Today is Thanksgiving in the US. It is also the Day of Mourning, as organized by United American Indians of New England.
I grew up in Vermont.
Maybe more importantly, I grew up knowing that I was on Turtle Island. I was surrounded by stories of and from the Abenaki people who had lived there long before my settler ancestors arrived, and who live there still. I studied the history of the Iroquois Confederacy and their governing principles. I learned about how the First People in the Northeast had lived on the land, tending to it and to the well-being of the life around them, seeing the connections between each.
My fascination with stories was fueled by Wolfsong, an Abenaki storyteller. I went to every event of his that I heard of, and I can still hear his voice in my memory. His tales resonated deeply with me. I listened to him enough that (this must have been insufferable, adorable, or both) I would sometimes mutter them to myself while he told them. His stories certainly meant more to me than the ones people told me were my own.
For better and for worse, I was told that I have Mohawk and Huron ancestors (among many others). The family members who told me that were pretty reliable with tracing family connections back in other places, but… I haven’t done that research myself, I can’t trace that back, and I won’t claim it as truth. I am far too aware of the tradition of settlers claiming American Indian descent to be comfortable with it.
But I’m thankful for that old family story. I have no doubt that it drove some of my search for greater understanding of many groups of First People, and gave me greater respect for their traditions. I know that it informed some of my family’s engagement with ecological education and stewardship, environmental advocacy, and community building.
At the same time, I’m also descended from people who were on the Mayflower—and I *can* trace that back. I know that my ancestors received aid, and made treaties and honored them. I know my ancestors also broke those treaties and engineered the death or expulsion of many. I know that I have benefited from that, directly or indirectly.
I say all this to remind you, my mostly USA-based audience, that however much Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks, this is also a time for remembrance and acknowledgment. The highly sanitized origin myth for this holiday was cobbled together during a time of civil strife, and it erased the sobering legacy of the violence that preceded and followed that feast.
So. Please, listen to what American Indian communities have to say, today and on other days. Learn about our past, and how that has shaped our present. If you want somewhere to start, try UAINE.