Happy Family Week!

Indigenous Peoples in America recognize Thanksgiving as a day of mourning. It is a time to remember ancestral history as well as a day to acknowledge and protest the racism and oppression which they continue to experience today.

For the rest of us, it is an opportunity to learn.

At our core we are celebrating the harvest and other blessings of the past year. However, the Thanksgiving that we learned about as children is dreadful. Pilgrims didn’t “break bread and share a table” peacefully discussing new ways to create things with the Native Americans. The interactions between Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans were far from being friendly. The first Thanksgiving was likely a celebratory dinner following what’s now known as the Pequot Massacre .

The truth is out there if you have the resolution to seek it.

Through the years, colonizers murdered millions of Native Americans (a probable Indigenous population of 60 million in 1492) and stole the lands they had settled and raised their children on for at least 20,000 years. I admit I was not aware of what traditionally Indigenous land my family is currently living on, but when I saw the maps, I gasped. The truth is most of us have no clue. https://www.native-land.ca

Native Americans and their families — their children — were slaughtered while they slept. They have been raped, kidnapped, and enslaved. They have been used, traded, and sent to the West Indies and to Spain and enslaved there as well.

Saying that we should leave the history of “Thanksgiving” behind and that “now” this time is about family, coming together, or something more meaningful just makes us sound ridiculously out of touch.

Let’s become more understanding and less divisive. Let’s become less offensive. By acknowledging the lies and educating ourselves about the systemic erasing of history to benefit a select few, we can change things for the better. We cling to those censored history books because the truth hurts us; yet it hurts the Indigenous more. It is our obligation to speak truth and teach truth even when it is uncomfortable. The alternative is much worse.

Be thankful to know the truth. Be thankful for new opportunities to show that we care and that we want to understand more. Be better.

Isn’t peace what we all claim to want?

Challenge yourself to be better. We can discuss the reasons why playing “cowboys” that “win” over “Indians” is not all right. We can discuss why allowing children to scamper around with feathers in their hair while they pretend to be Native American is not all right.

Why is it not all right? Native Americans are still here. They are real people, not characters or costumes. Appropriation is not “cute,” or, “just kids having a little fun,” or, “tradition.” It mocks and erases the feelings and experiences of millions of people. Can you feel how that would affect them? Try to put yourself in their place.

If you want to have time with your family and feel grateful for your life — please by all means! Break out the photo albums and enjoy the much-needed quality time! We are always grateful, thankful, and blessed by our life. We understand that the blanket-saying “Happy Thanksgiving” means nothing because we also understand the history of the “holiday.”

Instead, we celebrate National Family Week (Nov. 19–25); it is all the positive aspects of Thanksgiving and none of the negative. Happy Family Week!

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I write about my life, experiences, and knowledge gained; no topic is off limits.

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Stacey Rowe

Stacey Rowe

I write about my life, experiences, and knowledge gained; no topic is off limits.