Wrestling With Thanksgiving

A reflection from UUC’s Racial Justice Team on the significance of Native American Heritage Month and wrestling with the truth of Thanksgiving.

Many of us celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday visiting family and friends; cooking and eating large meals. Although we may no longer retell long-taught myths about the holiday, culturally, we have inherited “a wonderful story about the hearty Pilgrims, whose search for freedom took them from England to Massachusetts. There, aided by the friendly Indians, they survived in a new and harsh environment, leading to a harvest feast.”1 Why does our nation tell such a myth? Where is the rest of the story—the story of murder, enslavement, and genocide? 

We too often choose a tame, narrow view of history. Our forgetting to tell the whole truth of how we settled and colonized this land makes for a pleasant vacation from work and school and the truth. What does it mean to silence the true story, one that is also about Indigenous grief and mourning, on this day?

The United Indians of New England commemorate a National Day of Mourning every fourth Thursday in November. They write:

Many Native people do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims & other European settlers. Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands and the erasure of Native cultures. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Indigenous ancestors and Native resilience. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection, as well as a protest against the racism and oppression that Indigenous people continue to experience worldwide.2

We Unitarian Universalists have our part in this story, including sponsoring boarding schools for Indigenous children. Let us acknowledge our history on this holiday and commit to learning more about the truth. 

November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the rich and diverse Indigenous cultures and the civic power and resilience of Indigenous Peoples. Consider choosing a book to read from this curated list:

https://shelftalkblog.wordpress.com/2022/11/09/new-fiction-to-try-this-native-american-heritage-month/.

Notes and additional resources to consider:

  1. https://www.racismreview.com/blog/2009/11/24/on-thanksgiving-why-myths-matter/
  2. http://www.uaine.org/

https://americanindian.si.edu/nk360/informational/rethinking-thanksgiving

https://www.parentmap.com/article/a-native-american-perspective-on-the-thanksgiving-story

For further conversations on how we at UUC can engage in learning and action in respectful solidarity with Indigenous people locally, contact Roberta Ray or Catherine Ruha. (Find their contact info in UUC Connect.)

1 Response

  1. Carol Flannigan says:

    So appreciate the reminder of the “real” historical meaning of
    Thanksgiving.