Roasted turkey, cranberry sauce and any type of potato one can think of — These foods all represent Thanksgiving for most Americans. As students approach the holiday season, it’s important to understand the true history of the American holiday.
Franci Taylor, the director of the American Indian Resource Center at the University of Utah and a member of the Sovereign Choctaw Nation, shared with The Forum what Thanksgiving means to her.
Taylor studies anthropology and archaeology, with a specialty in women’s studies and ethnobotany.
“I speak for no one, not for all of the American Indians not for the Choctaw Nation not for my clan, not for my family,” Taylor said. “I just speak for my own background research and personal opinion.”
Taylor said the Thanksgiving holiday that society knows today is a myth.
“I never understood why we had this focus on the pilgrims, and this mythical Thanksgiving,” Taylor said. “The pilgrims weren’t the first Europeans to North America, Erik the Red was with the Vikings. If you look at the diaries that were left by those original pilgrims, they were throwing a Thanksgiving for every little good thing that happened. This was almost a weekly or a monthly thing for that first year.”
She said Thanksgiving was not recognized as a national holiday until Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. This was meant to bring the United States together as a nation during desperate times.
Instead of celebrating the stories taught in grade school about Thanksgiving, Taylor said she wants the holiday to be about spending time with friends and family and being thankful.
“We should take a moment to pause while we’re offering thanks because we have so much to be thankful for even right now,” Taylor said. “But in that, I would love it if people would take a deep breath and say, ‘I’m thankful that there’s people out there that will shine the light on our humanity both the good sides and the bad sides.’ Maybe we can strive to create a kinder, more empathetic, better society. So that’s Thanksgiving for me. Let’s be thankful for something, but let’s not perpetuate the myth.”
Listen to the full interview
Forum production assistant Lauren Shoughro sat down with Taylor to discuss her opinions on the Thanksgiving holiday season. You can listen to the full podcast on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud and Spotify.