A wicker basket filled with different varieties of Native American corn. Photo by Merrit Thomas via UnSplash.
Advocacy & News, Awareness & Unlearning

Acknowledging The Truth About Thanksgiving

We may think we know the story of Thanksgiving; the one that depicts the Pilgrims graciously inviting members of the Wampanoag Nation to harmoniously share food to celebrate the first successful harvest after a bleak winter. But the truth and what we really should acknowledge are very different.

Thanksgiving has been restructured to frame all narratives and experiences from the colonizer’s perspective. Since Abraham Lincoln made it a federal holiday in 1863, this period of U.S. history has been transformed into an overly positive, inaccurate and white-washed tale.

Foreground Text: Acknowledging The Truth About Thanksgiving. Background Image: A wicker basket filled with different varieties of Native American corn. Photo by Merrit Thomas via UnSplash.

Native American life and culture, both historical and contemporary, is so under-represented and inaccurately taught many people in this country believe Indigenous people are extinct. Common false depictions that fuel and perpetuate mythological rendering of the original inhabitants of this country creates space for Native voices to be ignored. We’re under no obligation to acknowledge historical truths; that are extremely significant to another group of people, if our understanding of them is relegated to a minor, erroneous footnote in White American history.

If you want to learn more, please watch the video below.

But how are you supposed to respond when the words used against you have a deep history that is drenched in hundreds of years of atrocious pain, bloodshed, and unspeakable inhumane actions? When those words are meant to attack not only you but are an attempt to silence an entire culture, it becomes something much deeper and exposes a darker mindset that’s still ingrained in our society. | Jamie Nicole Rocha via The Silencing of the Native American

Thanksgiving is a beloved holiday in this country that has evolved to include sharing acts of kindness and gratitude with our family, friends and community. It’s frequently touted as a time to come together, despite our differences and partake in something that shows our collective humanity and care for others; all of which is admirable, worthwhile and should continue to be celebrated. It’s just omitting something …

The leaves of Mohawk red bread corn are being braided.
via Native Food Alliance … Braiding Mohawk Red Bread Corn, one of many varieties being stewarded by the Haudenosaunee People as part of the Indigenous SeedKeepers Network

If thanks are to be given during this holiday, there’s no reason why they can’t honour historical truth and include the Wampanoag. There’s no reason why we can’t extend this to include a land acknowledgement about who originally lived in our local area; and learn about the ongoing impact of settler-colonialism on Native communities.

No matter where you are in North America, you are on indigenous land. And so on this holiday, and any day really, I urge people to explore a deeper connection to what are called “American” foods by understanding true Native-American histories, and begin using what grows naturally around us, and to support Native-American growers. There is no need to make Thanksgiving about a false past. It is so much better when it celebrates the beauty of the present. | Sean Sherman via Time

There is no progress as a society if we’re learning from an inaccurate past; we should want better for ourselves and for the people whose history is often sidelined. The reframing of Thanksgiving to include historical and contemporary Indigenous perspectives is about being thoughtful, open and inclusive; pretty much the tenets set out in the mythological version of the holiday. If we indeed hold to these ideals and don’t manipulate them to virtue signal; it’s time to prepare some room at the table for the truth about Thanksgiving. We’ve held on to the lie for long enough, let’s boldly move beyond it.

If you live in the U.S. or Canada, find out whose land you’re on via the Native Land Map

Did you know the truth about Thanksgiving? How to you acknowledge and support Indigenous communities?

Further Info:

I want to acknowledge I’m currently living on the traditional territories of the *Kiikaapoi; Meškwahki; Peoria; Bodéwadmiakiwen and Myaamia Peoples. I recognise with gratitude and respect their past, present and future caretaking of this land and wish to fully celebrate and support all Indigenous resiliency, sovereignty and self-determination.

*Pronunciations: Kiikaapoi (KEE-kah-poy) -|- Meškwahki (meh-skw-AH-key) -|- Peoria (pea-OR-ee-ah) -|- Bodéwadmiakiwen (bo-de-wad-mi-ah-ki-wun) -|- Myaamia (me-YAH-me-ah)

What Is Settler-Colonialism via Teaching Tolerance

7 Thoughtful Ways To Be An Ally To Native Americans On Thanksgiving (And Beyond) via Mashable

Meet The Three Sisters That Sustain Native America via PBS

21 thoughts on “Acknowledging The Truth About Thanksgiving”

    1. I never celebrated it until I moved to the U.S. and when I did and found out what the truth was, I was confused/angry as to why this false story was not challenged. Thanksgiving as a day to focus on gratitude is wonderful, but not as a way to Whitewash Native Americans. Thanks so much for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I really like how you took this conversation one step further and encouraged us (with resources) to learn more about the true roots of the land that we live on. I think that is very powerful and is something that should be talked about more. I won’t leave a long rant here, but it is frustrating how “selective” our history books are, entire groups are “erased” because someone decided they were not important enough . . . this gets under my skin.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment — and I agree that the selective nature of how history is taught or represented is deeply frustrating and wrong. I like to provide extra resources whenever I can to further the conversation and push the work we can individually do so I appreciate that you found this useful!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Even though I am aware of it, it still amazes me that extent that people and groups have been silenced in history. There are these amazing and powerful individuals who I only recently learned about and they rock my world – we have to keep encouraging a dialogue where their stories are told.

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  2. A very important and educational post, it’s important to look into why holidays are celebrated and not forget the history. I was so shocked to read many people think Native Americans no longer exist?? x

    Sophie

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    1. Sadly, it’s power comes from falsehoods that hide such a dark time in history, but if people are willing to acknowledge the truth and include it in how we move forward as a people then it could genuinely be a holiday that does bring everyone together.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  3. I loved your post and acknowledgement of what history is. I have always loved the stories about the Crusades… and then started reading stories and watching movies/history set novels from the Turkish and other perspectives… History is definitely written in favour of the writers and their culture and their empires.

    But, I love continuing to learn, to challenge even my own beliefs and perspectives!

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    1. I think the attitude of being willing to challenge your own beliefs and perspectives is a great one — so essential to real learning. If we can’t cope with getting uncomfortable and looking at things carefully (and knowing who wrote the narrative and for what purpose) then we’ll never progress.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment!

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  4. Yes! This is SO important! The holiday is unbelievably one-sided and that’s something that needs to be addressed and corrected as we move forward. For a long time, we were blind to the truth, but that’s not the case anymore. It’s important to start these conversations and encourage others to learn all about the truth regarding the events of that time in our history (as well as other times throughout history that the native population has been silenced on).

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    1. Exactly! There needs to be some conscious acknowledgment of the real history behind this holiday AND honoring the Wampanoag and Lenape People. There has to be reconciliation with the truth and action towards addressing the ongoing impacts colonization has. Thank you so much for reading!

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