Thanksgiving Day 2018

Today is Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S., another of those complex holidays with dubious histories rooted firmly in settler imagination. The day is frigid, a deep snow pack and north wind adding to the pervasive chill. There are rabbit tracks near the house and the occasional determined bird flies by the window. The early winter sun is bright, if weak, and has very little influence on the cold; the north wind picks up loose snow and drives it along in streams of icy white.

Our family is far-flung. Those who live close and are able to gather are working away in the kitchen, or sit plugged in to their various devices in the sitting room; here inside the house, warmth abounds.

I find this a strange holiday as we give thanks for bounty of the harvest and our families against the background of genocide. Looking back into childhood, it seems to me that Thanksgiving was always unsettled in our house growing up. There were inevitably tensions between the life experiences of family who identified as settler and those who identified as Native, a perceptual gulf that was seemingly unbridgaeble.

The most virulently racist members of the family seldom joined us for Thanksgiving; the one major exception to this remains vivid in my memory. I guess that challenging Thanksgiving in the mid-sixties was not all that different from the charged atmosphere in our country today. Back then, as now, civility helped, even as one knew that it would eventually break down in a torrent of hate speech and hurt feelings.

Maybe all this adds to my appreciation of the kindness and warmth that fills the house today. Once again there are people here who Identify as settler and those who Identify as Native. Fortunately, the similarities are held more closely than the differences, and most of the opinions and experiences shared are presented with a certain care and thoughtfulness. I like to think that here, for today, kindness rules.

I hope that wherever you are, and whatever you may be doing today, you find yourself embraced by gratitude, family, and the presence of community and kindness.




16 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Day 2018

  1. Your day sounds wonderful. We had a dinner lovingly prepared by our son-in-law and spent most of the day laughing about family stories that seem to have been embellished over the years. I was going to explain some corrections but decided that the stories brought so much joy that they were perfect just they way they were.

  2. The more I mature the more I value this day, spending time with family and remembering all our relatives. In addition to my child memories, some of my most heartfelt Thanksgivings were spent with fellow students and faculty at pan-tribal dinners in Ithaca, Madison and Eugene (Oregon). I especially liked the range of foods from folks across different landscapes—we’d have deer and salmon and hominy and squash and beans and fry-bread and…more food than you can imagine.

    1. Cynthia, Is cannot imagine except to see in my mind the cafeteria in the NMAI in DC, one of favorite places to eat, ever. Our dinner is always amazingly diverse and well represented by Native dishes, right there beside the settler favorites and those that cross the isle. It is also, like the society at large, a minefield. Only one small explosion this year and much joy. I hope your day was sweet and filled with closeness.

  3. I carefully read what you write. I don’t speak good English (I think you can see it when I write), but think I understand what you feel.
    Since I’m a little girl, I know who my parents, my grandparents are (I knew them); I’m happy to be in this family who taught me the values of nature (many of my ancestors were farmers), honesty, respect for others …

    Yet, life goes on and many things are changing. Respect for nature is lost! Men don’t know how to respect others anymore!

    I often feel deep within myself the struggle between my values and the values of society.
    When I read what you write, I understand that your father’s family didn’t say (for a long time) that they were Native. Americans, English, French and Dutch had so much contempt for the Native people!
    Instead of being proud to be Native, these men felt shame. This observation makes me sad, but above all, it revolts me.

    You’re right in searching for your roots, for the richness of your journey.
    The Native values were so beautiful, respectful of men and where he lived! Philosophy, negative beliefs were very strong. How could the black dresses break all that?
    The world has changed so much that now we can just have that respect individually.
    I live with the hope that more and more people are thinking and acting this way …

    1. Dear Colette, thank you for this heart felt note! Perhaps it is our fate to live in difficult times. Perhaps times have long been trying but many have not noticed. Native people are human, and thus just as complex and unpredictable as other humans. We need, as you say, to have more and more people just being kind and engaged in the healing of the world. I am glad you are.

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