We all seem to know the story of Thanksgiving that depicts the Pilgrims graciously inviting members of the Wampanoag Nation — whose land they were on — to harmoniously sit with them and share food to celebrate the first successful harvest after a tough winter.
But the truth about this time is very different from what it has subsequently transformed into when Abraham Lincoln made it a federal holiday in 1863. This restructuring of events is a common issue when trying to learn about U.S. history because it often frames all narratives and experiences from the colonizer’s perspective and centres them in an overly positive and historically inaccurate light.
Native American life and culture — both historical and contemporary — is so under-represented and inaccurately taught that many people in this country believe indigenous people are extinct. Common, false depictions that perpetuate and give power to the idea that the original inhabitants of this country are ancient and/or mythological allow Native voices to be silenced when they speak up about something that impacts them. You’re under no obligation to acknowledge that your behaviour or treatment of something particularly significant to another group of people is problematic if you’re understanding of them is relegated to a minor, erroneous footnote in White American history.
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 with aspects of it that have evolved over time to include sharing acts of kindness and gratitude with your family, friends and community. It’s also often touted as a time to come together, despite our differences, and partake in something that shows our humanity and care for others — all of these are admirable and worthwhile things to promote. It’s just missing something …
If thanks are to be given during this holiday, there’s no reason why they can’t be inclusive of the Wampanoag and reframe our thoughts to centre and honour the truth. There’s no reason why we can’t include a land acknowledgement so we learn about the original inhabitants of the area we live in. There’s no reason why we can’t create a Thanksgiving that’s rooted in recognizing the history of settler-colonial societies and the ongoing impact Native people face because of it. There’s no reason why all of these things can’t be part of how we show kindness, gratitude and caring for others every damn day of the year.
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
We can’t ever expect to progress as a society if we’re looking back to learn from a past that isn’t truthful. We really should want better for ourselves and for the people whose history is often left out or sidelined. And for those who feel offended or threatened by the mere mention of Thanksgiving needing a reframing to include historical and contemporary Indigenous perspectives — no amount of you being upset by it will change that you are on Native land.
I want to acknowledge that I’m currently living on the traditional land of the Meškwahki·aša·hina, Peoria, Bodéwadmiakiwen and Miami Peoples and give thanks to them as the ongoing and original caretakers of this land.
If you want to find out whose land you’re on, check out the Native Land Map.
What Is Settler-Colonialism via Teaching Tolerance