The United States will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday. We will gather together with friends and family, most of us will eat a turkey with stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce and a dessert of apple or pumpkin pie. We’ll all ignore the obligatory salad that someone has made and instead have second helpings of the carbohydrates, eventually flopping onto the sofa for a cat nap before the festivities end.
The day is meant to be a celebration of the first “Thanksgiving” between the Native Americans and the “Pilgrims”, which is largely a myth. I am still stumped as to why my country feels the need to perpetuate such myth about this event. The reality is that historians suspect that the local natives provided much of the food for the harvest feast, as the “Pilgrims” did not have the skills to survive in the new landscape. Additionally, the ugly history of the takeover of the land is largely ignored and it should be noted that Native populations generally do not see this day as one of celebration. The reality is that a harvest feast in 1621 should not be mistaken as something as simple as a happy meal. The tragedy is that the native population of this country was ultimately systematically slaughtered. Those who weren’t were treated as merely one rung above African American slaves. The history of my country that most people don’t know that if a Native American was not a slave, he or she typically “owned” one (or many). I would highly recommend Tiya Miles’ book “Ties that Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom” to anyone who is interested in learning more about this subject (see below.) It is the story of Shoe Boots, a Cherokee warrior and his slave (and life partner/mother of his children), Doll, an African-American woman. This book leaves a lasting impression and will help you to understand my strong concerns about how our schools repeatedly share corrupted stories of our nation’s history.
Based on this history, I choose to treat Thanksgiving as a day to reflect on what I am personally thankful for and to share that with dear family and friends. I choose to remember the true history of our nation and take pride in the progress that has been made, as well as remembering so many indigenous people who were slaughtered and enslaved along the way.
Today, I give thanks for a career that allows me to have the gift of a world view. I am grateful for the people that I have had the honor to meet through my work – the students who take the leap of faith to pursue their studies abroad, the faculty who give tirelessly to ensure that their experiences are deeply meaningful, and the administrators who think creatively to make sure all the “i”s are dotted and the “t”s are crossed. Travel is something that I value deeply, and this past year I was able to participate in an educational program in Germany. I am so very appreciative for that experience.
On this day, I am particularly grateful for the larger network of professionals that I work with on a daily basis. These are truly the most giving of mankind, in a league of their own. This morning, while reading an email from a list-serv, I was reminded of how generous this breed truly is. One of my colleagues had asked for help on a list-serv. One of her students had left her I-20 at her home college. She was in Canada and needed the document to re-enter the US in the appropriate visa category, however, there wasn’t enough time to mail the I-20 to her abroad. Colleagues from around the US emailed with their suggestions for this case; one in upstate New York even offered to drive to the border to meet the student and explain the situation to the border agent. Wow – talk about going above and beyond! This is the fine field that I have been blessed to work in – one of compassion, support, and educating toward truth. And this Thanksgiving, I am humbled and grateful.
“Happy Thanksgiving” to each of you – however you choose to celebrate it.