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Volume 71, Issue 61, Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Thanksgiving a dubious celebration

Zach Lee
Opinion Columnist

Genocide has never been as fun as it is every year at the end of November. 

Columbus Day has been getting the short end of the stick when it comes to national holidays that have marked an early stage in the decimation of entire Native American populations at the hands of Europeans.

Columbus Day celebrates a handshake or another just-as-tedious people-meeting tradition. Sure, in the butchery that was the conquista, many Spanish explorers and soldiers took advantage of the kindness and naivete of natives -- take the basic story of Hernan Cortes and Moctezuma, for example. Columbus Day itself is meant to focus on either the discovery of America or the first contact Europeans had with Native Americans. 

Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is a ritual commemoration of the colonial European -- in this case English -- tradition of letting native peoples help colonizers out in times of need. That tradition has almost always been followed by another colonial European -- also English -- tradition of systematically exterminating, nearly to the point of extinction, native peoples and cultures.

The Thanksgiving tradition is the celebration of what could be considered the foreplay to the rape of Native Americans across the continent. 

At least in the Latin American colonization massacre represented by Columbus Day, there is a long history of marriage and integration between Europeans and Native Americans. Though certain areas in Latin America remain racially segregated (the mountains of Peru, for example, are populated almost exclusively by indigenous peoples), much of the Spanish domination in the region was cultural, brought about gradually by intermarriage.

In the United States, however, intermarriage was a historical rarity. British settlers thought up the oh-so-kind-to-Native-Americans reservation system instead and methodically pushed tribes West to new and less desirable land.

But Thanksgiving protests have never been as loud as Columbus Day protests have progressively become. The reason for that might have something to do with the extra time off surrounding the day.

Columbus Day doesn't even warrant giving students a day off at UH, but Thanksgiving gets three days all to itself and is lost in a five-day weekend. 

Eat your turkey and enjoy the parades Thursday. What's done is done, and superficial laments about the way things were carried out hundreds of years ago do not win any new rights for indigenous peoples in the United States. 

If indigenous rights really concern you, remember that Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos does not take a short vacation to give thanks for what he has. He continues to fight for racial equality that indigenous people on this continent haven't had since European colonization.

And if you protest Columbus Day annually, at least keep your superficial laments consistent and go yell at people on Thanksgiving as well. 

Lee, an opinion columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached at

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