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Putting a stop to Native American stereotypes and romanticized version of Thanksgiving

Posted at 1:59 PM, Nov 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-27 18:03:27-05

This week people across the country are enjoying time with family and celebrating the day the Native Americans and pilgrims sat down for a meal together.

But the history of Thanksgiving, and the relationship between the two groups, is not that simple.

“There was a lot of cultural misunderstanding, and there was some just flat out theft, and murder, and those things happened too,” said Tressa Brown with the Kentucky Heritage Council.

Brown says what's taught in schools often romanticizes the first Thanksgiving and fails to acknowledge the wrongdoings against American Indians.

“The stories that we perpetuate tend to make at least the dominant culture feel good, not so much for the other cultures. This is not a day of Thanksgiving for native people,” said Brown.

She says Native Americans traditionally give thanks every day, rather than one set day each year.

A part of Brown’s work includes traveling to schools to educate students and teachers about appropriate ways to teach and celebrate the holiday.

“I think it's really important that kids be taught respect for those cultures, respect for what is sacred among other people. And not to denigrate it by dressing up and, you know, hitting your hand over your mouth to make noise and speaking in broken English,” said Brown.

Brown says many don't realize that Native Americans are modernized, and they live just like everyone else.

“The American Indian cultures, multiple, are vibrant, alive, thriving,” said Brown.

Right here in Kentucky there is a rich Native American history. So Brown says this Thanksgiving take time to read up on the culture, and put a stop to hurtful stereotypes.

“Respect is due, respect for that history, and those people is due,” said Brown.

She says there are groups in America who are making an effort to acknowledge the history of Native Americans and trying to make amends.

Brown tells LEX 18 the Indigenous Peoples Day movement is one example of that.