By Sasha Rivera ‘19
Thanksgiving is widely known in the United States as a holiday based on family bonding and a giant feast usually involving turkey and pumpkin pie. However, this day has a very dark and violent history that is often erased and retold in ways that make it seem as though it was nothing more than a happy sharing of resources between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. “Busting it Open: Thanksgiving,” an event which took place on Nov. 8 in SCORE, aimed to address the popular holiday narrative and reveal the gruesome truth behind the event.
“The whole point of having these ‘Busting It Open’ sessions is to host dialogue about issues that are commonly overlooked,” said Katarina Figueroa ’19, a SCORE intern and one of the facilitators of the event. “My goal with being on this committee is to encourage Scripps students not to look the other way, but to come together to acknowledge these issues.” Others involved with organizing and hosting the event included Bemnet Gebrechristos ’19 and Kohsheen Sharma ’18.
Attendees were mainly prospective students; this event gave them the opportunity to experience life and discussions at Scripps College. The event began with the facilitators asking the audience to draw their perceptions of the Thanksgiving holiday. Many drawings were of the different traditional foods and of family tables, while others depicted the violent historical interactions between Pilgrims and Native Americans. After the participants shared and discussed their drawings, the facilitators played a video commonly shown to elementary school students to teach them about Thanksgiving. They and the prospective students discussed the problematic elements of the video and the erasure of the truth about Native American-Pilgrim relations.
Next, a second video was shown—one that described the historical events accurately. It revealed how the Native American tribes had suffered immensely from European diseases, and that any treaties made were not respected by the colonists, who still attacked those tribes and others that did not agree to the pacts. In addition, the “Day of Thanksgiving” was established by Governor John Winthrop after the Pequot War, in which over 700 Pequot men, women and children were massacred. For the Wampanoag people, Thanksgiving Day is referred to as the National Day of Mourning and is an annual protest to make known the genocide and oppression of Native Americans then and now.
After viewing these videos, the audience was split into smaller discussion groups where the prospective students answered complex questions about Thanksgiving, the whitewashing of history and cultural appropriation. These conversations were meant to be a small-scale simulation of the Core 1 discussion classes. Afterward, the groups rejoined into the original large group, where wider discussion of these topics was held. The facilitators brought up the questions, as well as recent events and issues relating to cultural appropriation, such as which Halloween costumes fall into the category of cultural appropriation, and derogatory school mascots.
“Listening to what all of the prospective students had to say about the issues presented is always great to me,” Figueroa said. “They were all incredibly confident and well-spoken with their words, and really added to the dialogue we were aiming for.”
SCORE also held a “Busting it Open: Columbus Day” event in October, with the similar objective of standing up against the whitewashing of history, revealing the historical violence against indigenous people and discussing how this relates to current events and society. These events have been particularly in sync with the topics of Core I lectures and discussion classes, focusing on the erasure of Native American history, colonialism, imperialism and the oppression these people face today. The conversations about cultural appropriation have also been very relevant to the more recent incidents at the Claremont Colleges. Keeping these discussions alive through classes and SCORE events helps educate students about inclusivity and how to approach problematic incidents.
“I feel that all events where students (especially students of color) can show up and come together to talk about issues that affect them to this day are successful in their own right. We are hoping to have at least two ‘Busting it Open’ events each semester, with the possibility of three if time and interest allow,” concluded Figueroa.