First no more Christmas, its Happy Holidays. Now taking out Native Americans in Thanksgiving. What’s next? Calling Thanksgiving “Food Day” or “National Harvest Day”? Or maybe just rename all holidays to “Holiday 1”, “Holiday 2”, “Holiday 3”….
Setting: Claremont, CA. A college town in eastern LA County. Known as the “City of Trees” and “PhDs”.
Claremont kindergartners have celebrated Thanksgiving day by dressing up as pilgrims and Native Americans while sharing a feast for 40 years, until this year. Children from Mountain View would have dressed as Native Americans and walked to Condit, whose students would have dressed as Pilgrims.
Parents in this town seem to think that having their child dress as a Native American at the first Thanksgiving is offensive. Michelle Raheja, whose mother is a Seneca, wrote a letter to the school district upon hearing of the 40-year tradition.
“It’s demeaning,” Michelle Raheja, the mother of a kindergartner at Condit Elementary School, wrote to her daughter’s teacher. “I’m sure you can appreciate the inappropriateness of asking children to dress up like slaves (and kind slave masters), or Jews (and friendly Nazis), or members of any other racial minority group who has struggled in our nation’s history.”
Raheja, an English professor at UC Riverside who specializes in Native American literature, said she met with teachers and administrators in hopes that the district could hold a public forum to discuss alternatives that celebrate thankfulness without “dehumanizing” her daughter’s ancestry.
“There is nothing to be served by dressing up as a racist stereotype,” she said.
Another parent feels completely different.
“She’s not going to tell us what we can and cannot wear,” said Dena Murphy, whose 5-year-old son attends Mountain View. “We’re tired of [district officials] cowing down to people. It’s just not right.”
Ya know, I had to check something about Indians and vests, head dresses and bonnets and stereotypes. Because my memories are that they did wear such clothing…
And one thought to ponder. The very first Thanksgiving was a celebration of “plenty” and “thanks” to the Native Americans from the Pilgrims. The Native Americans had taught the Pilgrims about planting and growing crops here in America as the Pilgrims were from England, and had never seen such food as corn before. It is a symbol of thanks to the Native Americans who helped the Pilgrims survive.
Yes, over time, the Native Americans were treated very unfairly, their lands stolen, their people killed, starved and used as slaves however, that was at a much later date, not at the first Thanksgiving. And I am not trying to minimize the brutality of which was used against the Native Americans.
The first Thanksgiving was a symbol of peace and friendship between the two groups. Two groups from different continents, different social structures, different beliefs, different ethnic groups, who sat down together for three days in celebration.
Why is it so wrong to celebrate peace between two different ethnic cultures? How is it disrespectful? Why do some people see this action as disrespectful? A symbol of peace is something that we all should wish for between all ethnic groups. But with attitudes like this, who wish to bring up digressions of the past (and some who forget that innocent whites were also killed by Native Americans) and never let them go. We can not change the past. We can not change who we are. But we can change our attitudes to shape the future.
And the other thing for Ms. Raheja to remember is that the Pilgrims were the minority at the time, not the Native Americans. It is an attitude like hers that perpetuates hate, continued racism, and causes endless wars.
And ya know, I’d say just let the kids dress up as cranberries and yams, but the people at “Vegetable Cruelty” would probably raise a fuss. Of course, you could let the kids dress up as turkeys and oysters, but then PETA would have a field day…..
According to Wednesday and Pugsly Adams, there’s a way to handle administrators and teachers who push their personal Thanksgiving agendas. Borrowed via Fark.