Thanksgiving as an Opportunity for Reflection and GratitudeWritten by Emily Arismendy
As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s essential to reflect on the true history of this holiday and the indigenous roots that have been overshadowed by the traditional narrative. Thanksgiving can be more than gathering for delicious meals, it can serve as an opportunity to learn from Native American and Indigenous gratitude practices, learn more about our shared history, and offer support for their communities. Let’s explore the importance of embracing these practices and how we can incorporate them into our own lives in a way that is respectful and meaningful.
Understanding the True History of Thanksgiving
The traditional Thanksgiving story taught in schools often glosses over the painful history of colonization and the suffering of Native American communities. It’s crucial to acknowledge that the arrival of European settlers resulted in the displacement, violence, and loss of land for indigenous peoples. Recognizing this history is the first step towards honoring Native American communities and fostering a more inclusive and respectful Thanksgiving tradition.
The Importance of Gratitude in Native American Culture
Many Native American cultures have rich traditions of gratitude deeply embedded in their way of life. Gratitude is expressed not only for material possessions but for the natural world, the spirit world, and the interconnectedness of all life. These practices emphasize the importance of harmony with nature and the acknowledgment of the contributions of every element in the ecosystem.
Implementing Native American Gratitude Practices
Daily Reflection: Start your day with a moment of reflection. Express gratitude for the simple things like the sunrise, the air you breathe, and the earth beneath your feet. Remember that you are a part of a much larger web of life.
Offering Thanks: Consider incorporating a daily or weekly ritual of offering thanks. Whether it’s through prayer, meditation, or a small ceremony, express gratitude to the land, water, and all living beings.
Mindful Consumption: Native American cultures often advocate for sustainable practices. Reduce waste and make mindful choices when it comes to food, clothing, and other resources to honor the Earth and its gifts.
Acts of Kindness: Show gratitude to others through acts of kindness. Help those in need, contribute to your community, or support indigenous initiatives and businesses.
Supporting Indigenous Communities
Learn and Listen: Take time to educate yourself about the history, culture, and issues facing indigenous communities. Listen to their stories, experiences, and aspirations. There are many books, documentaries, and online resources available.
Indigenous Art and Crafts: Purchase art, crafts, and products made by indigenous artisans. This supports their livelihoods and helps preserve their cultural heritage.
Attend Indigenous Events: Participate in local events and celebrations hosted by indigenous communities to learn about their traditions and culture.
Donate to Indigenous Causes: Support organizations working to address the social, economic, and health challenges faced by indigenous people.
Understanding these gratitude practices and the history of Thanksgiving can be particularly relevant for any workplace, but especially for organizations like ours that serve clients who have experienced abuse or violence. By incorporating these teachings into their programs, such organizations can offer a holistic approach to healing and empowerment. Native American gratitude practices promote self-reflection, connection to nature, and a sense of harmony, which can aid survivors in their journey towards recovery.
Additionally, acknowledging the true history of Thanksgiving and respecting Indigenous communities demonstrates a commitment to social justice and healing. It serves as a reminder that the struggle for justice, healing, and resilience is shared by many communities, including those who have experienced abuse or violence. By recognizing the importance of cultural sensitivity, inclusivity, and respect for all backgrounds, organizations like ours can create a more supportive and empathetic environment for their clients.
Thanksgiving should be a time for reflection, gratitude, and respect. By understanding and embracing Native American gratitude practices, we can enrich our lives and contribute to the healing of historical wounds. It’s essential to honor the true history of Thanksgiving, recognize the resilience of indigenous communities, and actively support their well-being. Let this Thanksgiving be a meaningful opportunity to connect with the wisdom of Native American traditions and demonstrate respect for the indigenous people who continue to enrich the tapestry of our nation.
Here are some resources where you can learn more about Native American/Indigenous gratitude practices, the true history of Thanksgiving, and ways to support and honor Indigenous communities:
National Museum of the American Indian: The museum’s website offers extensive information on Native American history, culture, and exhibitions.
Native Land: A useful interactive map that helps you learn about the indigenous territories, languages, and treaties in your area.
First Nations Development Institute: This organization focuses on strengthening and supporting Native American economies and communities.
Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian Webcasts: A collection of webcasts and educational programs on Native American culture, history, and art.
“We Shall Remain”: A PBS documentary series that offers a comprehensive look at Native American history and resilience.
“Reel Injun”: This documentary explores the portrayal of Native Americans in film and the impact on indigenous communities.
“Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer: A book that beautifully combines indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge about the natural world.
“The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee” by David Treuer: This book provides a comprehensive history of Native America, including the resilience and vitality of indigenous communities.
American Indian College Fund: This organization supports Native American students’ access to higher education.
National Congress of American Indians: A leading organization that advocates for the rights and well-being of Native American tribes.
Indigenous News Sources
Indian Country Today: A digital news platform that covers a wide range of indigenous issues, stories, and perspectives.
Remember to approach these resources with an open heart and a willingness to learn. Understanding and respecting Native American and Indigenous cultures is a vital step toward creating a more inclusive and respectful society.