Jody Vance

US Thanksgiving – by Jody


Getty Images: Frederic Lewis

The date was 1621.  That’s when The Pilgrims had their first harvest in the “New world” … leading to a three day feast shared by 90 Native Americans and 53 new colonists.

Why the diversity in diners? Simply stated: it was realized earlier that year that supplies brought from England were insufficient for the Pilgrims to survive. (Read: The new colonists depended on the Wampanoag tribe’s food when times were dire.)

When the chips were down, the First Nations people came through, with nothing to gain (and as history would show, much to lose.)

The pilgrims saw the kindness, sacrifice and support and appreciated it by way of sharing their harvest. Thanksgiving was born.

A bit of American History for those who may not know: Thanksgiving was initially a religious observance for all members of the community to “thank God” for a common purpose — thanks for a safe journey on expedition, victory in revolutionary war….In his 1789 National Thanksgiving Proclamation, George Washington included: “for the civil and religious liberty”, for “useful knowledge”, and for God’s “kind care” and “His Providence”.  Religion was part of Thanksgiving in the early days — today it’s common to say “grace”, perhaps, and certainly think/express things one is thankful for.

A national holiday to reflect on how fortunate Americans are to be American.

Why the history lesson from a Canadian here?

For starters, we are all watching US Thanksgiving evolve (devolve?) into “Door Crashing Black Friday” sales where Americans, literally, beat each other to a pulp over a flat screen TV — or tear each other apart over the “hottest toy of the season”. Where the big network news stories are lazy traffic jams or flight delays.

Where is the love of the Native Americans this (and any, really) Thanksgiving, my American brothers and sisters?

We get it, it’s been a tumultuous 11 months of 2016, to say the least. Such a spectacular dichotomy that is a nation choosing turkeys and travel destinations over supporting their fellow Native Americans fighting for their land vs. teargas.

The Sioux Nation in Standing rock, North Dakota, who’ve named themselves Water Protectors, are protesting day and night. Day and night for days on end. A group who want nothing more than to protect their native land from an oil pipeline that threatens to contaminate their water – while violating sacred sites.

These Americans (they were here FIRST) are being shot at by police with water cannons (in sub-zero temps) and and with foam bullets — and for months they’ve stood showing true unity against big oil as “America” continues to focus on distractions.  Sparklie things.  Things like counting now meaningless ballots of the popular vote. A nation somehow allowing hate to be spewed and shared by white-supremicsts gathering to celebrate “the door being opened” for them — by the will of the people — in the name of freedom of speech. Hanging on every meaningless word of a man hungry for power and airtime.

Absorb that.

Where are the rubber bullets for hate? The tear gas?

Why is this all-to-familiar brand of racist hate allowed to celebrate while peaceful protestors are attacked on their land?

It is their land — check the details:  It was set aside for Native Americans in 1851.  It’s in a treaty.  It’s as (standing) rock solid as the right to free speech!

Why aren’t you fighting for them this Thanksgiving, America?

It’s a gross reality how money talks.  The Sioux don’t have the bank to fight legally, their only chance is to literally stand and block the path to their rightful land. All they can do is refuse to lose.  Very, very American.  The America I thought I knew.

It’s tragic what we are witnessing at Standing Rock — tragic. I want to go there — but this is not my fight.  My fight is a secret path of apology and making right the wrongs of a generation before me.

The suggestion here, from the Canadian-born-to-immigrants girl at this keyboard, is: Americans still moaning about Donald J. Trump President Elect should consider their Thanksgiving holiday focus be on joining the voices in protest in North Dakota. It would be an awfully massive step back in the right direction for a country lost… starts with putting your body where your ethics are.

Show the world that you are about more than the sale or the turkey.


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  • Reply dugjoy November 24, 2016 at 12:03 am

    I find it interesting how Thanksgiving has evolved in the US. It became an official holiday during the Civil War after the Union’s victory at Gettysburg. Then, just before WWII, President Roosevelt changed the date to the third Thursday of November from the fourth (it was changed back 2 years later) for one simple reason: to give the American public and merchants a chance to conduct business for a few days leading up to Christmas.

    At the time, America was climbing out of the depression. Since then, Thanksgiving has become a commercial holiday with emphasis on economics as opposed to the original intent. It’s another classic example of any day deemed “significant” on the calendar that has been drowned in commercialism.

    How to change the insanity? It obviously starts with thinking about the meaning of the holiday: family, sharing, celebration & giving thanks. It’s also not a religious holiday, so every person of faith and ethnicity can (or should) be able to observe the day in their own way.

    The commercial aspect? Well, it may take a while yet, but online shopping may turn Black Friday into a much less frenzied affair in years to come. Of course, new ideas must come forward to keep Friday momentous.

    I personally would like to see Black Friday renamed Slack Friday.

    Don’t we already spend enough days of the year pushing ourselves to the limit?

  • Reply Wendy Beckett November 24, 2016 at 4:15 am

    Beautifully said Jody…thank you for this. I hope it makes aome Americans stop and think. This is a gross tragedy, both evil and unbelievable. Please God, if there really is one, make them stop and do justice for those indigenous people.

  • Reply ghmanderson November 24, 2016 at 5:51 am

    Wow, well written!

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