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Navigating the Complicated Nature of Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving Day in the United States, with many spending a day of feasting, family gatherings, and expressions of gratitude. It's a time to reflect on the blessings in our lives and give thanks for the abundance we enjoy. However, the Thanksgiving holiday is a complex and often controversial occasion, with a history that is deeply intertwined with the indigenous people of the United States. In the days leading up to this holiday, I have been listening and exploring the multifaceted nature of Thanksgiving and considering how I can honor the true story behind it, and maintain the spirit of gratitude.

The Story Behind Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has its origins in the early 17th century when English Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans came together to celebrate a successful harvest. This event is often portrayed as a harmonious feast of unity between the two groups. While this is partly true, the full story is more nuanced and reflects the complicated history of colonization and displacement of indigenous peoples.

The arrival of European settlers led to the colonization of indigenous lands, violence, and the introduction of diseases that devastated Native American communities. It's essential to acknowledge the suffering and injustices that indigenous peoples endured and continue to face as a result of colonization.

Honoring Indigenous Peoples

To navigate the complexities of Thanksgiving, it's crucial to honor and recognize the indigenous peoples of the United States. Here are some meaningful ways to do so:

  1. Educate Yourself: Take the time to learn about the history and culture of the indigenous people of your region. Understanding their stories and struggles is a vital step towards honoring them.

  2. Acknowledge the Land: Begin your Thanksgiving celebration by acknowledging the traditional indigenous lands you are on. Many websites and resources can help you find this information such as

I live on land that has been tended and stewarded by the Quinnipiac and Wappingers peoples in Connecticut, and to them I offer deep gratitude.

  1. Support Indigenous Communities: Consider donating to indigenous organizations or buying products from indigenous-owned businesses. Your support can make a real difference in their lives.

  2. Share Their Stories: Encourage open discussions about indigenous history and issues during your Thanksgiving gathering. Share stories and resources that shed light on their experiences.

Gratitude and Thanksgiving

Gratitude is at the heart of Thanksgiving, and it's essential to maintain this spirit while also acknowledging the holiday's complex history. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Reflect on Blessings: Take a moment to reflect on the things you are genuinely grateful for in your life. Express your gratitude to those around you.

  2. Practice Mindfulness: Be present in the moment during your Thanksgiving celebration. Enjoy the food, the company, and the love that surrounds you.

  3. Extend Gratitude: Extend your gratitude beyond your family and friends. Consider ways to give back to your community and those in need.

  4. Teach the Next Generation: Use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to teach younger generations about gratitude, empathy, and the importance of honoring indigenous peoples.

This is an opportunity to transform Thanksgiving into a meaningful occasion that not only celebrates our blessings but also acknowledges the resilience and culture of the indigenous peoples who have been an integral part of this land for centuries. In doing so, we can strive for a more inclusive and compassionate holiday season for all.

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