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How Do We Honour The Real History of Thanksgiving?

Honestly, Thanksgiving has always been one of my favourite holidays, I even prefer it over Christmas! Hold on a second, hear me out, what I love about Thanksgiving is that it’s an opportunity to get together with all of my family and friends without the pressure of gift-giving. I love cooking, hosting, drinking wine (of course!), and spending quality time with all of my favourite people, which is what I had originally believed  Thanksgiving was all about. But it hits differently learning that Thanksgiving as we know it, was founded on such a brutal colonial past, and symbolizes an ongoing trauma for so many. I am sure that I am not alone in questioning how to honour this “holiday” in a way that doesn’t cause further harm to Indigenous People.

Jillian Harris Thanksgiving

I do not have the answer to this question, unfortunately, but I can honestly tell you that I am committed to listening and learning how to form better, more respectful relationships with Indigenous People.  

I learned that for Indigenous Peoples, traditions of giving thanks predate the “first” Canadian Thanksgiving “All of our ceremonies, all of the things that we do, have to do with giving thanks. So it’s part of a continuum of something that’s been practiced for thousands of years,” Brian Rice Ph.D. Dawn Tabobondung’s quote highlights where the harm first began: “The Thanksgiving myth is built upon the idea of the noble, civilized Europeans sharing a meal with the “friendly savages” from the local Indigenous population.  While there was, indeed, a “First Thanksgiving” gathering between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag it was far different than what history has so long taught.  More importantly, the legacy that it spurred was not of friendship, but of betrayal and bloodshed.”

The History of Thanksgiving

Instead of “celebrating” Thanksgiving this year, when I gather with friends and family we will start a new tradition of honouring the First People of the land we occupy by acknowledging the history and thriving culture of the Syilx Okanagan Peoples. In continuing the season of gratitude tradition: I am so grateful for all of the learning and unlearning I have experienced over the past few years, I feel a stronger connection to and appreciation for my community. I have so much gratitude for the privilege to reside in the beautiful, unceded territory of the Okanagan Syilx People.

My hope is that we use this time to cultivate a practice of gratitude that includes an appreciation for the original stewards of this land. 



Leave a Reply

  1. Thank you so much for sharing! I have felt guilty for loving the celebration. I love learning more so then I can adjust the way I approach the day.

    We all definitely have a lot to be grateful for!

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