Thanksgiving 2020 comes at a moment of reckoning. We have spent the last nine months in the midst of a pandemic. During this time the United States has experienced some of its largest civil rights and social justice protests in our history following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmad Arbery. The NY Times Nonfiction Best Seller section had been filled with books on anti-racism topics. The need for education on racial justice, how to be an ally, and understanding the movement has grown exponentially around the country. This work means there is a tremendous need to continue one’s own education about anti-racism, a need to unlearn the whitewashed history learned in school, and a need to have conversations with our loved ones about these important topics.
The US education system has spent centuries glamorizing Thanksgiving. Children are taught that the settlers invited Native Americans to a peaceful and friendly meal that in return created a partnership between the two. This narrative is far from the truth. The European settler colonialists brought with them diseases and a desire for power. They stole and settled the land from the indigenous people, created laws to control them, and murdered them indiscriminately.
Today many Native American tribes use Thanksgiving Day as a National Day of Mourning, to honor the many lives lost during that period in this country’s history. This year we mourn the disproportionate loss of native lives to COVID 19. While every year during the same time many of us are sitting down to enjoy turkey, stuffing and cranberries with our loved ones, in Plymouth, MA not two hours from Boston, Indigenous leaders gather to mourn the violence their ancestors experienced, the land stolen from them, and the continued injustices and efforts to make them invisible that they endure today.
As you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner this week, virtually or face-to-face with family members, YWCA Cambridge asks you to engage in a conversation about the real history of this holiday and the importance of recognizing the many Indigenous people who died at the hands of European settler colonialists. Then we ask you to commit to learning about and honoring the innumerable positive contributions Indigenous people made to these United States throughout the year.
Articles to Read:
The Myths of the Thanksgiving Story and the Lasting Damage They Imbue
Everything You Learned About Thanksgiving Is Wrong
How to Support Indigenous People on Thanksgiving
Sean Sherman, The Sioux Chef: ‘This Is The Year To Rethink Thanksgiving’
Boston/ New England specific resources:
Contributors: Elizabeth Baldwin, Puja Kranz-Howe, Georgia Wyman, and Whitney Mooney