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Making Amends for the First Thanksgiving

I confess I have always loved Thanksgiving. Feasting is a near universal ritual celebrating the harvest. It is truly a good and important thing to give thanks for the food that we are blessed to have and to share it with others.

That said, the way that we teach our children about the first Thanksgiving in our country is quite deceptive. In our schools we imply that it was a warm and fuzzy feast shared between the Pilgrims and the Indians. I forced myself to do research tonight and was stunned to find out that many “thanksgiving” feasts were held to actually celebrate the multiple and continuous slaughter of villages of first peoples–including those who had been generous and gentle. The extent of the cruelty and brutality perpetrated by the Puritans is hard to stomach.

For those who are brave, please read the following several articles published by the Manataka American Indian Council: https://www.manataka.org/page269.html

How can healing ever take place between indigenous people and the rest of us if we aren’t willing to even acknowledge these very sad, painful, and horrible truths? It would be akin to Germans never acknowledging the Holocaust.

In the face of all this, how do we begin to heal such enormously huge wounds? Some suggestions: Perhaps we can begin by 1) changing the way we teach about this “holiday” in our schools. (It is definitely not a holy day in its historical context.) 2) Do the research and find out about the specific massacres and atrocities that happened in our geographic area so that we can begin to acknowledge the part our ancestors played in these horrors. 3) Find ways to make amends to native peoples–by returning land to them, helping to pass laws which bring more justice and fairness into their lives right now, etc. 4) Although “giving thanks” is a beautiful thing, it is clear the name Thanksgiving has become tarnished (because historically thanks were given, not for food, but for the massacre of human beings.) Perhaps we can re-frame this seasonal ritual as a Day of Harvest.

I honor those who lived here first. Someday I pray we can live together with true respect, integrity, and harmony. We have some work to do.

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