Thanksgiving or Guiltfest?

Via on Nov 21, 2010

Most of us know something about the far-from-glorious fall-out that followed that first, mythical “Thanksgiving Day”. It’s easy enough to get attached to the negative political connotations of this holiday, and to have Thanksgiving become “Guiltfast” or “Guiltfest”.

In no way do I want to belittle the horror and carnage that followed the “founding of a new land” (new to whom?) as manifest destiny was used as an ideological weapon that allowed the settlers to push westward, killing and being killed, and irrevocably changing the fabric of a nation forever.

The inarguable atrocities occurred for hundreds of years, and continue to this day.The Trail of Tears (or, “Nunna dual Tsuni” in the Cherokee language; The Trail Where They Cried). “Americanization” of Native peoples. Broken treaties.

However, we can also believe – or at least hope against hope – that there was, once upon a time, that first gathering of thanksgiving, where the newcomers, out of a deep sense of gratitude and recognition, invited the native people to share a feast with them in thanks for the help that had allowed the settlers to survive their early days in a new land.

This coming together of openhearted and grateful sharing is the spirit I attempt to enter into the holiday with. This, and the belief that it’s worth dedicating at least one day out of the year to the practice of gratitude.

Thanksgiving day does not need to be a political statement. I’ll go even further and say that though the institutionalization of the federal holiday may have originally been a political move, the observation of the holiday has become one of that is patently apolitical. And while the original wording of the proclamations that the Thanksgiving holiday is built upon were Christian in intent, the observation has become more or less secular.

Today, for most Americans, the spirit of Thanksgiving is one of inclusion. Pagans, and even Atheists celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s a chance to take inventory of our lives, an opportunity to consciously reflect upon and share the things we are truly grateful for with friends and family. And a time to indulge in the fruits of our harvests – literal or metaphoric – by way of a large feast, often brought together in a stone-soup or potluck manner.

Like so many of the celebrations of the darkening season, this feast is both a recognition of bounty, and a practice of faith. Faith that through shared abundance, there’s no winter that will be hard enough that we don’t get through it. And at the basic, beautiful, mundanely rooted nature of it, the actual bounty is in no way metaphoric, but is wholly celebratory.

Perhaps somewhere in these days leading up to the holiday you’ll take some time to reflect on the history of the native people of these lands, because this dark side of the history of this nation should never be forgotten – and all too often, it is.

Perhaps you will educate your children about the shadows that dwell behind the images of Pilgrims and turkeys that adorn their classrooms, because their teachers are not going to. Maybe you’ll take a moment of silent prayer, or maybe even shared prayer, in recognition of the hidden history of the Indian Wars and the cultural genocide of the native peoples of this country before (or even at) your Thanksgiving gathering – because until there’s a federally recognized Indigenous People’s Day proclaimed, this is one of the few days out of the year that reminds us of our national shadow history.

And, maybe the awareness of what you’re grateful for will serve as a reminder to offer what you can to those who have less.

And, I hope you’ll begin counting your blessings. Because once you begin counting, you won’t be able to stop.

On Thanksgiving, you have an opportunity to recognize not just the bounty of your table piled high and your cup running over, but also the wealth of community, family, and abundance of all forms. And the more conscious you become of what it is that you’re grateful for, the deeper your experience of the holiday of Thanksgiving will be.

Some Thanksgiving Fun and Games:

Gratigories! The Games the Gets you Grateful * A Gratitude Round Robin – Gratitude Games * A Grateful A to Z – A Gratitude Game for Kids of All Ages

Read My Other Gratitude and Thanksgiving Related Posts:

Five Ways to Engage Your Kids in Grateful Giving * How to Create a Gratitude Altar * The Benefits of Gratitude in Family Life *

About Lasara Allen

Lasara is wife to her true love, and mother to two amazing young women. She’s also a best-selling author, an educator, and an activist. Lasara’s first book, the bestselling Sexy Witch (nonfiction, Llewellyn Worldwide), was published in 2005 under the name LaSara FireFox. As of 3/6/2012, after a coaching sabbatical, Lasara has openings for three three-week, individual, personally tailored coaching and mentoring programs. She also has slots in a cohort-model group coaching program available for a limited amount of time. Lasara is available for one-session commitments as well. Make whatever commitment feels best for you. Lasara offers individual coaching on topics such as; * Mental and Physical Health and Wellness - accepting your diagnosis (or that of a loved one) - learning to live with awareness of strengths and vulnerabilities - Learning to live gracefully within your spectrum of the possible * Mindful Relationships - self as primary partner - loving partnerships, friendships and connections - marriages - parenting - family * Spiritual Contemplation and Alignment - Entering into and committing to your spiritual inquiry - Learning to listen to listen for and hear the divine in your life - Inquiring into the role that faith may play in informing your path - The role of meditation, contemplation, and prayer in your practice For more information and endorsements, visit: http://lasaraallen.com/about-lasara/coaching-services/

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19 Responses to “Thanksgiving or Guiltfest?”

