Whose giving thanks?

I usually wait till after the holiday passes before I go into a critical assessment of the festivities. I figured this year would be a good chance to try and encourage folks to consider things before the holiday rolls around.
I’ll start by saying that I plan on driving home and spending time and eating a big meal with my family on Thursday. Whether that’s mainly because of the convenience of us all having that time off, or because of our devout acknowledgement of the historical events is up for debate.

I guess when I think about the historical implications of a holiday like Thanksgiving I’m much more disturbed then I am thankful for it. The idea of the pilgrims and native people of this land sitting down together in peace and sharing a meal is a beautiful and wonderful thing, I just worry it ignores so much more of the history.
You see if my history book is correct (they must have torn out this section in my middle school), the atrocities of that time far out weigh any peaceful meal together. Massacares, forced removal, slavery, genocide, stolen land; this is the overwhelming story of the “settling” of this land. Stolen land. Stolen land.

To this day we live on stolen land. Thanksgiving is a difficult holiday for me, because I think it’s celebration without regard for the terrible injustices, is one of the deep wounds of our society that has never healed. You live on stolen land.

I know for me sitting at my family’s table on Thursday, I won’t be able to solve the problem, or right the wrong of the land. I can however acknowledge, and I can be diligent in thinking of ways to return, to make amends, to right wrongs.

I live on stolen land.

8 thoughts on “Whose giving thanks?”

  1. Dang, I am getting depressed just by reading this stuff…

    The healing is not taking place because you keep bringing it up – most natives seem to be fine with the situation.

    Also, besides just telling everyone else that we live on stolen land, what are YOU doing about it? Are you offering your property up for donations? Moving back to Europe? We all know about the problem and we love pointing it out – what is your solution?

  2. Virgil,
    I’m sorry for the depressing post. Sorry also that this is your first exposure to my writings and thoughts.
    I wanted to send at least one link your way concerning a group of natives that don’t seem to be fine with the “situation.”

    As far as my “solutions,” I’m trying to figure that out, that’s a start, I think I write in hopes that others might join in the journey with me. Questions often come before answers.

  3. Part of the solution to a societal problem is to (metaphorically) shout loudly and frequently until society realizes the wrongness of what is going on. It’s the principle behind preaching, it’s the principle that drove the civil rights movement in the United States. So I endorse Ariah bringing it up.

    I would also recommend this year that you donate some time, money or energy to one of the organizations that are battling the problems on unemployment, alcoholism, poverty, etc. within the Native American communities.

    The truth is, it is a deep wound, and the solution is beyond any of our individual strengths, but is only possible through God. However, I can be certain that we will never do good in healing the wound if we never examine it. So for now, my solution is to bring it up. Evaluate the problem. Prayerfully and critically seek solutions.

    Finally I would like to say this, Ariah does a lot to help right the societal ills that he blogs about, so much so that there are times when I become concerned that he’s stretching too far. So really the finger of your third paragraph can be pointed many other places (you could legitimately point it at me), but I think it is unfair to point it at him.

  4. I am not always sure how to take your posts. It is not that I don’t think of them as well thought out and socially accurate. It is just that they point out so many things that are admittedly wrong but perhaps beyond my reach of full comprehension or alteration. In 2005 I traveled the country and met with several Native Americans. There is relatively no hostility from the Native American community about Thanksgiving. Like so many other topics, the story has been so miscommunicated that no one is truly sure what the right tale is. They are much more sensitive to the Trail of Tears and the like. I, too, have a hard time with this holiday. However, we don’t always have to dwell on the origin or the past of it all. It is never too late to start new traditions. Give thanks that God has given you a heart to tackle these issues as you can. With blessings and love, my friend…..


  5. I am thrilled with the dialog on this post. Do we spend time in praise to Jesus or confess our sins? Do we figure out our theology or be about acts of compassion? I think the answer is a very positive, YES!
    The ones who are led of the Spirit, these are the sons of God. The rest of Romans 8 is worth the read.

  6. Ariah, that’s some interesting reading, but maybe I didn’t make myself clear initially. I am not denying the inequities done to the American natives. What I was asking was “what do you suggest we do today about it?”

    I wasn’t even born in this country – i’ve lived here for about 14 years and I worked hard for everything I own. Should I recompense the natives just because my skin is white? If so, how much? Why?

    So again, I find it sad that your people were wronged, but I find it also ironic that we all complain that there is no “healing” yet we keep picking at old wounds every year around Thanksgiving time.

    And what I find more alarming is that this is coming from Emergent folks that like to pride themselves in forgiveness, healing and progressive thinking.

    As for solutions, if you are looking, I would be happy to join in the conversation; we are all on our own journeys to learn and become better people and better Christians, but forgive me if I have a hard time allowing other people to make me feel guilty for who I am.

    I also disagree with Richard’s idea that shouting loudly about societal problems will bring about solutions – that will turn us into “bullhorn men” that stand at the street corners, causing people to snicker when they walk by, making the message moot and irellevant.

  7. Virgil,

    I’m trying to respond to your latest comment but I’m struck by the words of your first comment:
    “The healing is not taking place because you keep bringing it up”
    I sense you would rather not even have a conversation about the topic of land, native people’s rights, forgiveness and addressing this situation.
    If I presented you with some clear suggestions on things we could do today to try and address some of the injustices that still exist, would you be willing to take those steps? Are you willing to consider making a lifestyle change to address injustices that might have been done in this world, injustices that you might or might not benefit from?

    Are willingness is where we need to start.

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