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Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Dear FCI,

Thanksgiving is approaching and I have to say, I’m so excited to eat! We’re having all the staples: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole and my absolute favorite: apple pie. Around this time of year, families gather to enjoy a delicious meal, reminisce about old times, and express what they’re thankful for, but I want to tell you about a side of the history of Thanksgiving that you may not have considered.

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"The First Thanksgiving Meal"

Most of us grow up learning that the first Thanksgiving occurred circa 1621 in the Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, between the pilgrims and Wampanoag. The Native American people showed the Europeans how to live off the land and they all enjoyed a meal together. What we don’t generally think about is that the Europeans took away the Native Americans’ land and livelihood and they faced extreme cruelty from the European settlers—and that’s an understatement, as sad as it is to say.

Pilgrims on a "thanksgiving" meal

The actual story of the first Thanksgiving is hard to determine given that it happened so long ago, but the harmonious meal that was said to occur may not have been so peaceful. Some sources say, including Psychology Today among others, that meals of “thanksgiving” were held by the colonists after a Native American tribe or people was exterminated.

Thus, Thanksgiving for many Native American people is a reminder of how their ancestors and all they stood for was taken away.

Native Americans have been fighting for their land, heritage, and rights since then, and in some cases it’s still an ongoing battle. Their struggles over the years are too numerous to list in detail here, but this is something I think many people overlook and the fact of the matter is: this is something that should be voiced, not silenced.

Traditional Native American Thanksgiving food

Some Native Americans do celebrate Thanksgiving, but in their own way. They see it as a day to be thankful for what they have. Traditional Native American dishes are prepared, and families express their heritage and honor ancestors.

While some Native Americans recognize the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving, others commemorate this day in a different way.

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Speaker at rally on National Day of Mourning

In 1970, the United American Indians of New England declared US Thanksgiving Day as the National Day of Mourning. Since then, indigenous people and their allies have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts to honor indigenous ancestors and Native resilience. For participants, the day is recognized as a day of remembrance and spiritual connection, as well as a way to protest the oppression Indigenous people experience worldwide.

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While we cannot change history and the events of the past, we can change the present and perhaps the future by making Native American voices, history, and stories known. We can make more of an attempt to understand their past and the history of America that isn’t always mentioned in history books. We can learn about their culture, heritage, and maybe look at life in a different, less materialistic way.

There are Native American Heritage museums, festivals, and events all over the country. There are roughly 326 Native American preservations in the US protected by the federal government—some you can visit and other’s you can’t.

Lakota Tipi Camp

Let’s get involved, inform and immerse ourselves in Native American culture because face it: Native Americans have been on this land longer than anyone else.

Before you go to carve the turkey and snap the wishbone this Thanksgiving, let me leave you with this:

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Think about how history is written and how the people in them are represented. You may find that certain voices that are masked should really be unleashed.

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That's all for now,

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