A Newspaper Should Know Better by Randy Woodley
Recently, The Newberg Graphic ran an ad in it’s classified section for “Thanksgiving Deadlines.” Peering out from behind the ad was a caricature of a turkey with a a Native American headband and feathers like one would display on what we often see as a typical caricature of Native Americans. I, and several other who I asked, saw this representation of a turkey as a Native American (or a Native American as a turkey) to be offensive.
I’m not “down on Thanksgiving” like so many of my friends.While we may argue over the many versions and revisions of the original Thanksgiving, I for one, actually like the fact that we can find something in history concerning indigenous Americans and the colonizing settlers representing positive feelings for one another. There appeared to be at least a short period of time of friendship and peace between the Wampanoags and the Plymouth separatist. I know, other accounts of history dispute the myth-but perhaps myths such as this can support a better future for us all together. Which brings me to my point.
Any form of caricaturization of Indians betrays any positive modicum of mutual respect that may be garnered from the Myth of the Original Thanksgiving. In light of the fact that during much of our mutual history together, White settlers and the colonizing institutions representing their governments have tried to wipe out Native Americans through genocidal practices and assimilationist policies. Your Native American Turkey is not what we should expect from a newspaper.
Some scholars have even gone so far as to say that the annual Thanksgiving ritual has a deeper religious meaning for the dominant culture. Whereby, the brown-skin turkey, representing America’s original inhabitants, is cut up and consumed in a ritualistic remembrance to celebrate perverted notions of American exceptionalism and having God on their side, while the “savage indigene” is dispensed and eaten by the settler. A sort of unconscious working out of the philosophy of Manifest Destiny. At any rate, given the genocidal implications in our history and the current racism still typified through stereo-typing Native Americans, we should be able to expect more from institutions serving the common good and the public square.