Thanksgiving Days

When I was in college, each time that I drove on the interstate highway past a certain Indian reservation, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t see it. I repeatedly looked at maps to verify that I was looking in the right place. I could not see teepees anywhere.

TeePee Watercolor painting by Karl Bodmer 1832-1834
This work is in the public domain

A few years later, I was lost. As I drove along, I saw signs on both sides of the road stating that I was in an Indian reservation. I became super-alert, expecting men to jump out at me from behind the trees, wearing war paint and loincloths, and threatening to attack me with tomahawks.

Indians with Tomahawks attack a womanThe Death of Jane McCrea Oil painting by John Vanderlyn 1804
This work is in the public domain

A few years after that, a friend mentioned that we were passing through an Indian reservation. All I saw was normal homes, and wondered why I couldn’t see where the Indians lived.

Indian homes?Photo by Cameron Slater, April 26, 2013
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

How the heck could a High Honors student who was relatively enlightened about world cultures learn to be so dumb? I expected to find teepees inhabited in an area where several feet of snow accumulate, and temperatures drop below zero Fahrenheit. I expected characters from an old wild wild west movie to emerge from the woods near where I had lived for several years. I was so sure that Indians lived in teepees, I didn’t think to ask anyone where the Indians really lived.

Thanksgiving Day in the United States

Today, I say Happy Thanksgiving to my neighbors here in the United States. Although this is a secular holiday, most houses of worship host celebrations of thanks to God this morning. Then, we celebrate our relationship with the Earth by feasting at each other’s homes. It is a time of abundant food and hospitality. We often celebrate with local foods, freshly prepared. We enjoy the colors and textures of a wide variety of foods. The aromas, flavors. Conversations with loved ones.

Thanksgiving DinnerPhoto Credit: Remi Levoff,  November 16, 2011
Creative Commons License

According to my review of trends on the internet this week, the most common foods for today are herb-roasted turkey, bread stuffing with celery and onions, gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, squash, Parker House rolls, and pumpkin and apple pies. We make these from ingredients that are typically harvested at the end of our growing season. This menu is consistent from year to year.

This year, our Thanksgiving coincides with Hanukkah, but I didn’t see much mention of that online.

Global Thanksgiving Days

Throughout the year, I say Happy Thanksgiving to my global neighbors. Many people around the world celebrate harvests, especially as they anticipate seasons of ice, heavy rain or drought. When some people celebrate Thanksgiving holidays, they celebrate fertility as they anticipate a productive growing season.

HarvestBy Scott Bauer, USDA ARS
[Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

I like that Thanksgiving continues to relate to agricultural calendars. With the strong global trend toward urbanization, I wonder how long this will continue. Perhaps it will become more of a day of general appreciation.

Thanksgiving Days For Reconciliation

Regardless of when and why we celebrate Thanksgiving, family and friends are an important element. Even those who are tough to get along with are often invited for dinner. Many people also include strangers in their observance of the day, as we share food so everyone can enjoy a feast.

This tradition of reaching out to strangers may be inspired by remembering the story of Indians welcoming Europeans and teaching them how to survive their first winters here. I have a vivid memory from my childhood of a painting showing Pilgrim men sitting at a table full of food while Indian men stood around and sat on the ground. I like to think that this image conveys the importance of replacing oppression with embracing people of diverse religions, races, sexual orientations, abilities and other differences.

First ThanksgivingThe First Thanksgiving at Plymouth Painted 1914
By Jennie A. Brownscombe
This image is in the public domain

Think of how surprised I was to find that the Wampanoag descendents of the people represented in the painting celebrate this day as National Day of Mourning. They and their supportive neighbors are recalling when they lost their lives, trust, dignity, culture, and land to the intruders.

National Day of MourningPhoto credit: nicole s
used by permission from Frank Macer of

The plaque:

National Day of Mourning

Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. To them, Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their culture. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.

Erected by the Town of Plymouth on behalf of the United American Indians of New England.

National Day of Mourning bannerPhoto Credit: hate5six, November 22, 2012
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

As we recognize the impact of this tragedy, let’s join with the Onondaga Indian Nation during today’s Annual Thanksgiving Circle for Peace and Hope as we celebrate our appreciation for each other and the Earth, and our commitment to work together for healing and justice, for all people and our environment.

Thanksgiving Circle of Peace and HopePhotographer: JT Lee, November 22, 2012
used by permission from Syracuse Peace Council

22 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Days

  1. Dearest Grace, I have been enjoying your posts so much and the comments of your followers….discussions are thought full and compassionate. Just wanted to wish you and yours a most beautiful Giving of Thanks time… and just know I wish I could bring you over here to the Nation and we could get lost in all of the canyons and mountains and trails…and you could meet my friends and colleagues…..Indian Country just keeps us in amazement… so many wonderful people in community bringing healing ways and dreams to all and each of us. We wave to you and send much love and honouring songs, ever, me and all the clans

    There you are again…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Judith! I am so happy you stopped by! I am delighted to see you here for a chat!

