Yesterday several naïve turkeys gathered outside our front window, apparently oblivious to the upcoming holiday. My not having a turkey hunting license or a shotgun made them safer than they might have been otherwise. Today, along with a thin blanket of new snow, I’m wishing them a happy day.
Having started reading “There, there” by Tommy Orange has added complexity to my urges to offer the traditional American Happy Thanksgiving greeting. I’m just speaking for myself here. These are personal reflections, not political reflections. As the late William Glasser (1998) liked to say (paraphrasing here), trouble tends to start when people discover, not only what’s right for them, but also what’s right for others. To honor Glasser (and avoid trouble), I feel compelled to write: I recognize that my own personal reflections may or may not be relevant or meaningful to you, and that you should celebrate as you like.
Here are some words (among many) from the prologue to There, there, that complexify my Thanksgiving Day greetings:
“In 1621, colonists invited Massasoit, the chief of the Wampanoags, to a feast after a recent land deal. Massasoit came with ninety of his men. That meal is why we still eat a meal together in November. . . . But that one wasn’t a thanksgiving meal. It was a land-deal meal. Two years later there was another, similar meal meant to symbolize eternal friendship. Two hundred Indians dropped dead that night from an unknown poison.”
As a nation, we’ve not been good to Native or Indigenous peoples. That’s obvious, even based on most (rather whitewashed) history books. Our historic oppression of Indian people has been horrific. That’s a fact I find important to acknowledge. I’m an Italian-Austrian-French-English Jewish-Catholic mostly white male. It’s doubtful than many or any of my ethnic/racial peoples were particularly good to the Indigenous Americans. I feel sad for that.
But somewhere in my brain I hold onto the idea that maybe Thanksgiving can still be meaningful. Giving thanks, showing gratitude, and being generous are behaviors that improve communities and enhance physical and emotional health. All the happiness researchers repeatedly say that we should be repeatedly grateful, and that expressing gratitude offers bidirectional short- and long-term benefits. Both the giver and the receiver of gratitude are on the receiving end of increased health and wellness.
For today, I offer gratitude to my Native American and American Indian friends and students and brothers and sisters. I’m grateful to have learned from you and to have you in my life. Although I cannot fix past wrongs, today and in the future I can recognize your value, contribute to your causes, appreciate your culture, and be grateful for what you bring to the world. For many reasons, we now find ourselves in this together. I hope to be gracious and helpful as we live together in peace and equity. There will be bumps in the road; my hope is that we can smooth the bumps together. Just because the narrative around that first Thanksgiving was fictional, doesn’t mean we can’t build a future that includes coming together and sharing our lives in important and meaningful ways. It’s possible that I and many of my ethnic/racial peoples can be particularly good to the Indigenous Americans in the future. I feel happy for that hope.
Happy, happy, thanks to everyone.
Resources: Huffpost published a nice article on six things non-native allies can do for Thanksgiving. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/ally-to-native-americans-on-thanksgiving_l_5ddc4237e4b00149f7223b30?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuaHVmZnBvc3QuY29tLw&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAAjPZEONsO8kbskt8Qfrnm4VaVkk0kZo1hmmiYv9dANmXAL4aKKHsfcH-Oj5-HBI917vRV6-BSQGvu4G0fWSxIYxK1_hdfDrPqlEXqKCdjh9CysuPHTMZbjJAolZJ0JjfwDpdocP_pYGzuKejzZjKVZwbROe-8HyHfA7-itWaale
In today’s Missoulian there’s an article on the Happiness class Rita and I are developing and that I’ll be teaching this Spring semester at the University of Montana: https://missoulian.com/news/local/happiness-there-s-a-university-of-montana-class-for-that/article_7789f0fd-cb94-505d-a708-ab4bc214a4ff.html