I always struggle with Thanksgiving. How does one “celebrate” a holiday with such genocidal origins? Columbus get’s lost, bumps into what is now North America, is stupid and egocentric enough to think he’s “discovered a new world” and the massacre of the indigenous population begins.
Back in elementary school I remember learning about how the “grateful Indians” came to sit with the “good, god fearing and oh so thankful pilgrims” to feast and give thanks. Missing from this sanitized version of history is the reality that Columbus and later the colonists were the invaders. What we never heard about were the massacres, the enslavement, the lies and broken treaties, and so forth and so on.
And we certainly never learned about the constitution of the Iroquois confederation, the “great law of peace”, or that our traditions like congressional debate, and “caucuses” were adapted from the governing bodies of first nations.
And yet, in spite of its rather genocidal origins, and the deceptive and sanitized way in which most of us in the US were taught about the holiday, there is something wonderful about a day that is about being thankful. No matter if your own spiritual traditions call you to thank a god, goddess or higher power; to give thanks to mother earth, or simply to those people and events in your life that you appreciate – giving thanks is important.
Now, being thankful should not be a one day a year thing. We shouldn’t need a special day to remind us to be grateful. Yet, in the busy pace of our lives it is easy to forget – and a gentle reminder on the calendar can help.
And so, tomorrow I take time away from the day to day to stop, to reflect, and to be thankful. And while I celebrate those many many things for which I am thankful, I will also remember our history. I will be thankful for those who speak the truth about this history, and for my opportunities to learn more about that truth.
I will take time to remember those on whose graves, whose backs, and whose lives that Thanksgiving Day was built on, and rededicate myself to solidarity with these communities – to standing as an ally when asked.