      I thank you for the quick virtual trips in your Nation. If we ever want to give up the beauty of the sun reflecting off the fresh snowfall,we will head out your way to see what that land has to offer. Thank you for the invitations. You always offer such welcoming invitations.

      I feel so blessed by your wave, love and honoring songs. Thank you to you and the clans. You touch my heart, as I hope to touch yours.

      I am thankful for you, all my friends who stopped by today in one way or another, and all my friends whom I have not yet met. I am thankful for all the healing and dreams that we share.

      What are you doing today?


  2. Decolonization for many of us begins with our minds and unlearning much of what we were taught or what was left out. Sifting through the bits and pieces of information can be a lifelong process. Thank you for your honesty, Grace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that sifting through the bits and pieces of information that we learn, and didn’t yet learn, is important. That is how we take responsibility for our decisions.

      Now, I wonder what else I have overlooked. What other ridiculous ideas do I still have? I hope I laugh as hard when I uncover them as I did when I began writing this blog post. It was a healthy, cleansing laugh, flushing out my shame and foolishness so I have more room for healing.

      I hope you are enjoying your holiday weekend.


  3. Friday’s morning hello dear Grace…and thank you for spam protection via e-mail…never know how all of this works…and gratefull for you.

    Today we will be with friends and then hike in the Chaco Canyon area…the sun reflects off the snow real well over here in the Territories :-}

    Time pretty much stops out in these vast lands….and Spirit sings. Many many blessings for you and yours in all the spaces of celebration to come.

    …and your day/s bring ambling and prayers ?

    From all of the directions in giving thanks for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey Grace. As usual, a thoughtful piece as usual. In my philosophical moments I sometimes stop and think of what the initial interactions between the indigenous people and the new arrivals must have been like: what made the new arrivals believe they were superior as a people, what made them think it’s not such a bad thing to want to get rid of a whole nation of a peaceful people through violent means, and then turn around and pray to a peaceful, loving God.

    The scenario above was repeated many times the world over, especially here in Africa. I’m envious of Nations that refused to be defeated, and refused to disappear. Now they are teaching the victors how to live in harmony with creation. Insightful piece Grace!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Syd. As I wrote my post, I yearned for it to have international appeal. I want it to be about my global neighbors, not just my nearby neighbors.

      Sometimes when I think of the worst people who I know of, I imagine what it must be like to be like them. I wind up writhing as I consider how miserable they must be. As you pointed out, how could a collection of people be so desperate as to invade a place and discount any consequences for the residents, and claim this is the will of the loving god.

      I am sure that you agree that you would have to feel desperate to do something like that. Imagine feeling sure that resources are scarce, power must be hoarded, and the world is a dangerous place. Think about how your perception of other’s behavior would be tainted from this perspective. Then, I think about how the media and marketers present the world today…

      What can we do?

      What nations come to mind when you write about ones “that refused to be defeated, and refused to disappear”?


  5. You have a remarkable talent for creating thoughtful narratives that really stop me in my tracks and think. You keep your essays fresh by starting off in one place, seamlessly gliding to the next, and finally ending up somewhere wholly unexpected. Usually when you read an essay you have a general idea of where it’s going, but I’ve found when I read one of your pieces I have no idea where it’s going to end up, and I really like that.

    You skillfully manage to keep me guessing. I am impressed and eager to read more.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jessica, I appreciate your trust as you let me take you along my path of thought. I think I lose many along the way as they wonder, “what’s the point?” and then “is there a point?” I must admit that I often forget the point that I’m leading to.


  6. I was aware of the real story behind Thanksgiving Day but hadn’t until now, have seen the National Day of Mourning plaque. Superiority on any level is not a good thing and it boggles the mind how humans can mistreat other humans. Thank you for writing this thought-provoking post. I’m going to bookmark this for the upcoming holiday in 2019 to share with my friends and family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your comment makes me tingle. You and I know how important it is that people hear more complex stories than what we learned as kids. I always reach for the horizon, for a broader perspective.

      I wonder if mistreatment usually comes from misunderstanding: misinterpreting others’ motives.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think misunderstanding and flat out ignorance plays a huge role in the mistreatment of others. Also, I think a lack of empathy and not being willing to understand that different doesn’t equate to bad is significant as well. I really miss our conversations.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I was aware of the real story behind Thanksgiving Day but hadn’t until now, have seen the National Day of Mourning plaque. Superiority on any level is never a good thing and it boggles the mind how any human can mistreat another human or, as in this case a whole group of people. Thank you for writing this thought-provoking post. I’m going to bookmark this for the upcoming holiday in 2019 to share with my friends and family.

    Liked by 1 person

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