While many people celebrate the United States version of Thanksgiving, to many it is not a reason to celebrate.
According to Tonya Mosley and Allison Hagan, in a story from November 25, 2020, “The so-called first Thanksgiving has been celebrated and taught to schoolchildren as the origin story of what would later become the United States. But many Native Americans say Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the slaughter of millions of Indigenous people and the theft of their lands by outsiders.”
While many talk about being thankful, grateful, and blessed as part of this season, how many of us remember to reflect on how this started and what harm came to the indigenous people who were on these lands first. For some, the fourth Thursday in November is a National Day of Mourning. The observance is an opportunity to reflect on Native American heritage and the role Thanksgiving played in the lives of their ancestors. It is not a coincidence this is Native American Heritage Month.
As I finish my column for this month, I leave you with the CAS Land Acknowledgement. This was read at the beginning of the CAS Council of Representatives Meeting November 13, 2023. May this be a reminder of what happened in the past, and the continued work ahead.
CAS Land Acknowledgement
As we gather for this meeting physically in Old Town Alexandria, the ancestral lands of the Anacostan, Nacotchtank, Piscataway, Pamunkey and several other tribes, and virtually constructed, let us take a moment to reflect on the meaning of land and place for the Indigenous peoples who were here before we arrived. We recognize that their sovereignty was never ceded.
We pay respects to the Elders of those Indigenous people past, present and seven generations yet to come, and to their culture as well as their continued connection to land and community.
We pay our respects to the Elders of those whose ancestors were forcibly brought to these lands as slaves and who were forced to work the lands stolen from their Indigenous relatives for the profit of others.
Their freedom was never ceded.
We acknowledge the continuing damage of colonial practices and vow to work towards respect and dignity for all.
-Melinda Garcia, 2020.
Gayle Spencer, Ph.D.
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