This year requires us to honor this time of thanks differently. This change in tradition is an opportunity to embrace an active form of gratitude while unlearning the false narrative of white supremacy around this holiday. Let’s create a new way to honor Thanksgiving, one that examines its egregious history while seeking to cultivate gratitude and reciprocity in our own hearts.
If you are unfamiliar with the facts around this holiday here’s a very brief history: Colonial history elevates genocidal celebrations like “Thanksgiving” that promote a myth about the pilgrims preparing a feast for Wampanoag tribes people. The actual history is that The Plymouth Colony entered a period known as “The Starving Years”. The first colonizers were deficient in food knowledge, un-skilled in farming the land, and prone to over-hunting. Thanksgiving refers to the Wampanoag extending compassion to the colony by feeding them. As history relieves, the Plymouth Colony would later enact incredible violence towards the tribe.
Needless to say, the foundations of this holiday have been whitewashed from mainstream history. But an opportunity for gratitude can be found in any moment, including this holiday. It is said that only Humans have the capacity for gratitude, making it our gift to thank all who sustain us.
While reading, Braiding Sweetgrass, I came across a beautiful address that I want to share with you all. This Thanksgiving Address is not a prayer, it is a river of words that takes us to an orientation of gratitude. In sharing this address by John Stokes and Kanawahientum, I encourage you to read through, see how it resonates, acknowledge the address itself as a gift, and create your own version. Your own version might speak to your own relationships with the world through the lens of gratitude. Knowing that by truly honoring the gifts we have been given we are enacting a relationship that is reciprocal in nature.
Here’s a link to the Thanksgiving Address
This week we will work to hold gratitude in our heart with the gifts we have been given. Starting with giving thanks for our practice, thanks for the connection with our breath and thanks for all that came before to pass down the gift of yoga.
I acknowledge that I have not covered the depth of history about “Thanksgiving”. Below is a list of references that I pulled from to create this post:
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz