In North America, Thanksgiving is celebrated in both Canada (the second Monday of each October) and the United States of America (the fourth Thursday each November). For some it is a day to remember to be grateful, to slow down and spend time with family. For others, it is an empty holiday where overindulgence and gluttony remain the order of the day. For others still, it may be a hurtful reminder that there isn’t enough money to feed their children. As a collective, it is a ritual celebration, a day or even usually a long weekend celebration.
Thanksgiving isn’t all Pilgrims, Native American Indians, pumpkin pie and turkeys. This well-intentioned holiday is problematic when we forget to remember the unpolished and factual accounts of a tragic and violent history between settlers and Native Americans.
As children, my peers and I were told tall tales. All of them contained some truth in them. Pilgrims arrived, life was exceedingly difficult and death, struggle, and hardship were endured and overcome for some of the settlers. This all thanks to the knowledge and food wisdom shared by the tribes that were friendly. Native Americans who lived in North America for thousands of years befriended their new neighbors. Unfortunately, their neighbors though, it turned out weren’t always so nice in the long run. The initial settlers survived the hardship, adjusted to their unfamiliar environment and known tribes that were peaceful were slaughtered anyway.
Possession of the land and pissing on territory was the order of the day for years to come.
History is complicated, and the idea of Thanksgiving began with the most told and famous Thanksgiving observance story spoken and written about in the autumn of 1621. That is when Plymouth’s Governor William Bradford invited local Native American Indians to join the settlers in a three-day harvest. A festival with religious roots held in gratitude for the largess and good fortune of the harvest season.
In the US it also marks the beginning of an extended holiday season. At its best, it’s a harvest celebration which was celebrated throughout New England in the 17th century. Later George Washington in 1789 would declare it a day of Thanksgiving for the Constitution. That was a Tuesday in November. It became an annual tradition at the federal level in 1863, when Lincoln declared it so. It was to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. Each president that followed continued the tradition. Apparently, Federal holidays weren’t written but declared previously by Presidents and later in 1941 FDR would sign a bill into law to embed it into the books of US history.
Death, difficulty, struggle, and hardship came to the local indigenous tribes to North America at the hands of the Pilgrims and other settlers both directly and indirectly as millions were infected with diseases that they had no built-in immunity to – measles, smallpox, cholera, and pneumonia. Entire villages were wiped out by disease. Many tribes were forced to involuntarily abandon their traditional hunting and farming grounds and found it difficult to re-establish themselves elsewhere resulting in illness and death. More were simply slaughtered and their land was stolen. Of course, not every Native American was peace-loving and friendly but that really isn’t the point.
It was really ugly.
Peace and happiness are available in every moment.
Peace is every step. We shall walk hand in hand.
There are no political solutions to spiritual problems.
Remember: If the Creator put it there, it is in the right place.
The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.
Tell your people that, since we were promised we should never be moved,
we have been moved five times. – An Indian Chief, 1876.
The illustrious birth of a modern nation was covered in blood. No, I genuinely didn’t want to rain on your Thanksgiving Day Parade. Merely remind everyone to remember that as much as we are, for the most part, ‘good’ people, we’re not always and, the struggle and considerable hardship went on to wound countless generations. Generational wounds can be healed. But intentionally ignoring that our ancestors weren’t always warm and fuzzy sweethearts won’t remedy the situation. Recognizing and remembering these atrocities and injustices can help move the collective toward healing.
Video: What Native Americans Think About Thanksgiving
I’m for leaving the past behind and moving on and doing the right thing, but schools teach children modified history. Many children aren’t even aware of the genocide. So, if they’re teaching modified history it seems to me that it is up to adults raising children to have a sit-down with them. It’s critical to let them know that not everybody was or is happy, kind, and thoughtful all the time – that human beings are capable of ghastly things including mass casualties and can and do commit atrocities. It still happens today, only for the most part, if you live in the US or most of Europe it’s usually not in your face. Unspeakable atrocities are committed in other people’s beloved homelands and countries by the military and private contractors that aid and abet war.
