“The Ghost of Columbus Haunts This World”: A Perspective on Thanksgiving

This will not be a long blog article. We all know very well that Thanksgiving is “problematic” because of its origins in the massacre of Native Americans. Indeed from 1492 until the 1890s, Europeans and their descendants did everything they could to completely annihilate Indians. Nonetheless, this point of view is not exactly helpful, so to speak, for a few different reasons. To begin, people today, of course, are not responsible for the actions of those in past. Additionally, Thanksgiving has become important and (at least theoretically) legitimate in being thankful for what we have. 

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Thanksgiving remains directly problematic for us today for two reasons. The iconography and mythology surrounding Thanksgiving promotes an image that Native Americans and European Americans got along and that there was an equitable relationship between them. This is not true. Time after time, Europeans deliberately exploited the generosity and basic humanity of those “weaker” than them.

Today in the United States we are not that much different. More and more stores are opening Thanksgiving Day, and the entire holiday has become hypercommercialized. In the 1400s, 1500s, 1600s, 1700s, 1800s, Europeans exploited Africans and Indians for the sake of increasing their own money and power. Today, we exploit the (in general) working class families who work far too many hours for far too little pay who have no choice but to work Thanksgiving, while we go home with more “junk” and the ones at the top take even more money for themselves. The parallel is not exact and the situation is very different, but the dichotomy of wealth/power and lack of wealth/lack of power and resulting struggles, including prolonged sickness, must be recognized.

While we cannot directly do anything about the wrong doings of the past, we can do things about today; it is possible to make Thanksgiving Day a day worthy of celebration, a day that brings honor, not dishonor. Tracy Chapman’s song America describes aspects of this point very well.

AMERICA

You were lost and got lucky
Came upon the shore
Found you were conquering America
You spoke of peace
But waged a war
While you were conquering America

There was land to take
And people to kill
While you were conquering America
You served yourself
Did God’s will
While you were conquering America

The ghost of Columbus haunts this world
‘Cause you’re still conquering America
The meek won’t survive
Or inherit the earth
‘Cause you’re still conquering America

America
America
America

Your found bodies to serve
Submit and degrade
While you were conquering America
Made us soldiers and junkies
Prisoners and slaves
While you were conquering America

America
America
America

You hands are at my throat
My back’s against the wall
Because you’re still conquering America
We’re sick and tired hungry and poor
‘Cause you’re still conquering America

You bomb the very ground
That feeds your own babies
You’re still conquering America
Your sons and your daughters
May never sing your praises
While you’re conquering America

America
America
America

I see you eyes seek a distant shore
While you’re conquering America
Taking rockets to the moon
Trying to find a new world
And you’re still conquering America

America
America
America

The ghost of Columbus haunts this world
‘Cause you’re still conquering America
You’re still conquering America
You’re still conquering America

Please DO have a VERY Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂 

As for me, I choose to stay at home, reading, writing, and grading papers, in an effort to hopefully help make the world a better place, one step at a time. 

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Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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6 replies

  1. Reblogged this on The Real Life of An American Indian and commented:
    Another article designed to display the colonial oppressions forced upon Native Peoples.

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. An Open Letter To My Readers: A Day of Thanksgiving « Andrew Joseph Pegoda, A.B.D.
  2. Thanksgiving From the Other Side | Andrew Joseph Pegoda, A.B.D.

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