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Thanksgiving: A Complex Holiday

  • 28 November 2019
  • 4 replies

Userlevel 7
  • Community Manager
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Tomorrow is the US holiday of Thanksgiving. This holiday means different things to different people. Many people in the US celebrate by enjoying a special meal together with family or friends and giving thanks for what we have in life.

It’s not without controversy, though. This is due to the history of colonialism and oppression in this country, and the way that Thanksgiving history is often taught in schools.

It’s important to me to listen to the voices of those who are part of marginalized groups, in this case, Native Peoples, as these voices can easily be lost in dominant narratives. 

Here are some articles that cover Thanksgiving from Indigenous perspectives:

9 Ways to Decolonize and Honor Native Peoples on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving for Native Americans: Four Voices on a Complicated Holiday

Teaching Thanksgiving in a Socially Responsible Way

National Day of Mourning

By the way, did you know that Coursera has a course called Indigenous Canada? I highly recommend it if you’d like to learn more about the history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

As the first article states, “In the spirit of unity, we can ... focus Thanksgiving on common values: generosity, gratitude, and community.” 

Have you changed how you celebrate a holiday after learning more about its history?

4 replies

Userlevel 3
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I have talked to many people about this, as I have known about this since elementary school. Surprisingly, some people who I have talked to described the practice as “American through and through”  and reject or not listen to the facts that I have described.

Userlevel 7

Thanks for sharing your experience, @Charjad1. It must be frustrating to encounter that response again and again. Have you also had the experience of people listening and being willing to change their views?

Userlevel 3
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Hi Laura, 


Some of them agree, but people who hold the opposing view usually tend not to listen.

This holiday should be renamed “Native American Heritage Day” as one of the articles suggests. When I taught, I always dedicated November to teaching about the music and ceremonies of the Native cultures.

It is very important for educators to teach the correct history. I find it encouraging that this is happening now. “Columbus Day” has officially been changed in my area to “ Indigenous People Day”, and Thanksgiving should change as well.

The idea of a “thanks giving “ is a good one. It should be a separate special day where we give thanks to the people and community we care about. Many people I know celebrate “Friendsgiving” instead and create a special feast for their friends that has nothing to do with the history of the Native American people. 

What we do, is celebrate “Leftover Friday “. We get together and share our leftovers, then have a musical jam session. It is just about family and friends appreciating and enjoying one another.

Thank you Laura for raising this consciousness.