There is a lot to be thankful for in this country as we head toward the Thanksgiving long weekend in one of the wealthiest societies on Earth—a fact too often lost as we are presented with the whirlwind maelstrom of discontent appearing in our daily social media streams. Certainly there are many concerns and issues that remain unresolved in our society such as the vast disconnect between the have and have nots and the still all-too-prevalent spectres of racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination for many members of our nations. But those issues generally pale in comparison to those to be found on other shores.
Sadly, the influence of American culture and media seems to have coupled our celebration of Thanksgiving to the myths of our neighbours to the south, notably that of the so-called Pilgrim Founding Fathers and their relations with the Indigenous peoples they met and traded with upon their arrival.
Images of men in Pilgrim hats carrying blunderbusses and whitecapped women sitting down with befeathered Natives to enjoy a home-cooked meal have long insinuated themselves into our Canadian Thanksgiving advertising and even, not so long ago, our school curriculuums. That leaves an understandably bad taste in the Indigenous communities that has nothing to do with turkey and everything to do with a history of bad faith, cheating and underhanded dealings between the original inhabitants of this land and those who came later.
Sadly, this detracts from a celebration that should unite us.
The First Nations of this land upon whose traditional territories Canada was built had their own fall harvest ceremonies and traditions, just as most cultures and societies that arose in the Western Hemisphere.
The bounty of the harvest was and should be a time of great celebration and something we should find joy in together. To do that we need to kick the Pilgrim and his associated images to the curb. That story isn’t us. Truth be told, it isn’t America either, but let’s let our friends south of the border sort that one out for themselves.
Thanksgiving is not a time to celebrate the settling of this land (it was already well and thoroughly settled long before the Mayflower sailed). It is a time to be thankful for all that is good in our lives, good health (if we have it), our families (if we have them) and the incredible bounty that surrounds our days.
In fact, Thanksgiving can and should be a time to recognize that there are those around us who do not enjoy the largesse of the land that most of us can be thankful for, and to hope and pray that those inequities will someday become history.
We have much to be thankful for on Manitoulin Island and none of those things have anything to do with America’s foundation myths. We need to stake out our own Thanksgiving foundations, and those foundations should be based on a meaningful approach to truth and reconciliation, not some fairy tale that attempts to justify injustice.