Friday, November 29, 2013

Giving Thanks to America

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  I love the feeling of fall, and how truly American the holiday makes me feel.  All of it's associated foods, such as turkey, potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin and sweet potato, derive from the Americas, and remind us of our ties to this land.

The traditional Thanksgiving narrative we were told in school left out the shameful treatment of the Wampanoag people of New England, along with the centuries of wrongdoings against the native peoples that followed the first Thanksgiving in 1691 and which continue to this day.  That’s not what I think this holiday should celebrate.  An opportunity for giving thanks should always be a good thing.

Autumn is a time of gathering energy when the harvest is gathered, when the fallen leaves are raked and gathered into piles, and when families begin to huddle together out of the cooler weather to share a meal in a spirit of thankfulness.  To celebrate a harvest festival at this time of year is natural and traditional to humanity.  Just as Columbus Day has been reinvented as Indigenous People's Day, I believe that the deep-seated tradition of American Thanksgiving can also be reinvented as a good thing.

Thanksgiving Day should serve to remind us of the greatest lesson that native people have to teach us -- respect and love for this land.  It should be the nourishment that we receive from the land that we reflect upon yearly as we celebrate this day.  While we cannot undo the wrongs of the past, we can still reflect upon our relationship to this land and people to which we owe so much, and contemplate how we may become better stewards of Turtle Island as native peoples have been for thousands of years.

Let us therefore appreciate the many contributions of native cultures from across this continent of North America on Thanksgiving Day, as we give thanks for the land which sustains us, and for the things upon which we truly depend.  Let us transform the Thanksgiving narrative to be one that brings us together in this season of gathering and is inclusive of all.

I propose that Thanksgiving be a day that we celebrate indigenous American food and agriculture!  Happy harvest time, Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Indigenous Foods Day to you all.