Bet that got your attention. Okay, so most of us know that Thanksgiving is colonial bullshit…but I am still grateful, and here’s for why.
Thanksgiving has become a bittersweet time of year for me. Before I was “woke,” as the young peoples say, I loved it. It was a chubby girls paradise of chunky, body covering sweaters, pumpkin spiced everything and gathering with the people I loved. And then I went to a “blanket ceremony,” and everything changed.
Four years ago, at the ripe old age of forty-two, I headed back to school to earn my social service worker diploma. It was an exhilarating and exhausting time in my life that was full of challenges. The least of which was getting the ol’ hamster running on the brain wheel again. A big part of the program I was in demanded that we examine our own biases and belief systems forcing us to come face-to-face with what shitty human beings we were. It was eye opening and uncomfortable and changed me on a very deep level. But the experience that changed me the most was the Indigenous “Blanket Ceremony.”
Like many of my classmates I went into the teaching feeling like I was already well informed and supportive of Indigenous Canadians. I grew up in the North next to a reserve for god sakes. I went to school with indigenous kids. They were my friends. I sincerely doubted I was going to learn anything new.
And then it began. And an older version of a map of Canada I had never seen before was rolled out on the floor. And we were taught the names of the indigenous peoples who lived in harmony with this land centuries ago. And then we were divided into groups of settlers and indigenous people. And as a “settler,” it was my job to “gift,” indigenous people blankets contaminated with diseases they had never been exposed to before. And make promises to them that would never be kept. And tell them that their beliefs were all wrong and change them from heathens to god fearing Christians. And to “save,” their children by taking them away from their mothers and to take away their names and traditions and language and families and insist they say thank you.
And I cried.
How is it that at forty-two, this was the first I was hearing of this? How can I have been taught Canadian history throughout elementary and high school and not have heard this part of the story? How can I continue to turn a blind eye to the reality that my current very comfortable life of white privilege came at the expense of others? I may not have blood on my hands directly, but I benefit from that blood. I’m basted in it.
So Thanksgiving looks different to me now. It is still a time of family, chunky sweaters and all things pumpkin spice, but it also a time of deep reflection and acknowledgement. I am grateful beyond words for the life I have, but I will never forget the history it was built on and the part we all have to play in ensuring that that history doesn’t repeat itself.