Turkey, Cranberries, a heated political discussion, pumpkin pie…aahh all the staples of a classic Thanksgiving Dinner. A holiday a lot of us are now fortunate enough to know as a day of thanks, did not start off that way. Although I understand many are already familiar with the harsh realities of Thanksgiving, it is important to me to educate those who are not, or to refresh anyone’s memory before the day begins.
As a child, I was taught in school that the first Thanksgiving was a peaceful and loving get-together between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, who were on this land first. I learned that they shared techniques of growing food with one another and peacefully coexisted. While a great sentiment (and easier to explain to children), that version of the story is simply a blatant lie. With age and experience came more knowledge of what the first Thanksgiving actually entailed. I learned that the day (and many after) were in fact, the opposite of peaceful and loving. I also learned that there are real, racist, consequences of believing the first story. In reality, there is a long, complex history of Thanksgiving that we are often not told the whole truth of. While I would love to sit and educate, I believe that is best left to those who share a more personal connection with the stories. Click here to read a fascinating and important post on the myths of Thanksgiving. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves and future generations on the truths of the holiday.
Painting By Jean Leon Gerome Ferris/ Getty Images
Now that, hopefully, we are aware of the history of Thanksgiving, it is equally, if not more important, to understand its connection to life today. Countless Indigenous people struggle greatly today due to immense racism and factors such as poverty and poor housing. Globally, Indigenous people’s life expectancy is up to 20 years lower compared to non-indigenous people. They suffer higher rates of poverty, landlessness, malnutrition, and internal displacement. There is also an epidemic among missing Indigenous women, who are disproportionately the victims of femicide. In order to be a supportive ally, it is important to realize what can be done to help, but not speak over Indigenous voices. As an ally, you can write to congress to support the return of state and federal lands back to their rightful tribes. You could also support local tribes by visiting their museums, attending a local pow-wow, and/ or purchasing their goods. Support movements to remove racist symbols as mascots of sports teams. Read literature, watch films, and consume other media produced by Indigenous peoples. Donate to organizations that support Indigenous peoples and importantly, educate others on the truth and encourage them to support as well.
Photo by: Jim Mone
Sitting at the Thanksgiving dinner table can be a daunting task. The dreaded inappropriate (for any situation) comments loom and you are deciding whether to bite your tongue or speak up. A few positive and productive ways to discuss race and gender/ sexual orientation etc, at the Thanksgiving dinner table are important to know. Priscilla Bloom, an award-winning freelance journalist, speaks about how it is important to start a real dialogue about the problems facing minorities today, instead of just waiting for someone to blurt out something horrifically ignorant. Seth Millstein, a journalist with Bustle, wrote a handy guide on how to win any thanksgiving argument, which is incredibly helpful and worth the read.
One last Thanksgiving stereotype that I would love to mention is the uneven workload of men and women when it comes to preparing for the holiday. I know all too well that in countless households, the men watch and play football while the women are expected to cook the dinner, clean the house, and entertain. Make sure to have everyone help out equally at your Thanksgiving. It is not “tradition”, it is sexist. Make sure to refer to friends and family by their actual pronouns, make sure everyone feels safe, comfortable, and supported. Keeping these factors in mind, I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Photo by: Penny Noyes