You know the “traditional” story of Thanksgiving? Where the Native people brought food and shared and the settlers survived and everyone celebrated?
Besides the gross inaccuracy of the common legend, what if you knew that the very tribe that helped those colonizers is in serious trouble? That just a few months ago, the U.S. government took the Mashpee Wampanoag land, and their tribe’s sovereignty was “effectively revoked.”
I have an uneasiness about the celebration of Thanksgiving in this nation, but this year, more so. It is difficult to celebrate the “thanks” of the pilgrims to the Native people when that is not what actually happened back then, and that is certainly not what is happening now. This country has shown its gratitude to the tribe by further disenfranchising them.
So what can we do about it?
It all has to start with understanding what happened then, and what’s happening still. We can celebrate our family and share gratitude for what we have, but that can’t come at the expense of the truth.
And the truth makes our celebrations – all our celebrations – richer. When we know where we come from, and what the meanings of these rituals are all about, we make the ties of our country stronger, not weaker. And hopefully after more understanding, comes more action and change.
It can even start with understanding the true story of the first Thanksgiving better. Maybe even sharing that story, the facts you learned, the people involved – over the turkey and stuffing.
A few links to articles about the first Thanksgiving:
Some links about the current situation with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe:
And here’s some additional Indigenous perspectives on Thanksgiving:
You might even consider some “alternate” celebrations or recognitions of the day:
And finally – if you’re moved by any of this on this Thanksgiving Day, I’ll suggest some action. Or rather – I’ll let the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe suggest the action. They have a page of actions you can take in regards to their fight for land. I can’t think of a better way to say thanks to the tribe who gave us the first Thanksgiving then letting them know we hear them, and we support them.