The struggle by groups for possession of territory is still going on in subtle and indirect ways on the domestic front. Sacred ground is trampled upon by capitalists, and clean water is jeopardized with the Dakota Access Pipeline. It is a struggle that places money and the few, over the greater good and well-being of people (in this case Native Americans) and the earth.
However ambiguous, we have another indirect struggle for territory with current residents and potential immigrants in the United States and some European countries. At this point in time, we find an attitude of lack and undue privilege that subordinates logic and objective reality (yes, the earth provides enough) resulting in displaced anger towards ‘the other’ masking the real issues and lack of integrity amongst persons in government.
I might, and you might enjoy something and even call it our own, but it’s not ours forever to keep. Everything is temporary. We’re temporary.
The truth is that no one private person really owns any of it, but somehow this idea of ownership and possession dominates. In historical fact, many of the settlers themselves were denied access to land ownership from whence they came and decided to travel across the mighty seas to North America to pursue riches or to own something. In the long-term, we’re simply borrowing whatever it is we ‘own.’
If we were to devastate our environment or perchance a natural disaster disposed of us, it wouldn’t be long until nature took back its land. As evidenced by Pripyat, Ukraine (Chernobyl), even with its radiation poisoning, plants are overtaking the city. Plants are 100 or more times resistant to ionizing radiation than mammals and within 30 years there has been major progress towards growth there. Even with its area skyscrapers, science says that within 5 years, a would in the NY metro area if modern humans instantly disappeared within approximately 200-years, a mature forest ecosystem would fully cover Manhattan.
We live in a world with billions of people and still, the Earth provides us with enough.
We Are One
Thanksgiving as an established celebration rooted in tradition in North America does not grant anyone any specific privilege – it’s about gratefulness. It’s not about our distinct nationality, cultural or social identity, race, or label of this or that. Thanksgiving was meant as a coming together to celebrate our good fortune, our abundant earth that provides for all of us. So that we could all share in it as we are part of a larger whole. A whole earth filled with people who are trying to survive and live the best lives they can given their current circumstances.
In spite of that, we still separate ourselves — sometimes for what seems like a good reason — survival. Or sometimes we do it because we simply forget that not everyone experiences the visible world the same way that we do.
I’m guilty of bias a direct result of the feeling of separation; I recognize it and sometimes forget that we’re all humans on a rock in space. Intermittently, even unaware a thought pops into my head and needs an alternative perspective or adjustment or simply to be bathed in compassion. The thoughts can come from our own personal age-old beliefs, ancestral beliefs, the collective conscious, culture, the energy in our communities, etc. — all of it seeps into our conscious being. It’s bound to happen as we are receivers of information and transmitters of information too. After all, we produce magnetic fields that are perceptible (that is for another article.) Let’s recognize our limiting beliefs and try to overcome them, even forgiving ourselves for them too.
Let’s intentionally remove the notion of lack and replace it with enough.
Let’s remember accurately our history. Not just the fluffy stuff.
Let’s remember that with all of our personal beliefs, limitations, unique gifts, and distinct personalities we still are all one.
Let’s remember correctly that as individuals and the collective we all require identical things – to have our fundamental needs met (food, shelter) and to share in community and be loved.
Let’s be grateful for what we have right now.
As we share time or communal meals or our company with friends and family, let’s remember these things, not just on Thanksgiving day but this month and every day.
What is your Thanksgiving experience like? How do you express gratitude on the holiday? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or down below in the comments. If you liked this article, please share it on your fav social media platforms using our share buttons or share one of our pins below.
Thanksgiving Gratitude Quotes
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Check out my gratitude book webpage with a downloadable free guided gratitude meditation (also available on YouTube), and free printable gratitude journal & workbook.
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Sources for some nature and historical facts: