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This month, the only unique and truly American Holiday will be celebrated with paper turkeys and stories about that first Thanksgiving long ago. Schools and the media will relate the traditional narrative of “friendly “Natives” sharing their bounty with the less-fortunate, hungry Pilgrim immigrants.
Thanksgiving is the only time of the year when Americans really think about the history of “Native Americans” and those “immigrants” who came to America without visas or an invitation. While this heartwarming story may be historically accurate, what happens afterward in the rest of the 17th century and beyond to those generous “Native Americans” and their descendants is quietly ignored.
Aside from the heartwarming tale of Indians sharing their bounty with our Pilgrims ancestors, we haven’t come very far in making Native Americans true visible and accepted in American culture; the only time “Native Americans” are even mentioned is when he issue of “racist and condescending depictions and labels of Native Americans” in the names of sports teams: “Indians”, “Braves” and “Redskins”.
Too often, Native Americans are reduced to mascots or caricatures, and even well-intentioned efforts to including Native Americans in the media tend to be condescending.
It’s disappointing how simplistic the images of Native Americans are. Despite the social and cultural diversity of the Native American tribes, we still simply call them “Indians”. That’s like calling every American “New Yorkers”.
While Thanksgiving does put “American Indians” in a positive light for change, the perception depicted seems to imply the Native Americans were merely “caterers” rather than invited guests to the celebration.
It took a Civil War to free the slaves and give them full rights and citizenship , yet, Native Americans are almost invisible, unless one breaks through the barrier and becomes an individual who just happens to be “Native American”,