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UB "Tough Topics" Series on the "Real History of Thanksgiving" draws controversy

Students plan to host protest outside of event at the UB Student Union.
Posted at 11:48 AM, Nov 08, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The University at Buffalo hosted another of its "Tough Topics" series put on by the Intercultural and Diversity Center, this time about the "Real History of Thanksgiving."

Per University at Buffalo "CampusLabs" website

"Why is Thanksgiving still celebrated in America when the truth behind the holiday is the massacre of Indigenous communities? How can we erase this whitewashed history for good? Come out to the IDC to discuss the real history of Thanksgiving and what America should do in place of this celebration," said the University at Buffalo's website description of the event.

"The Real History of Thanksgiving" is the 10th "Tough Topic" in a 12-week seminar series. Other topics include the Biden administrations withdrawal from Afghanistan, COVID-19 vaccine nationalism, inclusive education, and LGBTQ+ rights.

"Join Diversity Advocates weekly in the IDC to talk about the tough topics UB students want to discuss," reads the student calendar before the description of each "Tough Topic." This is the first to mention a holiday.

"I feel as if I don't have a voice," said Therese Purcell, the University at Buffalo's Young Americans for Freedom President.

The Young American Foundation is a national group organized to help support Conservative students who don't believe their voice is being heard. They specialize in their "Campus Bias Tip Line," a ongoing thread of user submitted bias reports. The Thanksgiving Tough Topics series is most recent one on that list.

Purcell said that group is the only conservative group on campus, and while they are unhappy about this event taking place, "we are not surprised."

The Young American Foundation hosted a protest outside the student union starting at around 1:30 p.m - with signs to express their views on the meetings attendees.

Statement from the University at Buffalo regarding today’s forum examining the history of Thanksgiving:

"This student-led event provides a forum for examining the historical context of Thanksgiving. According to the student organizers, the event will include discussion on such topics as the historical basis of Thanksgiving, the impact of settler colonialism on Indigenous people and acknowledgment of the perspectives of Indigenous people. This discussion provides a forum for free expression of ideas and opinions on these topics. It is inaccurate to characterize this event as “an attempt to cancel Thanksgiving.”

As a public university, the University at Buffalo strives to create an environment where diverse histories, opinions and experiences can be expressed and heard by students, faculty, staff and guests of the university. It is a fundamental value of UB that individuals have the right to peacefully express their views and opinions at university forums such as this. This a central tenet of UB’s educational and research mission."

The "Tough Topics" series on the "Real History of Thanksgiving" occurred on Monday, November 8th, at 3p.m, for about an hour. The protestors were not acknowledged until about halfway through:

"This meeting is not to cancel Thanksgiving, this is about open dialogue," can be heard from one of the events moderators.

7 Eyewitness News was not permitted entry to the event in any capacity, but students shared the recording afterwards.

"It's not a one-off, there's more," said Purcell.

Her group is additionally concerned with the next "Tough Topics" series,

believing it is part of the University of Buffalo's "historical revisionism," per the Young American Foundation website.

The "Native American Gender Identities" seminar occurred just 30 minutes after the "Real History of Thanksgiving." The University at Buffalo has at least one more "Tough Topic" discussion on the schedule for 2021.