of the colony’s men who had arrived safely from what is now Mystic, Connecticut.  They had gone there to participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot men, women and children, and Mr. Winthrop decided to dedicate an official day of thanksgiving complete with a feast to ‘give thanks’ for their great ‘victory.'”
Mistakes, Lies and Misconceptions about American Indian People – The Thanksgiving Myth

Most people I have spoken to stated that they either did not know the origin of the holiday or that they knew its origin, but “simply” choose to see it as a day to share a meal with their families.

I don’t understand how the history of the holiday can be ignored or how people can mentally and morally separate themselves from it.

One so-called activist even stated that she wasn’t thinking about the Indians, just about the turkey and that people needed to relax!  How can one relax when they are clearly participating in a holiday that ignores the atrocities committed against Native people!

Must be nice to be able to simply cover up the legacy of genocide in gravy!  We would not have a day of thanksgiving initiated by Nazis to celebrate the holocaust or a day in which slave owners thanked God  for their slaves.  Why, then, is it ok to ignore what happened to Native people and the very real ways in which we continue to be silenced, oppressed, and victimized in our own home?

“Thanksgiving” is a myth that ignores genocide, European colonization, and its aftermath.

It is hurtful and insulting to gloss over the historical atrocities committed against Native people and to then declare a national holiday for us all to give thanks! I would like for us to think about it and be very aware that the holiday disrespects and dishonors Native people.

I call on people to remember the genocide of Native people on this day and the fact that many privileges have been afforded to those who benefited from colonization.

It should be a day to remember Native people and to honor them by speaking of these atrocities and by reflecting on what they, themselves, have gained from the loss of their  land and lives. Further, this day should be a time for us to work to create a more humane society where we do all that we can to correct the wrongs of history.  Remember your own ancestors and their sacrifices and commit to creating a better legacy for all of our children.


For more reading, check out the following articles from Change From Within:

This Thanksgiving, Try Accountability with Your Turkey

Columbus Day – A Celebration of Genocide


9 thoughts on “All is Not Gravy – Honoring Genocide and Calling it ‘Thanksgiving’

  1. Thank you Jamie Utt for providing me with a forum to share these words on this day!

  2. Compare Contrast Collaborate

    Blown away. I had NO idea and I grew up in Massachusetts. This makes me very sad to know. Thank you for the suggestions going forward.

    Sent from my Samsung Epic™ 4G TouchChange From With

  3. I’m blown away. I did NOT know this and I grew up in Massachusetts. This makes me sad. Thank you for the suggestions going forward, I appreciate them.

  4. Im Thankful so much on “Thanksgiving” for scholars who genuinely care to educate the public such as yourself Vianey . Not credited much as you should be for staying true. Not very many people stay true. Not many people are correctly educated. Love this article.

  5. I just watched a documentary show on television (upset that I now cannot recall which channel, NatGeo or History) and the historians interviewed mentioned none of this. Of course, there is no way for me to tell whether that is their omission, or the documentarian’s. I feel very sad and almost covered in ick, having enjoyed this holiday so thoroughly all my life without knowing the whole story. Knowing this, having finally been educated, I can never participate like I did today, ever again.

  6. […] & Native Genocide by Jay Winter Nightwolf – Thanksgiving special recorded from 11-25-10 All is Not Gravy – Honoring Genocide and Calling it ‘Thanksgiving’ Happy National Genocide (Thanksgiving) Day! Act of thanksgiving turns horrifying for Turkeys: The […]

  7. This is like Christmas in Malaysia. Shops are allowed to install Christmas Decoration as long as they do not depict Jesus.

  8. […] 5. All is not Gravy – Honoring Genocide and Calling it “Thanksgiving” […]

  9. My beautiful sister,,, I appreciate you always planting seeds of knowledge and being such a great example to all of us!!!
    Mexica Tiahui 🙏🏽✊🏽🙏🏽

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