Advocacy & News

Thanksgiving: Reframing Truth & Acknowledgement

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

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

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.

Further Info:

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

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

19 thoughts on “Thanksgiving: Reframing Truth & Acknowledgement”

    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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