Of all of our national holidays, Thanksgiving has a lot going for it. It’s relatively noncommercial and retains its strong focus on gratitude and a shared meal.
But the modern version of this humble holiday has been hijacked by Black Friday (which now begins on the holiday itself), and, for many, it’s tainted by challenging family interactions and stressful travel. This is to say nothing of the fact that most Americans have little understanding of what it represents to present-day Native peoples.
Yes, there was likely a shared meal between English colonizers and Native people in present-day Massachusetts in the fall of 1621. But what may have been a peaceful gathering in the 17th century also represents the beginning of centuries of forced migration, cultural genocide, and outright slaughter of indigenous Americans.
This year, we invite you to think more deeply about the meaning of Thanksgiving and to question consumption. How?
Your family may celebrate the holiday with a reverence for gratitude, togetherness, and good food. It’s important to understand what Thanksgiving means for Indigenous Americans. Take the time to understand what the history of settler colonialism has meant to the original human inhabitants of North America.
November is also Native American Heritage Month, and the perfect time to commit to better understanding the history, culture, and perspectives of native peoples. If you’d like to better understand the mythology of the original Thanksgiving story, as well as interpret native perceptions of the holiday, POC Online Classroom has a list of resources to offer a more complete picture of what it means today.
"November is the perfect time to commit to better understanding the history, culture, and perspectives of native peoples."
With social divides growing ever wider in the U.S. and hate crimes on the rise, the time to stand up to bigotry is now. While we may be able to cocoon ourselves among politically aligned friends and community members, Thanksgiving—and the year-end holidays in general—often puts us face to face with loved ones whose opinions and attitudes run counter to our values.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to feature locally sourced foods, and many chefs and farmers in the farm-to-table movement now occupy celebrity status. But the vast majority of the human beings responsible for our food production—those who harvest and pack the crops, and prepare and clean up after our meals—are invisible to us. Workers in low-wage jobs like restaurant work and farm labor are more likely to be sexually assaulted and otherwise exploited.
"The vast majority of the human beings responsible for our food production—those who harvest and pack the crops, and prepare and clean up after our meals—are invisible to us."
In addition, 96% of rural landowners are white, meaning that there are very few Black, Latinx, Indigenous, or other non-white farmers who own the land they work.
While you’re together with friends and family, have a conversation about what you’d like to get out of the year-end holidays and commit to less materialistic traditions.
If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving this year, we hope it’s a restful and relaxing time with loved ones, and that you’ll find these ideas thought-provoking. Do they help you question consumption? If so, please let us know how; send us an email, tweet us at @newdream, or find us on Facebook and share your feedback.
Guinevere Higgins is Director of Strategic Partnerships at New Dream.