  1. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    Feel free to dive in any time, friends!

    Thanks for reading.

  2. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    Via fb:
    Zack Stentz F*** white guilt. Thanksgiving is a harvest festival by any other name, dressed up in early American kitsch but delightful nonetheless. I think you strike just the right balance between acknowledging the real historical wrong that took place without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  3. Joseph Boquiren Joseph Boquiren says:

    Thank you Lasara. It is a balanced view on a particular day. Thanksgiving and gratitude should be practiced every day, every moment. Not something to be stored up like a battery and fired off on the 3rd week of November.

    And my ancestors were subjugated by foreigners for over 300 years. I harbor no ill will or anger towards the former colonial powers. They are dead and long gone.

  4. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    Via fb:
    Joseph Boquiren — Thank you Lasara. It is a balanced view on a particular day. Thanksgiving and gratitude should be practiced every day, every moment. Not something to be stored up like a battery and fired off on the 3rd week of November.

    And my ancestors were subjugated by foreigners for over 300 years. I harbor no ill will or anger towards the former colonial powers. They are dead and long gone.

  5. Cynthia says:

    As the daughter of a Cherokee father I deeply appreciate your acknowledgment of the real history of the occasion. It should never be forgotten. The first link is full of info for those wanting to know more, myself included. Having said that, we have always celebrated Thanksgiving in my family. A day of gratitude, spent with family and friends is very much a worthwhile reason to continue celebrating. I want to set up a gratitude altar!!

    Love this article! Your website is amazing too, lotsa good stuff in there!

    • Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

      Thank you, Cynthia! The Native side of my family (Swinomish ad Snohomish) also celebrate the holiday.

      Glad you enjoyed my site, as well. Have fun with the altar!

      peace.

  6. elephantjournal says:

    Thank you for a well written article that drives home the most important points of this holiday.

    We should be thoughtful of these points everyday and carry this attitude through our daily lives.

  7. Heather says:

    I can't say anything that Zach hasn't already said most eloquently.

  8. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    Blood and Thunder sounds great. I'll have to check it out. Thanks!

  9. Heather says:

    But the article was well-written, thoughtful and balanced, as always. Thanks to LaSara.

  10. candicegarrett says:

    Guns Germs and Steel is an excellent read. They also made a television special out of it. It gives so much information on farming and language, and into current culture….

  11. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    Thanks, Heather!
    peace.

  12. naida says:

    Yes well said. I feel sorry for those folks who don't celebrate Christian or other type holidays, to make a political statement. As a child I survived this dark response and grew bitter against my mothers extremist values. Many fail to replace light and beauty when removing already practiced traditions. It is so convenient (we get days off all at the same time, bonuses, sales, traditional and historical ties, tied to seasons) that it is a bit ridiculous to not celebrate these national shared days. All the Native folks I know celebrate Thanksgiving and I am sure they have thoughts on what it means, but Columbus Day no…
    And Indian versus Native is not so easy. Now that I am meeting folks from outside of California I am hearing being called Indian is offensive, which is not how I grew up, but good to know.

  13. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    Hey Ilsa,

    Yes, the historical underpinnings must be examined, in my mind though not to the exclusion of what the holiday has become; exactly as you said — an opportunity to get "together with family and friends, sharing witty and intelligent conversation and eating great food as well as reflecting on all we have to be grateful for."

    Thanks for your views and info. All very good, the references especially. And your P.O.V. is great. (As could be anticipated.)

    I hope you have a great time with your friends and family, however you celebrate!

  14. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    You're MY favorite, too. :-)

    Have a happy, healthy, grateful holiday!

  15. Paul Carey says:

    "Thanksgiving", our Hallmark Holiday, is the day that I contemplate the fate of tribal peoples at the hand of economic development. To be fully aware that our existence in the white empire relies on the displacement and genocide of the indigenous populations. To be fully aware that religious fervor is used to justify the dehumanization and devaluation of mature societies. To be fully aware of the effect of economic development on mature cultures and their holistic existence. I am grateful for my awareness and the opportunity to share it.

  16. [...] We can find human truths in the musings of Romantic writers, inspiration in the traditions of Native Americans, and learn lessons from the mistakes of history. Our own life struggles are not new. To go through [...]

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