‘Thanks-taking’ and ‘Thanks-killing’: Student gov seeks to change holiday name

At Santa Rosa Junior College in Santa Rosa, California, a recent discussion over the history and “offensive” name of Thanksgiving moved the student government to consider a name change to the holiday.

Student leaders discussed the formation of a committee and legislation to seek a new name, with representatives claiming Thanksgiving is “culturally inaccurate.” 

The student government met virtually on Nov. 9. 

“‘Thanksgiving’ is a little dangerous because it’s basically...an antonym,” Joshua Poinsett, a Black Student Union representative, said.

“If you’re going to be brutally honest, you could just say that its ‘Thanks-killing’...or ‘Thanks-taking,” Poinsett added.

Other representatives cited indigenous people’s concerns. 

“A lot of, especially Indigenous students, who are very scared to come up to even join the clubs here on campus because of discrimination do find it very offensive to use the word Thanksgiving,” said the college’s student trustee, Jocelyn Toscano. 

She added that “it’s culturally inaccurate because they didn’t give...their culture was taken, their food, their land, and all that stuff.” 

“So it’s trying to be culturally sensitive to everyone, in a way, politically correct,” Toscano said. 

[RELATED: U Denver takes a stand, will keep ‘Pioneer’ moniker]

The assembly’s Vice President of Marketing Sebastian Bustamante pushed for the holiday’s name change, sharing that the responsibility of the student government is to be inclusive of everyone. 

“Whenever something is bad, horrible, evil...the public opinion describes it usually is giving a sugar coat name and this case, it’s Thanksgiving.”  He additionally shared how Thanksgiving represents “the taking of land...the genocide of some tribes.”

Carolynee Marshall agreed, saying, “It’s really just a reminder of genocide and theft and assault. And so that’s where I think some people would find it quite offensive.”

Marshall serves as the student government’s Vice President of Sustainability. 

Faculty senator Sarah Whylly spoke on the faculty’s behalf saying, “speaking for faculty, I think that we would all be very receptive to the idea of having it called something different.”

[RELATED: Colleges nix Columbus Day, instead host events for Indigenous Peoples Day]

Similar to adding Indigenous Peoples’ Day to campus in place of Columbus Day, student government advisor Zach Miranda suggested the assembly could pass legislation to change the name of Thanksgiving, and could “accomplish in the year.” 

The resolution was adopted in September 2015, formally recognizing October 12 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day for the campus. There has been an “awareness of holidays, symbols, and traditions that are hostile to certain groups,” the resolution stated. This day “shall be used to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous people on this land, and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that Canuilla, Miwok, Pomo, Wappo and other Indigenous nations.” 

Executive Vice President of Legislation, Sierra Garcia, additionally suggested a committee could be formed to investigate a name change. 

“The aim of this change is another unfortunate attempt to declare an American tradition ‘offensive,’” campus Young Americans for Liberty President West Below told Campus Reform. “Thanksgiving, in my experiences with students of all races, colors, and creeds, seemed like a very uncontroversial holiday,” he continued. 

Campus Reform requested comment from Santa Rosa Junior College student government officers but did not receive comment in time for publication. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @SergeiKelley