The alumni associations of several universities are taking part in a webinar tomorrow titled “The Thanksgiving Dilemma: Reevaluating Our Annual Celebration.”
According to the Alumni Learning Consortium, whose mission is “to help alumni associations engage their constituents to offer more and better online engagement programming than each school could offer on their own,” the November 22 virtual event asks “Should Americans reconsider Thanksgiving when wrestling with our country’s complicated past?”
The myth of Thanksgiving is powerful and ubiquitous. In the autumn of 1621, so American legend has it, English Pilgrims seeking religious freedom shared a feast with Wampanoags, the residents of the territory the Pilgrims labeled Plymouth. The good feelings of that meal soon faded when Native peoples and English colonists, including the Pilgrims, began to compete for resources, initiating conflicts that raged for generations. Yet despite the often-violent relations between the nation and Indigenous communities, the myth of coexistence remained.
By 1970, the ALC notes, “many Americans” began to ponder whether Thanksgiving should be “rededicated” as a “National Day of Mourning” so as to reflect on the “centuries-long displacement and persecution of Native Americans.” It adds that recent shifts away from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day “reflect a changing national mood.”
Fox News reports five institutions are participating, including the University of Maryland, Florida Gulf Coast University, Washington State University, California State University, Long Beach and Ohio’s Hiram College. The alumni association for the University of Central Arkansas also had been listed as taking part; however, a school spokesperson told Fox its inclusion was in error.
Webinar speaker Peter Mancall of USC told Fox the purpose of the discussion is to “explain the context for events and offer insights about how to interpret the existing evidence.” He added he “respects [the] audience’s ability to draw their own conclusions about the material.”
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