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Celebrating Giving Thanks Rather Than Thanksgiving

I have mixed feelings about Thanksgiving. The fourth Thursday in November is the holiday closest to my heart because I deeply believe in being thankful. On the other hand, celebrating an event which led to the eventual genocide of most Native American societies is distasteful. I choose to celebrate Giving Thanks rather than Thanksgiving.

  • I am thankful that the Occupy Wall Street Movement has changed the national conversation.
  • I am thankful for ¬†family and friends who lovingly challenge me.
  • I am thankful for Jon Stewart for being Jon Stewart.
  • I am thankful for Iron Knee for trusting me with his cherished website and I am especially thankful that he will return to the helm of Political Irony in just a few more weeks!

What are you thankful for?

– Iron Filing

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6 Comments

  1. John G wrote:

    I’m thankful you’re doing an excellent job of filing … er, filling in.

    Thursday, November 24, 2011 at 9:43 am | Permalink
  2. Don wrote:

    IF , I’d like to assuage your “guilt” a bit with regards to Thanksgiving. In his National Book Award winning book Mayflower, Nathaniel Philbrick described the first thanksgiving as a harvest festival tinged by religion. “Instead of an English affair, the First Thanksgiving [we’re talking 1621 here] soon became an overwhelmingly Native celebration when Massasoit and a hundred Pokanokets arrived at the settlement with five freshly killed deer.” Edward Winslow, who kept a journal of his experiences at the foundling Pilgrim village, described the Indians they celebrated with as “very trust[worth]y, quick of apprehension, ripe witted, just”… Hardly the sound of someone bent on genocide.

    As a matter of fact, the Pilgrims found themselves stuck in the middle of a long standing power struggle between the tribes of what is now New England. Massasoit was a strong leader and politically adept. By assisting the Pilgrims in getting through their first and subsequent winters, he developed a relationship that provided leverage in his own dealings )translate that as power struggles, if you’d like) with other tribes.

    Peoples of all persuasions around the world have celebrated a day or days of giving thanks for the harvest. That the Pilgrims did so has no bearing on whether the anglo settlement of North America led to large scale genocidal actions against Indians.

    Abraham Lincoln, the great emancipator, declared a day of Thanksgiving in 1863. Think of the time period. The Confederacy was giving the Union armies lessons in humility. Lincoln was having serious issues maintaining the stability of the remainder of the US and piggy backed on a resurgent national interest in the Pilgrims to establish a time for looking at the things that citizens could be thankful for during a time of war. Although the Pilgrims story had already been seriously altered to meet the myth needs of the US creation story, that first giving of thanks which was celebrated by the Pokanokets and the Pilgrims was used as the model for this national day we celebrate to this day. It’s founding by Lincoln also has nothing to do with genocide. It had a lot to do with finding a politically expedient way to hold together a nation being torn apart by war.

    I spent 17 years working in Indian Country and don’t recall any of my Indian friends and acquaintances having serious concerns about the holiday – they had family gatherings, ate turkey, celebrated the holiday much as the dominant culture does. I certainly experienced the resentment of Columbus Day as a holiday (not celebrated by tribes and many BIA offices nationally) and won’t to this day celebrate it. That was truly the start of genocide in North America. It wasn’t the Pilgrims.

    All that said, I wish all PI readers and participants a wonderful feast and opportunity to give thanks for the good things we’ve experienced this past year on Thanksgiving – one of our few holidays which has a truly positive bent to it.

    Thursday, November 24, 2011 at 10:53 am | Permalink
  3. MoonDoc wrote:

    I am thankful for people like you, who keep us going in these tough times. Happy Giving Thanks Day.

    Thursday, November 24, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  4. ebdoug wrote:

    I’m thankful that six of my eight grandchildren are part Native American. My family came to the Eastern Shore of Virginia in the 1630s. There was no question that they just coexisted with the Indians. And I’m thankful that the Five Nations live on in New York. They gave Franklin the basis for our Constitution.
    I would say the biggest problem was in the 1880s over two hundred years later. Is that correct Don?
    Don, like you I don’t celebrate Columbus day.
    Has everyone on this Web Page watched “500 Nations” narrated by Kevin Costner who is also part Native American? I ended up buying it and should watching it each Thanksgiving.
    I just recently reread “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” Always thought Dee Brown was female

    Thursday, November 24, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Permalink
  5. Patricia wrote:

    I am thankful for people who think about things critically and are willing to discuss their thoughts on this site. Happy Thanksgiving!

    Thursday, November 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Permalink
  6. Iron Filing wrote:

    Thanks DON for taking the effort to straighten me out. Well said. To be honest, I was erroneously conflating Thanksgiving and Columbus Day. I’m still a little uncomfortable celebrating Pilgrims but you made great points to think about. I’ve told Iron Knee many times that the comments were my favorite part of Political Irony. they still are.

    Thursday, November 24, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Permalink