The Continental Congress of the United States of America proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving in 1777. However, sick try the holiday wasn’t truly embraced as a nationwide celebration until President Lincoln declared two Thanksgivings in 1863, sales prostate one on August 6th celebrating the victory at Gettysburg, and the other the last Thursday in the month of November to be proclaimed as the day the nation was to celebrate Thanksgiving. Even so, it wasn’t permanently established as a national holiday until 1941 during FDR’s presidency and remains so to this day. In its origins, Thanksgiving was a celebration and religious ceremony of the Native American Tribes of the Atlantic North East in the Cape Cod region. The Harvest Feast was a time set aside to give thanks to the Creator for the bounty of the harvest. It is said, by some historians, that the first “Thanksgiving” or Harvest Feast between the Pilgrim “settlers” and the Wampanoag People was in 1621.
A friend asked me the other day what I was going to be doing for “Genocide Day”? She is of Native American descent, and it stands to reason that there is an entirely different perspective of the Thanksgiving holiday when considering the original People of this land. The People of the Americas who were not immigrants, colonizers, enslaved or indentured descendants but rather indigenous to the land that has come to be known as the United States of America. It stands to reason that the indigenous Peoples might have an entirely different perspective when considering the celebration that has come to be known as Thanksgiving. The critical discourse around the holiday becomes particularly problematic when the holiday itself was appropriated and instituted without recognition of the history from which that holiday finds its true origins.
I know, I know, can’t we just have one holiday where there is no political or social entanglement or agenda? Can’t we just have a day, one day where we can just celebrate being thankful? The simple answer is no. No. Because the U.S. (and by the “U.S.” I mean the citizens of the “U.S.”) has for so long ignored and marginalized the people and perspectives that contradict or challenge the fundamental ideals and bedrock principles on which this nation was founded that if we are to move forward towards a more powerful and inclusive future where ALL citizens are valued for who they are and what they bring to the proverbial “table”, “WE” must be honest and retrospective about who we are as a nation and how we came to be this way . Many people’s histories and place in the American landscape is still unacknowledged or underrepresented. Many people in this country are living in poverty and homelessness with very little to be thankful for in this Thanksgiving holiday season. Many like to proclaim the United States as a Christian nation and do not want to acknowledge the multiplicity of religious beliefs and/or denominations that construct our nation. There are believers and non-believers and ALL should be welcomed at the table. Gathering together with family and recounting our blessings is an annual tradition in my house, but the recognition of how we came to be here in this nation called the United States of America is also something we never want to forget. We want to remind one another about our historic legacy and we want to exhort one another to become responsible and “active” citizens of this nation. Helping one another, as we are able, fighting for the justice and equality on which we stand as Americans and acknowledging those who stood here first. Give thanks and then just give…. Happy Thanksgiving.
Up Next Week: Hold on to your wallets! The BIG business of the Christmas Season!