EDITORIAL: Giving thanks, but for what?

We’ve finally arrived at that time of year where we have the opportunity to give thanks for all that we’re fortunate for – and to gather with family and friends around an excess amount of turkey and mashed potatoes.

Those who don’t wait for the arrival of Thanksgiving to express their gratitude are likely just as thankful for a day off.

It’s astonishing that we require a designated day to remind us to be thankful, but even more astonishing is that many people likely don’t question how this day came to be.

The most widely circulated origin story is that of American Thanksgiving: the pilgrims arrive on the Mayflower at Massachusetts Bay, and feast with Indigenous People there.

Why has this falsified story of the origins of Thanksgiving Day carried forward?

Most dominant narratives completely erase histories of genocide and land theft associated with the national holiday. These colonial roots are nowhere to be found in the Macy’s parade.

Here in Canada, the holiday’s origins are not as directly linked to histories of genocide, but its true roots are still ignored.

The founding of Thanksgiving in Canada is commonly credited to European settlers. But the truth is, Indigenous People had long been celebrating the fall harvest before the arrival of European settlers.

This history is lost in today’s modern-day meal, and people are far removed from the process of food production.

Families are not farming their own turkey to bring to the table, and with the population rapidly growing, availability and access to sources of fresh food have been a rising concern.

The issues surrounding the teachings of the origin of Thanksgiving are systemic.

School children are introduced to Thanksgiving by tracing their hand on a blank sheet of paper to create a turkey, and only during this time of the school year are asked to share what they’re most thankful for.

Although Thanksgiving is mirrored from the Indigenous Peoples’ celebration of the fall harvest, this practice of giving thanks annually is not accurate. In Indigenous culture it is customary to give thanks year-round. Those who celebrate should not be discouraged from doing so.

But the holiday should also be a reminder of the work that still remains.

Canadians should advocate to have the true history of Indigenous People written in our history books and taught in our schools, an omission yet to be corrected.

Thanksgiving Day should be a time of coming together to be thankful, but also a time to reflect on the progress that has yet to be made.

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