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The Real Story of Thanksgiving


More and more of us are becoming educated on the painful history of Thanksgiving and having conversations about cultural appropriation* and Halloween costumes, we are also unpacking and unlearning a lot of important revelations through the process of decolonization.


There is a large body of traditional “healing” practices and outdoor programs that have borrowed from indigenous cultures. Forest and Nature Therapy is one of them. I will be elaborating on that in a different article, but since Thanksgiving is around the corner- I feel it is important to educate and discuss this tradition among ourselves.


Seven years ago, I was asked to caption this ASL translation of "The Real History of Thanksgiving"- done by Dr. Melanie McKay Cody, who is part Cherokee and studies critically endangered Indigenous Sign Languages in North America and helps different tribes preserve their tribal signs.


This ASL narration explains the real story of Thanksgiving, and shares two perspectives-- and some historical information. This video was originally created for distribution for the Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, Hard of hearing, and Late Deafened community to watch and discuss the history of colonialism and understand the truth behind Thanksgiving. In my knowledge, the video was never released. Upon meeting and sharing this with Dr. McKay Cody, I received permission to share with the public.


Feel free to share this with others who want to have a better understanding of what really happened during Thanksgiving.


[video description: A light-skinned Deaf Native woman with shoulder length brown hair is sitting at a dinner table, they are wearing a dark-colored longsleeve shirt and behind them is a light colored wall. The cover photo has a sepia tint with words: “The Real Story behind Thanksgiving”.]


To read more about Thanksgiving and Colonization,


When we all take these steps to heal, we can both address the harms of the past, and stop the cycle of harm that continues because of the lasting legacy of colonization. It’s a process that requires the collective involvement of our country as a whole. This Thanksgiving, I encourage everyone to take time and begin this process of healing—recognize the hurt that was caused by colonization in order to bridge colonial divides and look forward to a new and more equitable future.


To conclude.... I thought to share the Onondaga's Thanksgiving Address, which is shared in Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass book:


“It reminds you every day that you have enough. More than enough. Everything needed to sustain life is already here. When we do this, every day, it leads to an outlook of contentment and respect for all of Creation….The Thanksgiving Address is a reminder we cannot hear too often, that we human beings are not in charge of the world, but are subject to the same forces as all of the rest of life".


Kimmerer’s last words in her Allegiance to Gratitude chapter:

“Every day, with these words, the people give thanks to the land. In the silence that falls at the end of those words, I listen, longing for the day when we can hear the land give thanks for the people in return.”


*Cultural appropriation has been defined as “the taking – from a culture that is not one’s own – of intellectual property, cultural expression or artifacts, history and ways of knowledge” (The Canadian Writers Union, cited in Ziff & Rao, 1997, p. 1).

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