Where do we begin?
Thanksgiving… like many other holidays, this one was built on fiction. However, the difference between Thanksgiving and many others is that the true story was gravely distorted and is only slowly beginning to be acknowledged. Also like many things, secrets cannot stay hidden for long and the truth eventually comes out. So here is the truth, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you would have seen or at least heard of the atrocities that have taken place in what is now called Canada and other places where Indigenous people were once the custodians of the lands and waters.
New dinner guest?
With this being the new topic of discussion, we thought it would be a good idea to invite the conversation as a guest to everyone’s family gathering. Now, like some guests, they might not always be well received or welcome by everyone, but we can do our best to make space for everyone or in this case, everything. How do we go about this? By simply talking about what happened to the best of our abilities.
The real story that has led to the day we now know and call Thanksgiving. This could be our opportunity to do better as a collective. A day that many, including us, argue should be marked as a day of mourning since there have been between 2-15 million Indigenous lives lost to democide. We have a full day to pause, have these difficult but much needed conversations, take the opportunity to practice Truth and Reconciliation beyond September 30th and to honour the many lives lost and those still affected.
We cannot undo what has been done but as a society and culture, we all have the opportunity to do better.
Let’s all make sure that we are all on the same page in terms of what we are discussing here.
Although there were many factors that have shaped our present day reality, there are two we’d like to cover: educational reform regarding residential schools, and identity forming through the Church.
Canada needed an identity, and the general consensus was a white Christian nation that would sideline the claims of Indigenous peoples and other immigrants. In the 1860s, “Canada First,” an organization that promoted that vision of Canadian identity and called for cultural institutions like Thanksgiving to support a white Christian Canada that celebrated farm, family and religious devotion, was established.
The country’s future “peace and prosperity” relied on a national resolve to “Christianize and civilize the Indian”—in other words, cultural genocide through residential schools. This vision was also supported by the 650 churches in Montreal alone!
Like many holidays, really—that’s been tied to all manner of taletelling to advance whatever vision of national or cultural identity needed at the time. Good news, that means it can be re-invented again to mean what we need it to mean now.
The truth is, we do not want to get rid of the holiday (everyone loves a break), but we should know the origin story and change the meaning behind the longstanding Thanksgiving holiday. Instead, we can consider how to repurpose the holiday to address historical wrongs—and imagine a new cultural and societal identity.
We may not have all the answers, but if history has shown us anything, it’s that staying silent in the name of comfort is not the best we can do. As we write our story moving forward, let’s have those much needed conversations and put the collective wellbeing before our individual comfort.
To deny what has happened cannot create a space to acknowledge, heal and do better. No one is perfect, no collective is perfect. Let’s do our best to make right what we can and allow these events to unite us and find solutions.
We cannot undo the past but we can create the future.
Here are a list of organizations you can support and things you can begin to do on a micro level:
Invitation for feedback:
We invite any and all feedback.
With love from your Allies,
The Grove Campus Team