How Are You Engaging With Thanksgiving This Year?

Unpacking the Baggage of My Favourite Holiday

Photo by Jocelyn Fletcher on Unsplash

I Love Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays. I love the mayhem and laughter of family gatherings. I love cooking and sharing a feast with the people I love. I love the smell of the autumn air. I love the sense of beginning to get cozy and settled for the winter. I love the ritual of remembering to appreciate the harvest I’ve gathered and the people who love me.

Why is Thanksgiving Problematic?

This year the habit I’ve been cultivating of questioning, unpacking, and seeking other perspectives has me thinking about the history of this holiday. It has me listening to stories of anger, ambivalence, and reclaiming around Thanksgiving. It has me talking to my kids and the people around me about why it’s problematic. The most frequent response I get when I bring up this subject is “Why is it a problem for me to enjoy the company of the people I love and remember the things I have to be grateful for?” My answer? It isn’t. But I do think it’s a problem to refuse to acknowledge that Indigenous peoples’ have a long history of harvest celebrations and gratitude which have nothing to do with European settlers. I think it’s a problem to thoughtlessly celebrate the European colonization of America. Cultural genocide, betrayal, oppression, and white supremacy are not things to celebrate.

What Can I Do About It?

Here’s where I’m starting and I’m beginning here with the full awareness that I have more to learn and there will always be more to do.

I’m remembering that I’m spending time with my family and celebrating the harvest on the traditional lands of the Métis, Anishinaabe, and Oceti Sakowin people.

I’m celebrating, sharing, and engaging with the art, music, writing, and activism of Indigenous people. Like these:

I’m committing to:

  • continuing to learn about the pre-colonial history of North America and the history of Canada from an Indigenous perspective
  • continuing to question my perspective and what I think I know about everything
  • supporting and participating in the dismantling of systems which were built to oppress Indigenous people

How are you engaging with Thanksgiving this year? What do you think about all of this? I’d love to hear from you!

I’ll be back next week with more thoughts about writing.


Laurie MacNevin, HF Associate Editor

Laurie is an editor, writer, and researcher. Her deep love of stories led to an Honours degree and a Master’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Windsor. Originally from Southern Ontario, Laurie has lived in Manitoba for more than ten years, exploring the stories, landscape, plants, and people of some of the most remote parts of the province including three years in Churchill and two years in God’s Lake Narrows First Nation. Laurie and her family now live on an acreage outside of Carberry.

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